"It was just announced that Evelyn Conaway will receive the lifetime achievement award at the FCCs this year," a third reporter says. "Do you have any thoughts about the stir she caused at the FCCs eight years ago, when James Jenkins received the same honor?"
I blink and glance at Kerri, who glares at the reporter. She looks at me and tightly shakes her head. That's our sign for no comment. But I do have a comment about this.
"My grandmother is one of the most talented actresses of all time," I say. "She couldn't be more deserving of this award. If it were up to me, she'd have received it in 2012, every year before that, and every year after."
There's a collective "aww" from the crowd. I'm glad they find my honesty so endearing. I shoot another glance at Kerri. She gives another thumbs-up, and I relax again.
Thankfully, the rest of the questions are directed at Paul Christopher.
Then the panel ends, and I'm ushered offstage toward Kerri.
"You are a rock star," she says, grinning at me like she might burst from excitement. Kerri looks more like a fashion model than an agent, tall and slim with flawless dark-brown skin and long, sleek extensions in her hair. She's only twenty-two and fresh out of college. Paul Christopher cast me in his movie before I had an agent, so I had to act fast. Kerri was referred to me by my school advisor. And I'm glad I went with her, because she's a shark. In one month alone, she's secured a stylist, hairstylist, makeup artist, and two endorsement deals.
She talks a mile a minute as we walk, her heels clicking with each step. "I would have never believed that was your first panel. You were so well spoken, and you didn't get off topic. And you—"
I turn to her when she abruptly stops, and that's when I realize Paul Christopher has appeared on my other side.
"I'll see you in a few weeks, Evie," he says. "Take care." He tips his cap in goodbye and walks away, surrounded by his team.
Paul Christopher just tipped his hat to me. He told me to take care. What is life, even?
Said life gets even more exciting as we make our way outside and are hit with a wall of sound.
"Evie! Evie! Evie!"
Fans and paparazzi always wait outside the festival to see their favorite stars, and I can't believe that some of them are waiting out here for 'me.' Mostly it's because Paul Christopher has a cult following. Ever since my role in Mind Games last year, I've gained hundreds of thousands of followers on social media and people recognize me at the most basic places, like Target and McDonald's. Two girls even recognized me once while I was waiting in line at the DMV.
"Hi, everyone!" I wave enthusiastically, and a security guard appears to escort Kerri and me, whisking us away into a black Expedition. My best friend, Simone, is waiting inside. She was in the audience at the panel, and now she stares at the crowd with wide eyes as we drive off.
"That was nuts!" she shouts, grabbing my hands. Her thick box braids are pulled back and wrapped in a tight bun at the top of her head, and her bun wobbles as she scoots toward me. "Oh my God, Evie."
"I know." I give her hands a squeeze and match her wide grin.
She continues to stare at the crowd in wonder until we can't see it anymore. We've been best friends since our freshman year at McKibben, and we used to sit at lunch, dreaming about the day we'd experience what's happening right now. I'm so glad she's here to witness all of this with me.
Our hands are still clutched together when Kerri, who has been busy clicking away on her phone answering emails, suddenly shouts, "YES!"
"What?" I say, spinning to face her.
She turns her phone so that I can see the email she just received. "Guess who has just been asked to be the face of Beautiful You's newest campaign?"
Beautiful You is the number one Black hair-care company in the country. I've only been using their products for, I don't know, my whole life?
I blink at Kerri. "Me?"
The three of us squeal so loudly the driver swerves in shock.