Who's Your Representation?
You know there’s those who make it,
And there’s those who have it made.
—The Gemz, Lizzie Grubman PR clients
Ever looked inside a souvenir snow globe and wondered if inside of it was a tiny world with miniature people who were looking at their own mini-mini snow globe? Well, MTV’s PoweRGirls is either the snow globe or the snow globe inside the snow globe, depending on your perspective. A six-episode run that captures the day-to-day of celebutante and PR star Lizzie Grubman and four of her protégées, it’s both a case study of the state of reality TV and a look at the New York A-list through the eyes of those who help keep them that way.
Let’s cut to the chase: PoweRGirls is pretty boring. The team consists of young women who, as a group, achieve “TV diversity”—two blonds, a brunette, and a Black girl. Led by Lizzie Grubman of Lizzie Grubman PR, they’re so dedicated to climbing to the top of the New York PR world that in the first episode, they ditch work to go shopping for new outfits instead of finishing the guest list for the opening of Ruby Falls, a plush nightclub. Episode Two is dedicated to Kelly, whose idol is Paris Hilton. In Episode Three, the girls have lost the Ruby Falls account, and Lizzie says, “You can’t cry over spilled milk.”
While we generally think of PR people as being behind the scenes, Grubman is up front, both in the show and on the Manhattan and East Hampton scenes. here’s the question: is she inside the snow globe, the client of a bigger, anonymous PR firm that has set up the MTV show as a way of enhancing her profile? Or is she holding her own snow globe, looking inward, like a puppet-master who shrewdly allows the cameras to follow her around, with the predictable result that it will increase air time for her clients? (For one instance, Ja Rule, appearing in three of the first four episodes.)
How did 33-year-old Lizzie wind up as the publicist for some of the hottest pop and hip-hop acts in the U.S.? To start, she is the daughter of Allen Grubman, music-industry lawyer supreme. It doesn’t hurt to have a hook-up in the business. But Lizzie also knows how to sweet-talk actors and singers, and they keep coming back for more. If there’s any credit to be given to Lizzie Grubman, it is that she didn’t just sit back in East Hampton spending daddy’s money. She turned her pocket aces into a nut flush by mixing her talents and ambition with her family connections and coming up with a profitable business and becoming one of New York’s most sought-after party throwers.
This subject matter has potential, but PoweRGirls disappoints. It is, in a way, a composite of other reality shows. MTV’s reality benchmark, The Real World, has been setting up cast members in “cool” jobs for several seasons. In Hawaii, the cast did promotions for Local Motion, the venerable surf gear brand. In Las Vegas, they worked for The Palms hotel/casino, and in Paris, they wrote travelogues for Frommer’s. Now, though, the job is no longer a component of the show. It is the show. Think: The Apprentice meets Making the Band, with a little Gastineau Girls thrown in.
Perhaps PoweRGirls reflects a certain cultural temperature: no longer are we content just to watch rich and famous people on TV. We want to watch rich and famous people doing something. Last year, GQ declared that Paris Hilton isn’t even famous for being famous; she’s famous for being over. Lizzie Grubman is apparently famous for making other famous people more famous, and that’s good enough to get her a show on MTV.
As the self-publicized arbiter of all things under 25, MTV would have us believe that all girls who are really smoking hot aspire to be the next Christina Milian or Lindsay Lohan. So, the corollary for girls who are merely somewhat cute and sassy will take the next best thing, a fab career as publicist to the stars. If PoweRGirls was the Jennifer Lopez “Get Right” video, these girls would be the character with the blond wig and nerd-chic glasses sitting in the corner of the club sipping a mixed drink through the stirrer-straws.
On the PoweRGirls page on MTV.com, Lizzie is doing weekly recaps and commentary about the episodes as they air. In her first installment, she writes, “First, a PR 101 Lesson: Always keep your cool!” It’s the moral of the first episode, as the girls didn’t finish alphabetizing the VIP guest list for the club opening, and one of Lizzie’s veteran employees has to improvise at Ja Rule’s publicity event when the record label fails to provide 8x10s for him to autograph. Contrast that with the fact that neither the show nor MTV’s website has yet to mention Grubman’s 2002 conviction for the 2001 incident in which she injured several bystanders when she backed her Mercedes Benz SUV into them, in front of an exclusive Hamptons night spot. She served 37 days of a 51 day sentence, and went back to running Lizzie Grubman PR. PoweRGirls shows that she’s kept her cool. And whoever is handling her PR is doing a pretty good job.