“Do you know who’s walking the green carpet next?” the 40-something-year-old Indian man with a slight Hindi accent asked.
“Um, kind of,” I replied while pointing to a Twitter account on my iPhone, “Well, it’s this person…PREE-yankah.”
“Oh! She’s big!” he said.
It was 9:30 p.m. on a Thursday night and I was smooshed up against a hip-high fence which served as a barricade to the International Indian Film Academy Awards’ green carpet. I was shoulder-to-shoulder and backside-to-stomach with Privanka Chopra fans who obviously knew who she is. There was another barrier between us and the green carpet located on top of Tampa International Airport’s short-term parking, about an inch of glass surrounding the entrance to a bank of elevators.
Celebrating it’s 15th annual event, this was the first time IIFA was held in the United States and basically in my backyard of Tampa (April 23 – 26, 2014). The IIFA’s Twitter account had been posting updates throughout the day how Bollywood’s biggest and brightest stars were greeting fans on the green carpet after landing at TPA.
I have no idea who Priyanka Chopra is but when I saw her Twitter account with more than five million followers, I realized she was a big deal. Since I had an o’dark-thirty leaving from TPA the next morning, I decided to spend the night and taste a bit of India during the #IIFA2014 Stomp at Curtis Hixon Waterfront Park in downtown Tampa. My new friend was there because he lives in Tampa Bay and said since IIFA is a big deal, he wanted to catch as much action as possible.
My visit to the Stomp was quick. Lines for food were insanely long but the DJ’s spinning pulsating music for dance troupes made the evening eclectically vibrant. I walked through the crowd avoiding tripping over those who brought lawn chairs and blankets and zigzagged around young girls hula-hooping.
— IIFA Awards (@IIFA) April 23, 2014
I stayed for about an hour before heading to the airport where I played the waiting game I’m all too familiar with in celebrity spotting. According to the IIFA Tweet, the versatile entertainer would walk the carpet just shy of 10 p.m., however, it was closer to 11 p.m. Or 11:30 p.m. when she arrived.
And why was I on the other side of the barrier? Apparently, you needed a wrist band to enter and only 120 were allocated which were snapped up quickly. There were only maybe another 100 of us on the outside who could have easily fit into the green carpet area.
Once Ms. Chopra arrived the calm and respectful crowd roared for their superstar. I mean, they yelled, screamed, and I’m pretty sure I saw one person cry. I suppose she’s the equivalent of our Beyonce.
I only caught a quick glimpse of her when she entered the glass shelter but my view was obstructed by a set of young dancers who greeted her to the green carpet and a very large green foliage. I saw her midnight-black, sleek hair and crisp white jacket. From what I could barely see, she walked the carpet and interacted with fans. When reaching the end, she said something that caused more screaming, then made her way to her motorcade.
Oh, her motorcade. She didn’t pop up to the top parking lot floor in an elevator, she arrived in a dark vehicle escorted by a police car. And, she left the same way.
I left where I had been standing for more than an hour and made my way to where her motorcade awaited her. As Priyanka Chopra’s car drove passed, she had rolled her window down and waved to fans. Even though I’m clueless as to who she is, I saw her star power.
I had hoped to visit India this year but that doesn’t look likely and that’s okay. Bollywood came to me in the form of IIFA.