I've been to quite a few author events in the past few years, and they almost always follow a certain pattern. First, the author gives a short talk, introducing his or her book. Sometimes this includes a reading; sometimes not. They'll usually take questions from the audience; at smaller events, they'll just call on raised hands while big venues typically ask for questions to be submitted ahead of time. Then people queue up to get their book signed/take a picture with the author/etc.
Michelle Phan's event was different. When we got to Kepler's, a line was already forming even though we were over an hour early. We joined up, and soon heard that Michelle would not be giving a talk or doing a Q&A. Instead, Michelle would be doing short meet 'n' greets with each person, and would pose for pictures. Considering the vast majority of people in the line were teenagers and young adults who loved her for her Youtube clips, this personal touch was just what they wanted. Personally, I was disappointed, as I had hoped to hear a little bit about her career and could have gone either way on a photo. But I was there and (thankfully) near the front of the line, so why not?
As the line got closer to Michelle, I was amazed to see how devoted her fans are. One girl burst into tears as she hugged Michelle and had to take a minute to gather herself. Another teenager, obviously prepared, had written Michelle a long letter containing “all the things I wanted to say but worried I would be too starstruck to remember.” Each girl beamed as she chatted with Michelle and posed for selfies with the Youtube star.
Michelle, for her part, reminded me of the character actresses you meet when you visit Disneyland. Just like Cinderella or Ariel, she was pretty and cheerful, with a wide smile and sweet comments for everyone. When I walked up to her table, she greeted me with a big hug. (A little awkward; I'm not a touchy-feely person.) As she signed my book, she complimented my hair and talked about a pho restaurant in San Jose that belonged to a member of her family. (I didn't know what to talk about, so instead of make-up or Michelle's many projects, we ended up with food.) She posed for a photo with me and then, after she talked to Kero and Kitty, we took a group photo.
Isn't that dolphin skirt just fantastic?
After the last picture was taken, we were directed to a table where em cosmetics samples were being handed out. It was pretty cool! I can honestly say that I've never gotten makeup at a book signing before. Samples of three shades of lipstick, foundation and concealer swatches, and a full “career life” sampler meant that I could try an entire em cosmetics look from start to finish. Very cool.
By now we were starving, so we went to the cafe next door to eat dinner. We sat there for over an hour, chatting and watching the line that wrapped around the building. It seemed to hardly move at all. I kept thinking about Michelle smiling and exchanging pleasantries all night long as she signed book after book. I would be exhausted long before the line was. But from what I heard, eavesdropping on girls as they left the bookstore, she kept up the charm the entire time, making the moment special and unique for each of her fans. That definitely earns respect from me.