One week ago today, I was incredibly honored to attend the 2018 ESPY awards in Los Angeles as somebody’s date. Being a huge fan of several sports, I didn’t even look at the calendar when I was invited before halfway yelling, “I’m in!” over the phone.
I’ll dive into the crazy details in a timeline style fashion, but here’s what you need to know at a high level… it was even more incredible than I expected.
2018 ESPY Awards
Our group attended a somewhat more informal pre-party function at the JW Marriott in LA, which is right across the sidewalk from the Microsoft Theater where the award show was going to be held and right across the street from our hotel.
Moet Chandon was pouring champagne and everyone was dressed to impress while mingling and settling in for the big event. While it wasn’t a formal “pre-party,” the lobby was packed by those attending the award show and there was an air of excitement in the crowd.
There was one private party, and some of the celebrities seemed a bit rushed to have to walk the red carpet, but most attendees just were able to relax and simply get excited for the show.
About 30 minutes prior to the start time for the show, everyone drank one final glass of champagne and somewhat rushed across the red carpet to enter the theater. Prior to the show, as well as during the Awards themselves, it was really the behind-the-scenes fun that I found to be most exciting.
A perfect example occurred during each commercial break. Each time there was a slight “lull,” the leader of the band onstage for the show became the host to keep the crowd entertained. Celebrities and award winners were pulled on stage to sing hilarious karaoke songs, he quizzed those in the front row on sports-related trivia – which was actually pretty hilarious when they were quizzed on other sports, and the band played requests from the crowd from several different eras. But about 30 second prior to the commercial ending there was an announcement for everyone to take their seats and everyone literally ran to get to their seats before the cameras turned back on. If they couldn’t get to their seat in time, any seat would do – nobody wanted to be the one caught on camera mingling in the aisles.
I also found it interesting to know that drinking is not allowed during the show in the theater at all. Water, wine, everything… off limits. BUT, they did offer some specialty beverages at the concessions in the lobby. So if you ever look at the award show and think that the seats may look empty… just know people are consuming their drinks as quickly as possible in the lobby. (I promise you, every seat would otherwise be filled.)
While there were several incredibly impactful moments throughout the show, there were definitely a few stand outs that really made huge waves through the theater. (In order of appearance.)
Jake Wood winning the Pat Tillman Award for Service
Every year, this award hits home for me. Not only did Pat Tillman give the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms, but most of the people that win this award are past amateur athletes, similar to myself, doing incredible work to help make the world a better place.
Jake Wood, specifically, is the perfect man to win this award. He was one of the founders, and the current CEO, of Team Rubicon. Team Rubicon is a massive team of veterans from the military and first responders, a group 65,000+ volunteers, that help survivors of natural disasters around the globe. And it’s all because the two founders, one being Jake Wood, decided to take a step forward to help.
His acceptance speech reminded us all that we can’t have the mentality that “someone else will help” or “I don’t know enough to help.” Every single one of us has the ability to step in and act. We must be comfortable learning, adapting, and taking action to make a real difference.
Danica Patrick’s hilarious “Me, Danica” skit
Perhaps this was just a highlight for me, because I participate/participated in a lot of the sports it was mocking, but I found it to be hilarious.
Also, this was a big part of the big reveal of Aaron Rodgers and Danica Patrick being together. Well played, Aaron and Danica.
Jim Kelly winning the Jimmy V Award for Perseverance
I was familiar with Jim Kelly as the famed Buffalo Bills quarterback and NFL Hall of Famer, but it was evident that I had no idea what was going on behind-the-scenes.
Without going into too much detail (the videos below will highlight more if you’re interested), Jim Kelly suffered through the loss of his 8-year-old son Hunter and has undergone multiple treatments to fight cancer, including a 12-hour surgery that left him in the ICU.
But, through it all, Jim Kelly has been a survivor thanks to his “faith, family, friends, and fans.” Needless to say, his outlook is one that I hope to uphold every day of my life. It was a messages of hope, survival, kindness, and, perhaps most importantly, love.
There wasn’t a dry eye in the building watching Jim walk onto that stage to accept this well-deserved award with his family by his side.
Larry Nassar Sexual Abuse Survivors (“Sister Survivors”) winning the Arthur Ashe Courage Award
Similar to most of America, I’m familiar with the details of this lawsuit. But I honestly must admit that, with all of the information swirling around in the news, one very important detail did miss me due to the shock of the whole thing.
Aly Raisman pointed out in her portion of their acceptance speech (video linked below) something that I could never re-write more eloquently than she said herself. “The ripple effect of our actions, or inactions, can be enormous, spanning generations. Perhaps the greatest tragedy of this nightmare is that it could have been avoided. Whether you act or do nothing, you are shaping the world that we live in. Impacting others. All we needed was one adult to have the integrity stand between us and Larry Nassar. If just one adult had listened, believed, and acted, the people standing before you on this stage would have never have met him.”
In all of the shock of the whole lawsuit, I had missed that these women had reported Larry Nassar’s abuse over the course of 10 years, spanning as far back as 1992. That’s crazy.
It shows that we need to ask questions, but never judge answers. Listen to others’ stories, rather than re-writing them based on our own experiences.
If parents, the staff and educators at MSU, or those involves in US Gymnastics or the USOC would have trusted the words of these athletes, this could have been avoided.
It’s a life lesson I think we could all re-learn.
The After Party
After the empowering, incredible ESPY Awards, the after party was where everyone finally let loose to enjoy the night. And it was just as wild as I anticipated!
Sponsored by Coors Light and RTIC Coolers (which I’m obsessed with, by the way – it’s what I’m holding in my picture with Red Gerard above), the after party included transforming the rooftop of the parking garage of the theater into a totally kicka$$ party. From fountains galore, to multitudes of bars, to several buffets full of food from various nationalities, the entire space was, to put it lightly, incredible.
I spent the majority of the night on the dance floor where I was dancing next to athletes and celebrities such as Juju Smith, Ciara, and Chloe Kim. We danced to the likes of Lil’ Jon, who was the opening DJ, and G-Eazy, who performed a full concert. Ciara sang her newest summer hit song in-person and Chloe Kim rapped Cardi-B’s portion of G-Eazy’s song “No Limit.” (Check my Insta Story this afternoon for videos of both.)
I won’t dive into the post-post party here, but this after party was more than I even could have imagined.
What to Wear to the ESPY Awards
Looking at pictures of past ESPY Awards, I already knew that fashion would be all over the place. Some women seemed to be dressed for a slightly more casual night at the Oscars, while others looked like they were prepping for a hot night at ‘da club.
So I landed somewhere in the middle…
Instead of purchasing a new gown, I decided to rent a dress instead. The Green Garnet dress that I rented was by Cinq a Sept and fit like a glove. It was form fitting, but very comfortable. A little bit more low-cut than I would wear for a typical evening, I still felt classic and classy.
Some tips if you decide to rent a dress, which I’ve done several times. While the dresses I decide to rent work out most or the time, I’ve had enough mess ups to have at least a plan B ready to go – typically something I’ve worn to an event prior, but that I know would work if I’m short on time. Also, always read the reviews and look at the pictures to see if someone with a similar body type is wearing the dress. I knew that this dress was true to size in the bust, but fit a little bit larger in the waist, so I sized down for my second option knowing that I prefer to highlight my waist more than anything – the size down was the one that I ended up wearing. Typically, renting a dress does work out well for me, but those are the only “watch outs” I’ve experienced from my end.
Because the dress was a little bit of a bold color, and I wanted it to stand out more than anything, I kept accessories pretty minimal. Sticking with a simple gold palette.
I borrowed the accessories from a friend in Denver; wore three, simple gold rings, one of which my grandmother recently passed down to me; and gold, Steve Madden, simple, strappy heels that I had purchased when I was a bridesmaid a few years back.
While I debated about some options that were a little more flashy, even borrowing a piece from a local designer, these were the pieces that I felt most comfortable in for the night and they fit me perfectly.
This is the place where I changed my mind last minute, and for kind of a weird reason.
I had every intention of going with a low chignon. It felt classic and tasteful since the dress offered a little more “pizzazz.”
But I changed my mind last minute to have my hair primarily down because of… tan lines. I wrote on Instagram about how I’m known by those close to me to have almost permanent tan lines, stuck forever in the land of racer-back tank tops due to lots of time in the sun training for triathlons and other fun, Colorado activities. While I did the best I could to cover them with makeup and a slight tan, I figured wearing my hair down might help out a bit, too.
Though I rarely, if ever, go with my hair completely down if it’s not straight. My hair doesn’t hold curl well, so a bit more interest with styling has treated me well over the years, too.
The partially up style that I chose worked very well all night. Throughout the evening, it loosened up a bit, which I liked. But it also stayed in place (which was surprising to me) for long evening, meaning that my After Party pictures don’t look like a complete mess. Overall, this style was the perfect pick for my first night on the red carpet.
True to my day-to-day, I maintained a pretty natural look, full of browns and a few purples to make my eyes pop. Though I enhanced my usual look using primarily Chanel products and MAC lashes.
I did ask my stylist to go with a more smokey eye and kept all liner on the top, only using Chanel’s waterproof mascara on the bottom. (I’ve seen the ESPYs enough to know that tearing up for at least a portion of the show is not optional.)
Ultimately, I was in LOVE with the overall look. If I had a bit more time, I would have tried the look with my straight, natural hair and likely would have altered the dress slightly. But for my first red carpet, I’m pretty damn proud. This mountain girl can still dress up a bit when the time calls for it. 🙂
Reflecting on the 2018 ESPYs
I can’t imagine forgetting a single moment of this night. Everything went seamlessly and there were constant, fantastic surprises out of every corner. (I mean, who would have guessed I’d be right by Ciara when Lil’ Jon played her new song? I sure didn’t!!)
Thank you, ESPYs for an amazing evening, and thank you, +1, for inviting me and making this a night I could never replace.