With over 20 years of experience and a proven track record of success, Anton Kalaydjian has protected the world’s elite, executives and celebrities across more than 60 countries. He was the head of security and advance for a dozen Grammy Award-winning artists and directed event security details for over 2,000 live concerts, events, music festivals and sporting events. Join us as we delve into the world of celebrity close protection services in 2023.
What are some of the key changes and developments in the celebrity close protection industry in the last year, and how have they impacted the way you approach protection services?
The biggest change in the celebrity close protection industry, in my opinion, in the last 10 years is the negative effect social media has had on it. Both by making clients, their privacy, location, etc. more accessible to possible threats and also attracting the wrong type of “security” personnel to the industry. I’ve been in the Celebrity Close Protection industry since 2002 when Social was nonexistent and Guards were hired based on actual reputation, honest resumes / bios, word-of-mouth from Artists and Celebrity Management teams – based on what they have experienced with the potential hiree, and overall, the honor and integrity of the Agent him/herself. I have noticed, especially with the younger clients and their teams, some do not do the due diligence required in order to choose the right Guard.
This can bring about many problems such as lawsuits, injuries, damaging the clients’ reputation or worst of all deaths (as we have seen all too often). With Social, the fans of the celebs now have access to them where they never had before. Before you would have to know of the management team – and many times, them knowing you (or of you), be referred by other Celebs and/or their management or just known in the industry overall for your ability, integrity, accomplishments and certifications.
Nowadays, for some, anyone can gain access via a DM, tagging, following, etc. Self-promotion on social media, which is often fake, staged or just simply just full out lies, plus constant promotion of their “brand” helps these bad actors to get an “in” into the C.P. industry. Elon Musk – who as we know, owns Twitter, recently called some apps “thirst traps”.
In current times, people build up to be someone they are not, just to gain attention, clout, followers and popularity. “Fans” come in all shapes, sizes and colors. They can be a 12-year-old girl who is fanatic about their favorite Pop Star or a grown man, who wants to be by the Celeb to experience not only what they think is the “celebrity life” – which could not be more wrong for security, but to also gain some type of reputation by using the fame and accomplishments of the Celeb to somehow parlay that into their own, however they did not earn it like the Principal has. They did not work as hard (as the client), nor have the talent they possess nor have the recognition they deserve.
It’s more coattail riding than anything and they will not only undercut prices to gain this but some would even do it for free just so they can say they protected that Celeb or show it off on social when most of the time, it’s not even their client. It’s a shame and unfortunately, it’s getting worse. However, most of the world’s top celebs, artists and management see right through it and do the proper “due diligence” required by vetting out the potential hirees.
How do you adapt to the evolving threat landscape, including the rise of cyber threats and the changing tactics of paparazzi and other intrusive individuals? What role do technology and social media play in modern celebrity protection services?
Cyber is a major, ever-evolving problem we are dealing with in the Celebrity Protection industry. With technology evolving and growing as fast as it is in modern times, it can create major problems for our clients’ safety. This year especially, where it seems there have been more cyber hacks so far than any year before and it’s just going to get worse. It’s important to be honest with yourself as a Protector and realize there are people smarter than you in that field, who specialize in Cyber Security and can do the job better.
We’ve built relationships with these people and their companies in recent years and in order to evolve as a Protector, we will continue to build them. Do not think you can do it all! I take the Steve Jobs approach and hire people smarter than me (in their field) and get out of their way. We rely on Cyber experts who we trust to protect our clients virtually as we protect them physically. It’s all about being smart enough and caring enough to put the client’s best interest in mind and keeping your pride aside. We need Cyber experts these days more than ever, to help us do our jobs and we will need these experts more and more in the future.
Also, we “train” our celebrity clients not to post certain things like flaunting jewelry, exposing their locations by “checking in” or showing something in the background that shows stalkers, paparazzi, fans, etc. where they are. It can be something as simple as the hotel furniture in the background of a social media post or a view out the window behind them. Stalkers, super-fans and paparazzi are extremely obsessed and will research and do all they can to find out the Celebs exact location and try to gain access. For some, unfortunately there are no lengths they will not go. But fortunately, that’s why we are here. Which is another reason it’s important Celebs and Celeb Mgt teams do not fall for social garbage or go with the cheaper security options. As I mentioned, a lot is at stake and it can go very bad, very fast!
Can you discuss your approach to working with celebrities and their teams to design custom protection plans that meet their unique needs and preferences? Also, how do you collaborate with other security professionals, such as private investigators and local law enforcement?
It’s important to build trust with your clients and that takes time.
Trust is earned, not given.
I never put financial gain of importance, I never bill or have the client billed for more than what they need. We never up-sell our clients. What’s important is doing what’s best for them. This is one way you build trust with them. Once you have gained this trust, it is much easier to provide them with protection plans that are best suited for their safety. Again, as I mentioned above, we do use Cyber Security, I.T., Surveillance, Physical Safety – building structure, gates, walls, etc., to help us keep our clients safe. Once you find those experts, keep them in your lives forever, you are going to need them. Same goes with Investigators.
As far as Law Enforcement, you will need them for anything from a Police Motor Escort to physically having your backs in sticky situations with crowds, paps, incidents, etc. It is also important to realize two things. One: they are not in your inner circle so occasionally some may be fans themselves or would love nothing more than to get that picture with the celeb because it’s their kid’s favorite person in the world. It’s not too often but it does happen. As Protectors, we must also keep in mind: Police do not work for us, or the clients. They serve a higher purpose and ultimately answer to the law and their duty to the public. So, your principal, you see, is the principal person of our interest but it’s not the principal focus of the police – their focus is on the overall safety of everyone and stopping crime or injury. Of course, we – both Protectors and Police, want everyone to be safe, but for us our principal is our Principal.
Also, sometimes there are things your Celebrity clients may do that violate the law – “sex, drugs rock and roll”…weapons, traffic laws, etc., and I always keep in mind, at the end of the day, a Cop is a Cop – and they are not going to put their honor as a police officers, their careers in law enforcement or their pensions at risk by doing anything that would violate that. So even though our principals are our principal concern…it’s not theirs, they have their own principal priorities. It’s important to know all this and work with them respectfully and keep their duties into consideration as you keep yours in consideration for your job.
What is your approach when managing high-profile, high-pressure protection details, such as red carpet events or international travel? What strategies do you use to minimize risk?
This is a two-fold question, so to answer the first one regarding red carpet events there are several things to keep in mind with one’s approach. We must understand that although your principal is your top priority, they are NOT to the people on that carpet. Everybody walking that carpet is somebody so your client is just one of many – no matter how big of a celeb they are.
Let’s say your client is the “biggest star in the world” at the time. On that carpet, there are one of dozens of major celebs walking the same route, getting dropped at the same location, getting the same paparazzi yelling at them for their attention (so they can get their shot), most likely the same egress and even the same make, model, color vehicles so unlike when you take your client to their own show or own day to day lives – this day you are just one of many.
This is why it is extremely important to always, always do an advance and if you can, do it again and maybe again. Make sure you have every credential you will need for you, your client and their team prior to the event in your hands, do not get embarrassed or worse, embarrass your client. Be mindful of the paps pen and your positioning to them. Stay out of the frame but be close enough – yet not close at all, to your client to guide them through. Or if the carpet is shorter than the one you may see at let’s say the MET Gala or Grammys, you can rush behind the “step-and-repeat” and keep your eyes on them from the other side as they step and repeat themselves closer and closer to you. Often times carpeted events have pens where selected fans can be corralled; keep in mind your principal may go up to them and shake hands, take selfies, etc. Position yourself closer to the fans than your client is.
Make sure you have proper seating in proximity to your principal inside the venue. Dress to impress, you represent your client in everything you do, don’t look shabby, look sharp – wear a suit and make sure your look is well groomed overall. Make sure you know every ingress and egress of the venue like the back of your hand, walk the routes from their dressing room to the stage, to their seats, etc. I can go on and as there are many things you must keep in consideration with your approach to a successful carpeted event. I can go on and on. More information can be obtained at the Executive Protection Institute in our Celebrity Protection course. There is so much more to it but these are just some examples.
With international travel, again, like above there is a lot to it but to sum it up for the sake of the shortness of this article – the most important thing is to realize you are not home in the U.S.
You are in a foreign country, with foreign laws, customs, threats, risk, people, vehicles, roads, lack of roads, weather, terrain, etc. So, we must respect that and plan accordingly. Just like with Cyber Security experts whom we rely on and have built relationships with – it’s also important to do the same with international (local) security agencies. You will need them. As well as PD and sometimes Military.
A lot goes into it but that sums it up briefly.