Tracy Nguyen: Lil’ Kim’s Publicist Speaks

C elebrity publicists are almost as famous as the superstar clients they represent – they’re the hottest trend! For superstar rapper Lil’ Kim, her PR accessory is Tracy Nguyen. It is Nguyen who appeared in the background of BET’s reality show, Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown. The series chronicled a time in Kim’s life that […]

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elebrity publicists are almost as famous as the superstar clients they represent – they’re the hottest trend! For superstar rapper Lil’ Kim, her PR accessory is Tracy Nguyen.

It is Nguyen who appeared in the background of BET’s reality show, Lil’ Kim: Countdown to Lockdown. The series chronicled a time in Kim’s life that revealed her stoicism amidst a pending prison sentence. While Kim gathered her thoughts and put her career in order, Nguyen was faced with the task of spreading the disappointing news to the masses. She alleges that at times, she was misrepresented on the show.

The 26 year old speaks candidly about her concerns with representing Kim in a difficult time. Tracy Nguyen touches upon the acclaimed, but commercially misleading album, The Naked Truth. The publicist also speaks on misperceptions about her field. One thing is certain, through controversy: condemnation, and classic albums, publicity has always made Kim a cover-girl. Once Kim was sentenced with mandatory jail time you had to move quickly into crisis mode as a publicist. What steps did you take in preparation for this ordeal?

Tracy Nguyen: Oh, gosh! Well the thing is, we did a lot of media training with her, and a lot of filtering, and really getting on the phone and making sure that the reporters who were reporting the story had factual information, because a lot of the news that was being reported was very exaggerated. We were under a very, very fine microscope and we just had to be very, very careful in just making sure that the message that we were sending across was very clear and concise – that they were consistent. I mean, obviously, you can’t stop a writer from writing a biased story that might not be in her favor for whatever personal reasons they may have. How have you handled the many stories and untruths that have surfaced about Kim since she went inside?

Tracy Nguyen: Actually one example, and I’m not going to say who the outlet is, but it’s probably one of the more respected weeklies that are out there, if not, the most respected one. They pitched me to death saying that they wanted to have exclusivity to do this really in-depth story on Kim, and I gave them two hours – one hour to do a photo shoot, then one hour to interview Kim. And she really sat down and she poured her heart! The one thing about Kim is she gives a great interview. If you can get her to sit down and talk to you, she doesn’t hold back. She shares her story; she’s got a great sense of humor, a lot of personality. She poured her heart out to this reporter, and keep in mind with the whole trial situation and her going away, we had very limited time with Kim to do any type of press at all. So I had one day to work with, about eight to ten hours to do media. I gave this reporter two hours of that day, and when the story ran about a week later, it was one page, five question Q&A only about the legal situation, and they ran a stock photo…they pulled a photo of her walking out of the courtroom, and it was the most negative story…and it was just…I mean it was…. I was horrified when I saw that. That reporter got an angry phone call from me, and I also called his boss and I informed them that we would never, ever work with them ever again. You spoke about pictures. There was something about XXL not being able to take pictures for the article. Can you shed some light on that?

Tracy Nguyen: XXL was not allowed to take photos for the story because the Federal Detention Center would not approve it. There’s a whole approval process for interviews and for press and given the situation, any press interviews that are to be done with Kim have to be done over the phone. There’s a whole approval process that needs to happen. So all in all, you would say the reality show, Countdown to Lockdown, was positive?

Tracy Nguyen: I have mixed emotions in regards to the show. There were a lot of issues I will say that were a lot of drama mixed for good TV. We all know that. Overall, I think that fans had a chance to see the softer side of her, the side of her that’s very caring and loving of her friends and her family, and someone who really leads somewhat of a very normal life aside from her job responsibilities [as] an entertainer. But I think that the way that the show portrayed some of the people that were around her was very exaggerated. I will say, at least in my situation, the show producers had edited and cut Episode Four, where I was probably most visible in with the whole Marc Jacobs fashion show situation – they made it look like I had stole a shirt from Kim, which wasn’t the case at all. What had really happened was…did you see this episode? Yes.

Tracy Nguyen: Well, what happened was Kim had had a photo shoot to do three weeks prior to the actual party and the fashion show. Kim and I went into the showroom to pick out all the clothes that she wanted to wear for the photo shoot because she wanted to style herself. We did the photo shoot, and we had to return all the clothes the next day. I had to go back to the Marc Jacobs showroom three weeks later, the day before the actual party. When I went back there, a lot of the stuff she had wanted was no longer there. So I did my best to remember what it was that she had picked out. In addition to that, I had her stylist with me and her stylist picked out a lot of things that she thought could work for Kim. So when they cut away on the show and Kim’s holding up the clothes saying, “I’ve never seen these clothes before. Where did these clothes come from,” it was because it was all new merchandise that wasn’t there when we had gotten there. So after going through everything, we literally walked out of the showroom and both Marc Jacobs stores with like ten garment bags worth of clothes, like ten shopping bags worth of shoes and accessories and everything like that. In addition to that, I picked out some stuff for Hilary as well, and the shirt that I had picked out coincidentally happened to be a similar shirt that Kim had picked out previously, but in a different color. You know, I didn’t remember – it was three weeks ago. So that’s what happened with that whole shirt scenario, but in the way the show producers edited and cut it, they exaggerated and made it into this huge thing, and if you actually watch the show very closely, Kim’s not even that…Kim’s not even mad. It was the people around her that were really blowing up and speaking very negatively about me. Well yeah, it made you kind of look like an opportunist instead of a publicist.

Tracy Nguyen: Yeah! It made me look like an opportunist, and any client or anyone that knows me knows that I’m an absolute professional. So it was an honest to God mistake. I am not an opportunist in any way. Again, the Marc Jacobs relationship, that party, the whole ad campaign and tee-shirts and everything like that was my doing. So after watching that episode, and seeing how they had me portrayed, I was definitely really hurt and disappointed just because I knew, and even her manager came to me and the people around us came to me and said I was definitely portrayed in a very unfair light, especially after everything I’d done for her. What about Kim? Has she been able to see the reality show herself?

Tracy Nguyen: From my understanding, no. She has very limited resources. I know she’s able to listen to the radio in prison. But as far as being able to watch DVD’s and TV and stuff like that, from my understanding, she’s not allowed to. In your honest opinion, would you say fame is somehow indirectly part of the celebrity publicist’s agenda?

Tracy Nguyen: No. Well, I think I can only speak for myself, and I know in my situation. I think people recognize me only because my clients get photographed and are on TV so much. I’m usually two steps behind them. It just happens to be that way. Being a part of the reality show was something that I never, ever, I mean, I had no choice but to be on the show. Fame is something that I’m absolutely not interested in at all. I really enjoy my privacy and I don’t ever want my celebrity clients to feel uncomfortable with their publicist being as famous, or more famous than they are. Let’s talk about the album. To some, The Naked Truth is the best album Lil’ Kim has put out to date, yet the project seems to be struggling. As Kim’s publicist, what role can you play in attempting to salvage this project, if any role at all?

Tracy Nguyen: Well, I think in getting people to continue to talk about Kim, and continuing to spread the word out there. [I’m] just constantly feeding them with information and letting them know what’s next for Kim, what the next single’s going to be, or what’s in the pipeline for her with this project that is definitely not dead – it’s very much alive. I think we’re in this day and age, especially when it comes to Hip-Hop music, unless everyone is selling 2-500,000 in its first week, it’s considered a failure. There are a lot of amazing albums [that] eventually do go platinum over a period of time, and I think that with this project, again, it is her best work to date and I am very confident. Kim has never gone less than platinum with all of her previous albums, and I think that especially with Kim coming out in the next two months where she will be here to be able to do press and promotion and talk about the project, I feel very confident that it’ll pick up. Do you see Countdown to Lockdown as a new trend in reality shows? Do you think this will continue?

Tracy Nguyen: I think so. I think people want to see celebrities go through struggles. Everything is not as glamorous or peachy keen as it appears to be. These celebrities go through real emotions, they go through relationship issues, they go through financial issues, they go through legal issues, they go through career struggles. I think that when people are watching TV, they wanna be able to connect with whoever it is that they’re watching. I think that’s why The Newlyweds was so successful. You look at Jessica and Nick, at the time when they were newlyweds, just seeing the things they went through as a new couple, I think a lot of people were really intrigued and could relate to some of the things that they went through. Last question: What strategic steps are you planning to take for Kim on her return home?

Tracy Nguyen: Right now, there are so many opportunities on the table for her when it comes to endorsement opportunities, film and TV opportunities; the press is lined up requesting interviews to speak with her. Again, we [currently] have a fantastic album that we still [need to] promote. She’s also got her clothing line. There were a lot of things that we had to kind of put on hold with her being away that again, when she gets out, we’re gonna continue where we left off. There’s definitely a lot to do and I can only imagine, especially with her being away, being the hard worker that she is, she’s gonna wanna go very hard and very strong when she gets out.