The Woman Behind Vanity Fair's Oscar Party: Theresa Grill

For those unfamiliar with Theresa Grill’s title as Producer and Creative Strategist, it might seem somewhat vague. However, once you consider the fact that she has been asked to lend her skillset to internationally renowned spectacles like the Vanity Fair Oscar Party …it all seems to make sense. The Academy Awards is the Superbowl of award shows, attracting somewhere between forty and fifty-five million viewers per presentation over the past two decades. When the mega-stars go to celebrate their most momentous night, the famed Vanity Fair Oscar party is the coveted ticket and Theresa has been ensuring that. The planning and manifestation takes a quarter of the year and is conducted on multiple continents. It takes a lot to impress these A-listers and just as much effort to guarantee their comfort and security. Vanity Fair is a name so recognized for style and excellence that it need not be explained; employing Grill to help throw their most star-studded gathering confirms that their name will stay that way.

The party is designed to be second to none and simultaneously allow attendees to feel that they can be at ease. Grill finds herself continually “taking the temperature” of the room to assess this. In 2017 she witnessed (Oscar, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award-Winner) Javier Bardem singing Mexican Folklore songs with the Mariachi Band that she hired to greet the guests as they were coming in. The previous year she noticed (Oscar winner) Alicia Vikander walking out the door with her shoes in hand, overwhelmed by all of her celebratory dancing. These little cues indicate that everyone at the Vanity Fair party is comfortable and enjoying the moment…except for Theresa herself that is. While she might be composed and in control, there’s no basking in the moment or the spectacle during this particular night’s festivities. She’s been at work twelve hours before the first guests even arrive and she’ll see the sun come up again before she’s able to exhale completely. This is actually a situation she enjoys as she states, “I don’t feel stressed; in fact, I’d say quite the opposite. Stress is an emotion born out of fear and what I do excites me endlessly. I chose to be involved in Vanity Fair from an early age onward because I love what the magazine stands for: the glamor, the intellect, the culture, politics of scandal, and of course, celebrity. Working at the Oscar party is really just an extension of who I am and what I do for a living and what excites me essentially. I love the buzz and hype around it. For me, it is the quintessential Vanity Fair event of the year.

Vanity Fair has earned its preeminent status because of their immense scrutiny over every aspect of the event. Theresa’s work begins months prior to the evening of the Academy Awards ceremony. Each year VF works with architects to custom design the event space. Simultaneously, Grill manages negotiations with agents, managers, and publicists to ensure their A-list clients agree to attend. A month prior to Oscar night, Theresa and two dozen staff members fly to LA and establish a temporary base in the Beverly Hills Hotel. From here all details are finalized including the all-important guest list. Grill reveals her secret ingredient stating, “Graydon Carter hosted all the events I have been involved in. He has a list of people he would like to attend the party that is like no other. He can really pick and choose the crowd. Everyone wants to be at the party so Graydon cherry picks the best of the best from each industry. He can have Robert De Niro sitting next to Goldie Hawn, joined by Hillary Clinton and Oprah sitting next to Madonna.” It wouldn’t be Hollywood and it wouldn’t be a party if there with excitement and differing personalities to contend with. In this regards, Theresa’s job is the same as any great producer; prepare for anything and everything. While attendees are dancing the night away to celeb DJs Mark Ronson, Samantha Ronson, or Mark Swift, Grill is making certain that dietary, personality differences, and scheduling boundaries are followed to the letter. Attendees like Madonna, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, and Heads of State make a party momentous but also bring numerous requests and demands.

One might ask why Vanity Fair places all of this responsibility on the shoulders of Theresa Grill. The answer is obvious; experience and proven success. She has worked the Vanity Fair Cannes Film Festival a number of years, receiving numerous accolades. Proving that her ability to strategize for more than just entertainment celebrities, Grill also produced The Breakthrough Awards (2015 and 2016). Held annually at the NASA Headquarters in San Francisco, this televised ceremony honors important recent achievements in the categories of Fundamental Physics, Life Sciences, and Mathematics. Much like Vanity Fair, the talent Theresa Grill possesses is suitably applicable to a number of scenarios.