Everyone’s seen ‘The Matrix’ right? Morpheus is standing in front of you, hand extended, offering you the ultimate choice: blue or red.
The blue pill leads to a stable career in Corporate Executive Protection — more often than not, standard hours, reasonable expectations and a healthy benefits package. Alternatively, the red pill takes you down the rabbit hole to the wild and unpredictable world of celebrity security. Long hours, temperamental clients, and a job description that includes pretty much everything but the kitchen sink. For those of us who have entered this industry with the strong desire to apply our skills to protect others in the most professional manner possible, it’s almost a no-brainer, correct?
I mean, give me the corporate stuff, right? Send me on my way and let me cash my paycheck at the end of the week. Seriously, who in their right mind would want to deal with actors and their egos, or even worse, musicians with their quirks, or even worse than worse RAPPERS (groan) and their entourages (cringe), particularly if the revenue generated is the same???
But maybe that’s not the case. Maybe there are some folk that find the world of protecting entertainers stimulating in a way that they just would not get with the more subdued assignments, which commonly accompany a working day in the “knuckle draggers” or the “buddy-guards”. I’m thinking of men and women who have the look, training and demeanor to slide right into a “blue pill” position and succeed. They make a choice and are happy with it.
I’m sometimes thought of as a bit of an anomaly in the fact that I actively pursue and enjoy working with both client types. I’m able to make the transition between the personalities and protocols and enjoy the change of pace and variety. A short time ago I was laughing with my staff that at the beginning of the week I was working with the senior executives of one of the United States largest corporations but by the time the weekend arrived I was fending off fans that tried to stop my client in the middle of a busy street for an autograph.
So having established that there are some operators who do both, I also find it interesting that in the industry as a whole there is usually an invisible line drawn in the sand and depending on which side of the fence you are on, rarely do the two cross. A big part of that is perception. Writing this column made me flashback to my very first ‘Keeping Your Edge’ article several years ago, the opening of which read:
Let’s face it – in the scheme of things, in our industry; the “celebrity bodyguard” doesn’t always get a lot of respect. Corporate Protective Agents lump us just above club bouncers on the evolutionary ladder, while our peers that handle personal security details in war zones such as Iraq or Afghanistan look at us as glorified babysitters. Of course, both of those stereotypes are just that: a collection of generalizations that may apply to some but definitely do not apply to all.
Don’t shoot me! I know some of the thinking on this topic has evolved a bit since that time of writing. I’d like to think that the efforts by myself and others who are involved, not only with working with celebrities, but also getting information out about the successes associated with this niche market have helped with that perception. The media gives us a steady diet of horror stories; Celebrity X’s bodyguard punches out a Paparazzi. Entertainer Y’s security has decided to write a “tell-all;” so, of course, that paints a picture that all clients in this area are extremely difficult or that any agent working with them is little more than an untrained ex-football player.
This year I personally spoke at two major industry conferences (The Protective Security Conference and the International Executive Protection Conference) on the topic of Celebrity Protection, and after each presentation, I was greeted by trained individuals who wanted to do more in that segment of the market. They simply hadn’t thought past the horror stories and stereotypes and realized that there were great opportunities for operators with the right skills to make their mark.
Make no mistake about it, I also had a fair share of protectors who patted me on the back and said, “great lecture, but better you than me. I just don’t have the tolerance”. I understand that completely, and I think that’s much better than the person who says the can live in both worlds but strikes out horribly when given the chance. In the end, I think magazines like the one you’re reading now, help operators in our industry get a much more balanced view of the different segments and nuances that form pieces of the security pie allowing them to make well-informed choices.
Thinking about it, I suppose if Neo had taken the blue pill the movie would have been much shorter, and he would have had a lot fewer headaches!
Celebrity Protection Vs Executive Protection (Keeping Your Edge)
First Featured in Issue 13, October 2011
By: Elijah Shaw
Elijah Shaw is the National Director of the North American Bodyguard Association and the CEO of ICON Global, and International Executive Protection Consulting Firm. Elijah, who has been featured in Inc. Magazine, Entrepreneur, and Portfolio, runs the ICON Academy, an EP Training Program specializing in Celebrity & VIP Protection. He also currently sits on the Board of Directors of Executive Security International (ESI), the United States oldest Executive Protection Training School.