This is a story all about how first impressions can be deceiving.

Seventeen years ago I worked at a resort as a server. This resort was pretty high-end and we saw a lot of celebrities come through on a regular basis. I recall very clearly when Nick Lachey and Vanessa (then Minillo) came in for dinner one night. I believe they were staying at the resort and had opted to eat at the restaurant I served at one night. 

Truth be told, I was not at all impressed by them. 

When they came in, a lot of the staff were fawning over them, fighting over who would get to serve them. I remember they were seated on the patio outside right at the ocean, but they refused the table, asking instead for a more private location. They ended up sitting in a tucked away spot that we never ever used behind some umbrellas a brush. 

I was not their primary server, but I did have a chance to serve the table drinks and plates. We were a team oriented restaurant, and we helped each other out with service…especially when we had special reason. 

In the few interactions I had with them at their table, I felt they were a bit less than friendly…almost entitled. I remember them acting frustrated, almost agitated, and it came off as anger towards the staff. 

It definitely left a bad taste in my mouth. It was disappointing because I had been a huge fan of Nick and his group 98 degrees. And as a very young adult, it was very easy for me to let my perception of the situation lead to judgment of both Nick and Vanessa.

Seventeen years later, I had a chance to attend a 98 degrees concert. Years and years had gone by, but I had not forgotten that interaction. The nostalgia of the 90s was enough to draw me to purchase VIP regardless, and I absolutely went all in.

I’m case you didn’t know, 98 degrees does VIP right…maybe the best I’ve been able to do thus far. Soundcheck was wonderful, hearing their beautiful voices and listening to their banter with Q & A. Nick was particularly engaging, which surprised me because of my previous experience. He was joking, laughing, and picking in his bandmates and fans as if they’d been friends forever. He was friendly, funny, charming. It was a very enjoyable experience.

Later, we got to do a champagne toast with the band. I had a chance to talk to all 4 of the guys during that time. I adore Jeff, always have since the first time I met him. He is so genuine, grateful, kind. Drew, who I had never met before, was the best sport and so outgoing. Just a joy to talk to and fun all around. It was so clear they were enjoying their time chatting with the fans. Justin was much more reserved than the others. Quiet, but when engaged, incredibly friendly and kind.

And then there was Nick. 

I wasn’t exactly nervous to talk to him, but I was wondering if I’d bring up that if met him before. When he started pouring me champagne, the irony got to be too much and I did tell him, “so this is funny, I once poured you champagne when you came into a restaurant I worked at, and now here we are…”

He stopped pouring the glass he was working on and immediately asked me about it. Where was that? When did we meet? Is that resort still there? 

We chatted a few minutes about the resort and talked about the area where the resort was located. We shared a few unrelated stories and I found him to be quite engaging. I had a good time swapping stories and just hanging out with him as if we were buddies. He even made a video for one of my best friends who had a horrible day and was not able to make it to the show. She really appreciated it, especially because she loves Love Is Blind, and I did as well. 

Before we left to take our seats, I had finished my glass of champagne. He offered to pour me another. I accepted, and he poured me another glass while pointing out that he had now served me more times than I’d served him. It was a fun little joke and we had a laugh.

Fast forward past the show, which, by the way, was fantastic. A crowd of people gathered around the entrance to the backstage area. We went over to investigate and saw that Vanessa Lachey was standing next to the door. Naturally, several people were flocking to her. She was chatting with fans and taking pictures. I decided to say hi, but just as I was about to, another fan came over. I let her jump in, and she talked to her about how she had served Vanessa and her family at a restaurant a few weeks back. 

Again…irony. When she stepped aside, I opened with, “oddly, I was also your server years ago.” She asked me where and I told her, and at first she didn’t remember. But when it came to her, her face changed completely.

“That was 17 years ago, it was the very first time Nick and I took a trip together,” she told me. Of course, I didn’t know that bit of information. She went on, “and it was a really difficult trip.”

I asked her what was difficult about it and she went on to share that they had been hounded by the press that whole weekend. She shared that the paparazzi were after them for pictures and they couldn’t get away, they couldn’t get an ounce of privacy on their vacation.

I responded, “surely they weren’t catching you guys on the resort property?” But she said, they were hiding on the beach. That was the very same beach they specifically asked to be moved from when they were seated.

She went on to share a bit more, about the awkwardness and stress of that first trip with a significant other, and about some of the other challenges they ran into while there. 

And suddenly I felt like a total asshole. 

Seventeen years I had just assumed they had been standoffish and unfriendly celebrities, uninterested in anyone or anything outside of them. But this chance encounter almost two decades later had hit me like a ton of bricks. After 17 years, I finally got to hear their side of the story. And it explained the ENTIRE interaction. 

I was the judgmental jerk. 

Looking back, as an actual (somewhat) grown up, I can see it clearly. Hindsight is 20/20 and all that. First of all, they were on a vacation scraping at any bit of time alone they could find. Being overly friendly and putting on their “on stage” persona to impress the staff at the resort was not the expectation, nor should it have been. But that aside, they were actually struggling with stuff that was putting a real damper on their vacation, the first trip they’d ever taken together as a couple. And after the typical exhaustion that being a celebrity brings, I can imagine that was even more frustrating and disappointing given the context. 

Hearing Vanessa talk about what she recalled from that trip add my heart break. Celebrities have things they deal with too, only they’re judged so quickly and easily because we expect them to be a certain way, and to be outgoing and to talk to their fans whenever we want. Forget that they have lives, emotions, personal needs. As celebrities, those often go by the way side. Our expectations of them are set so high that unless we have exactly the encounter of our dreams, our opinion of them is marred. 

Vanessa was possibly one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. She took her time chatting with each and every person who came up to her after her husbands concert. She wasn’t on stage, it wasn’t her show. She was there supporting her husband. But she talked to everyone anyway. Our interaction was incredibly pleasant. She complimented my clothing, thanked me for coming to the show, and of course, shared some personal memories that she did not have to share.

And I’m incredibly thankful for that because it makes me pause and remember that there is ALWAYS more to the story. Just because we think we know a celebrity does not mean we know even half of the actual story. 

All this to say, if you meet your favorite celebrity and you walk away unimpressed, think about the possibility that it’s a bad day or that there is something else you don’t know. We are all human and have those tough times. Celebrities rarely get a second chance to correct them. Let’s give them that chance.