A New York state of mind
PR expert Nicola Parish has been soothing the Big Apple’s divas and dramas since she left Dublin at 17
‘P eople always ask me who the biggest diva, the meanest or the coolest star is, but I don’t even think like that,” says Dubliner Nicola Parish, who left her native Clondalkin aged 17 and now runs Parish PR, hosting celebrity clients at film premieres and parties in LA and New York for the likes of Sony and Paramount Pictures.
Parish says that a job offer at a Dublin marketing firm was the trigger she needed to leave home. “I felt that if I took the job my future would be all spelled out.” Six months later she touched down at JFK, getting au pair work with a family in Brooklyn, where she still lives with husband Scott, who works in celebrity security, and their two daughters aged 10 and seven.
Parish tried everything from nannying to restaurant management in New York, before working with jewellery designer Stella Pace whose beaded “power bracelets” made, says Parish, $7 million in seven months. “We’d sit on the floor till 3am bagging these bracelets and then they were featured in Vogue, and celebrities like Ricky Martin and Madonna started wearing them – no one had ever seen a trend like it.”
Since that initial foray into PR, many of her clients have been fashion brands. She represented lingerie labels Belabumbum and Julianna Rae and worked with Irish shoe designer Eileen Shields. She currently handles PR for Irish designer Louise O’Leary, whose LouLouBelle bags are stocked at Henri Bendel in New York.
By the end of her first week in business, Parish had four retainer clients for whom she’d worked on projects at the agency and was asked by New Line Cinema to do the movie premiere for Elf and later Sex and the City: The Movie. Parish’s company now works on up to 10 film premieres a month, depending on the season. Recent events include the premieres for Man of Steel, The Smurfs and We’re the Millers. Her client list includes Warner Bros, Columbia Pictures, Disney and Paramount.
Over the past 10 years Parish says she has “carved her own niche”. “There’s another person in Manhattan who does what I do, but she’s legendary and has been doing it for 50 years – she works on a lot of the Oscar movies and with Harvey Weinstein. ”
On her arrival in the US, Parish played down being Irish: “I hid the accent at the beginning because everyone in New York is Irish,” she says. Now however, she finds it to be an asset: “I was doing a dinner for Maureen O’Hara and Liam Neeson invited me over to his home to film the video message. People definitely don’t see you as a crazy LA wanna-be-celebrity ... I have no fame aspirations at all.”
“Certainly, I have some nice relationships and the cellphone numbers of lots of famous people but I am privy to a lot of confidential stuff and I don’t tell any stories or gossip,” she says. Parish points out that, although there are the “wow” nights like the Golden Globes, where there’s no press and the stars relax and interact, “there are also the times when the taxi’s late, it’s lashing rain and you end up having to take the subway to the premiere of Star Trek”.
While Parish says she is not the type to over-think things, she has to be “super-organised and super-relaxed”. “When you’re doing a premiere on Hollywood Boulevard and the entire street is shut down for 2,000 people and Robert Downey Jnr is driving onto the red carpet in a sports car, there’s so much chaos. But if you’re calm, your celebrity guests feel taken care of and [feel] like you have it under control.”
While she has an office in LA, Parish says that New York is definitely where she belongs. “I’m sad to leave my family in Ireland, but when I see the New York skyline I know I’m home, I always knew I was going to live here,” she says.
Parish says that sometimes when she’s sitting in the stadium box of her friend Mark Sanchez, the New York Jets Quarterback, or when Taoiseach Enda Kenny gives her his business card, she does think about how a girl from Clondalkin got to where she is. Ultimately though, it’s all about hard graft and a can-do attitude: “I never took any of it for granted and never thought any of it was more than what it was,” she says. “Celebrities are, at the end of the day, just people too, it’s true, and in New York nothing is ever handed to you. It’s natural for me. It’s just my job.”