Hearts and Stars is Slate’s pop-up blog about celebrity relationships.
RuPaul, the legendary drag queen and long-time host of the Emmy-winning reality competition show that bears his name, once shared that in 1994, when he first became famous, it hit him: He could literally get lunch with anyone he wanted. This, he realized, was a fantastic perk of being famous. So he cold-called songwriter Diane Warren and they became fast friends. It was as simple as that. RuPaul was famous, Warren was famous—of course they’d be pals.
Can any famous person meet any other famous person they want? And if you’re a celeb and you want to go on a date with another celeb, is that a thing you can do? Do all famous people know each other, even if they don’t know each other? It feels that way sometimes, like all remotely “known” people share a single common, inescapable bond. They catch up at Oscar parties and gossip about other actors together on set; they canoodle (whatever that means) in the booths of trendy West Hollywood restaurants; they stop and share pleasantries when they run into each other in front of a Coffee Bean at the Grove. We almost expect those scenarios to be the norm because aren’t all famous people, in a way, co-workers? (And, sure, you’re not supposed to date your co-workers, but … ) The business is celebrity—even across all concentrations: film, music, Instagram, whatever—and they’re all in one big Famous Person Yellow Pages (accessible only by famous people), just waiting to be introduced.
We often play a speculative game on our podcast called “I Don’t Know Her.” It’s wrapped around the idea that while a C-list celebrity will most likely know who an A-list celebrity is, the opposite is not always the case. We’ve asked each other: “Does Will Smith know who Bella Thorne is?” (Absolutely not.) Or: “Does Julia Roberts know who Busy Philipps is?” (Probably!) But these are all by our own semiprofessional deduction skills and brains full of useless celebrity connections and lore: Have they worked together before? Do they share friends? Is the A-lister prolific on social media? Would an older A-lister be introduced to the C-lister’s work by, let’s say, their more “in-touch” children? In a perfect world, every famous person is on a Kevin Bacon scale of connectivity. But what about the real world?
In 2018, when no one answers their phone, you can’t always call someone like RuPaul called Diane. Luckily there’s an easier way: Just put it out there that you want to meet the person. If you’re famous enough, it’ll no doubt work—not just in getting you that friend date, but also in getting you some bonus tabloid press. When Taylor Swift was on the cover of Vogue in 2012, she told the magazine, “I love Karlie Kloss. I want to bake cookies with her!” Kloss tweeted at Swift: “Your kitchen or mine? :)” They went on to forge a friendship so strong it was given the kind of portmanteau typically reserved for romantic relationships: Kaylor.
Sometimes all that needs to happen is for my people to call your people. Actor Chris Hemsworth decided he wanted to meet writer-director-actor Taika Waititi, so his agent called Waititi’s agent, which led to a meetup, which eventually led to Waititi directing the actor in Thor: Ragnarok. This “first date” is typical for the Hollywood set: If you’re famous and you enjoy someone’s work, you can almost 100 percent meet them, via connections through agents, managers, or studio bigwigs.
And of course sometimes that first date is a real first date. The instant connection Whos feel with Whos and celebs with celebs applies to romance, too. Beyond their mutual need for a certain level of discretion, the famous and quasi-famous share an understanding that civilians could never truly understand their lives. And if both parties are at equal levels of fame—the ideal equation for any kind of celebrity relationship—neither side will need to worry too much about one miffed party selling gossip to the tabloids. Since both sides would have an equal amount to lose if anything “got out,” they can both sleep soundly.
And celebs are so weirdly cloistered that they’re happy to believe that anyone who has also achieved a certain level of fame is by definition pretty OK—because if they weren’t, how would they have also become famous? Fans put celebrities they adore up on pedestals, but in some ways celebrities do the same with each other. When every significant person in your life is on your level, the very idea of looking down for real companionship often becomes unthinkable. So you engineer a meetup.
The celeb reach-out has all sorts of unsavory connotations, shades of matinee idols ordering the latest young starlet to their trailers. But in contemporary Hollywood, the matchmaking is more businesslike: Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston were initially set up on a “blind” date by their agents—slightly devious-sounding in retrospect, but the two did stay married for five years. And if they’re not meeting on the Tinder-for-celebrities app, Raya, celebs are being set up by a reliable pal, someone mutually famous: John Krasinski and Emily Blunt were set up by Blunt’s Devil Wears Prada co-star Anne Hathaway; Courteney Cox and Snow Patrol’s Johnny McDaid were introduced by Ed Sheeran; and Joe Manganiello and Sofia Vergara met thanks to Vergara’s Modern Family co-star Jesse Tyler Ferguson.
Not every celebrity has the self-assurance to straight-up publicly lust after their target. (Godspeed, Tiffany Haddish, and may you someday bang Michael B. Jordan on all of America’s behalf.) So most such matchmaking goes on deep behind the scenes, with strategic introductions between two Whos on the rise or someone who has a dark reputation seeking a new partner to improve their public standing. If you don’t think your Bennifers and Kimyes are being thoughtfully crafted by producers, handlers, and their ilk, you aren’t paying close enough attention. Those Famous Person Yellow Pages facilitate a lot more than just friendly hangs and lunch dates.