You don’t have to be a pop star to attend the Grammys. Sometimes all you need is a bright smile, a formal dress and a bit of ambition. That’s all it took for Julie Phan, a UCLA student majoring in cognitive science, who took a break from studying and cosplaying as a celebrity at Sunday’s awards show.
Phan, who is from Santa Ana, California, participated as a seat filler, which is the name of a person who fills empty chairs during the show.
It wasn’t Phan’s first time attending an awards show. She has previously attended the 2021 People’s Choice Awards and the 2022 MTV Movie & TV Awards in the fan pit. However, Sunday was her first time sitting among stars, including Jennifer Lopez, Olivia Rodrigo and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson.
In January, Phan applied to attend the show via Seat pads and morean organization that brings people to Hollywood’s biggest events, and learned that its application had been accepted just 10 days before the show.
In an interview with BuzzFeed News, Phan relived his Grammys experience, including how loving J.Lo and Ben Affleck looked IRL.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How excited were you to go to the Grammys?
I was more than excited. I immediately looked for who was going to be there, who was performing, the nominees. For my luck, a lot of people that I grew up listening to, they were going to be there. So that was really exciting for me.
What are some of your favorites that you may have seen?
Taylor Swift, Harry Styles, Adele, Beyonce. I would have loved to see BTS last year; however, they are not together right now.
I didn’t even know seat fillers were a thing until today. Basically, you go where you are needed?
Yeah pretty well. It’s a game of musical chairs, really.
How many times have you moved?
Initially, I started on the side in the stands. Then I descended to the ground. I was mostly in the seat or rows most of the time. Then I moved around a lot. Immediately, whenever someone asked me to move, I just had to get up and leave. I couldn’t say no.
During [a] commercial break, I took the opportunity to get up and walk to the front, where the tables were. I was able to be placed right next to Jennifer Lopez. Just in front.
After that, I was taken back to the waiting area, which was at the back for the [seat fillers] which had no seat at the moment. The whole process started again. Right after the waiting area, I was back in the seated rows.
Were you usually in front of the show?
Mainly the middle. The only time I was with Jennifer was the only time I was up front.
How long have you been with J.Lo?
Just before Sam Smith’s performance, I took my seat. Right after the performance, I was fired. I feel like 10ish minutes.