Brandy Navarre is the most important Hollywood personality you’ve never heard of. That’s because her life is behind the camera, not in front of it. Navarre runs Hollywood’s most successful paparazzi agency.
Brandy and husband, Regis, entered the paparazzi world 10 years ago, when Regis realized photographing celebrities was more lucrative than his job as a correspondent for Agence France-Presse. Today, their agency, X17, employs nearly 70 photographers, far more than any other organization. “You have to love the stars in order to be in this business,” says Brandy, a former Reuters TV reporter. “But what has made us so successful is that we almost befriend them.”
The Navarres have used this tactic with close to every Hollywood celebrity; Brandy claims only Woody Harrelson dislikes them.
“If we see a blond woman in an expensive car we look more closely, and if she turns out to be a celebrity we introduce ourselves. I usually say something like, ‘We will be following you a bit, but it’s nothing to worry about,’” explains X17 photographer Daniel Ramos.
Ramos was one of the X17 photographers who staked out the hair salon where Britney Spears shaved her head. It was his car she hit with the umbrella afterwards.
On X17’s website, www.X17online.com, 300,000 visitors view the latest celebrity shots every day. Brandy has seen the paparazzi business change fundamentally during the past few years. “Now people are following celebrities like the ultimate reality show. The truth is stranger and more entertaining than fiction.”
With Spears, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan — Hollywood’s reigning bad-girl triumvirate — the truth is strange indeed. “Sometimes they’re friends. Sometimes they hate each other. Sometimes they don’t wear underwear. They get arrested for drunk driving. These three women have provided more material for the public than anything in the history of Hollywood,” observes Brandy.
In this age of around-the-clock celebrity coverage, paparazzi have become a real authority. “Britney’s downward spiral isn’t important news, but people are interested”, says Brandy. “War photos used to get people’s attention. Now it’s celebrities.”
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