First Up

Reaching for the stars

Simon Huck, in a black shirt with a dice pattern and black pants, standing in front of an orange backdrop covered in bubbles.

Photograph by Getty Images/James Devaney

Simon Huck (Artsci’06) is the owner and president of Command Entertainment Group, a New York-headquartered public relations firm that orchestrates partnerships between some of the world’s biggest brands and best-known celebrities.

My whole life, I’ve been a super fan of all things celebrity. I would watch red-carpet events like the Grammys and the Oscars and wonder what the managers and agents did – what this whole world was about. But I had no connection to the entertainment industry, and it all felt so other-worldly. What I did have was a subscription to US Weekly magazine, and while I was a student at Queen’s, I read an article about a famous publicist named Lizzie Grubman. It was a nothing article, but I was fascinated. I googled her agency, and started calling them every single day. I told them that I would work for free. That I would get coffee. And that I was moving to New York City, which wasn’t true.

Eventually, the agency agreed to meet with me, but when I showed up at the offices of Grubman/Cheban Public Relations, they didn’t even remember speaking to me.

I’d never had a job before, but from the second that I set foot in there, I knew this was what I wanted to do with my life. Lizzie was doing an MTV show called Power Girls at the time, and a camera crew filmed my interview. I thought I had ‘made it’ just to be there. They let me be an unpaid intern, two days a week. And I called my parents to tell them I got a job. But that wasn’t true either.

On my first day, I showed up at 7 am – and skipped on the way because I was so excited. Within days, I was working red-carpet events, surrounded by some of the biggest celebrities in the world. It was so surreal. I was sleeping on my best friend’s sofa, but I would have slept in a tent just to be there.

One of my first assignments was a party hosted by Sean Combs, a.k.a. Diddy. Every year, he hosted a White Party at his house in the Hamptons. It was a major social event, and the invitation said ‘white on white on white, no excuse.’ Someone had to turn away guests who weren’t wearing white, and that someone was me. A team of us hid out by the gate, and told celebrities they couldn’t wear their red shoes or tan pants. I had to be assertive, but I also could not alienate them. These are skills I still use every day.

Eventually, Lizzie’s agency hired me, and later, I launched my own firm – the Command Entertainment Group. But I learned assertiveness from my early mentors and how to have confidence, even when you are not sure of yourself. With time, you do become more confident, but that took a decade for me. I felt like an imposter at first, but at a certain point, I learned that everyone in this industry is – in the best possible way – kind of faking it a little bit.

At Command, I negotiate celebrity branding deals – we do everything from TV and print campaigns to social media influencer partnerships. I use assertiveness in every area of negotiation, but the relationships are extremely important, too. If you develop a great relationship, clients in our industry stay with you for life. Negotiations are like a marriage, and it can be a stressful one. It isn’t like negotiating for a car or a home. This is a person, and each person is different. They’re going to feel comfortable with certain things and not comfortable with others.

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