What really happens on the red carpet: Behind the scenes at the VMAs

Me on the white carpetMe on the white carpetWhen our Fashion and Beauty editor Joanna Douglas couldn't attend this year's MTV Video Music Awards, Shine's red carpet coverage (or in this case, um, white carpet), fell to me. It was my first time doing anything like this at all-essentially, my only qualification for the assignment was being located on the West Coast-but I thought it would be a fun, kind of glamorous experience and so I said yes. Turns out, it was nothing like what I'd expected.

I arrived at the event for the 12:30pm check-in, was assigned a number, and guided to the press "holding area" (kind of like a pen) where I met the other reporters I would be working with that day. The room was total chaos-official-type people were racing around with headsets, performers in red latex pants were practicing warm-up exercises, a cameraman proclaimed that he "was too hung-over to be doing this today." Various reporters worked with their cameramen to record introductions. One reporter in particular from Perez Hilton garnered lots of wanted attention. She wore a bright pink striped getup adorned with a unicorn stuffed animal hanging off her shoulder and two baby dolls attached to her chest, basically, how to say this?, breast feeding. WTF? Reporter (Perezhilton.com)Reporter (Perezhilton.com)

Finally, after two and a half hours of hurry up and wait, the powers-that-be lined us up by number and led us outside like cattle. We walked in a single file line across the busy downtown LA street that had been cordoned off and then squeezed together in a row onto the white carpet, kind of like sardines. Just when we thought we couldn't get any closer, we were told to "get to know your neighbor a little better, 100 more people need to fit!" Unicorn Perez Hilton Lady ended up beside me (of course) in the press line and screeched in her high voice: "I need more lip gloss in my hair because the wind is blowing it!"

It was cold and windy and people were pushing and squeezing and complaining about hunger. Someone said, "I see that woman eating a cookie and I want to punch her in the face and say, 'Give me that f--- ing cookie, lady.'" Yikes. We stood in "ready mode" for another hour or so before, finally, the moment we'd been waiting for…

Lady Gaga walks the white carpetLady Gaga walks the white carpetVisions of metallic, leather, black lace, and bright tie-dye hair began to glide down the white carpet as the celebs entered and stopped to talk to reporters. Here's the thing about interviewing celebrities: It's the least like having an actual conversation that you can imagine. First a publicist approaches you and explains what you can and cannot talk about and how long you have to talk-often some ridiculous limit like 30 seconds or two questions. Even with these limitations, there's no guarantee a promised celeb will even glance your way. Many of the night's biggest stars walked past me without even so much as a nod. When Gaga floated by like a float in a Christmas parade everybody froze and just stared at her typically outlandish, Roman-goddess gown and three-foot-high headdress. Gaga was accompanied by four former members of the U.S. military who had been impacted by the Pentagon's "Don't ask, don't tell" policy. Enter the political statement of the night!

Next thing I remember, I looked up and the carpet was ruled by the members of the Jersey Shore. I asked Ronnie and Vinnie if they would ever consider a non-Guido makeover and Vinnie responded with the vague and nonsensical "I wear all different things, you know what I mean? I keep it kind of casual, but a little flashy." Then Ronnie said, "I just do me." Sammi, Ronnie's on-again, off-again love, came by separately and her publicist warned us sternly not to ask about Ronnie. I thought, "What does one ask Sammi, if not about Ronnie?" so I asked her about what beauty items she never left home without and she responded, "lots and lots of lip gloss." Thank god I now know the answer to that question. I also found out: Snooki is even shorter and more orange in person and the Situation struts, in fact he just strutted on by me in his leather bomber and sunglasses like he was too cool for school. Actually, he is pretty cool. Pauly D's hair was an interesting shade of gray as a result of all of the product he put in it and he told me it took him "25 minutes" to do.The SituationThe Situation

At one point, Katy Perry was walking by and Unicorn Lady started screaming her name. She caught her eye and Katy, rocking rainbow hair extensions, ran over to check out the baby dolls attached to Unicorn Lady's boobs. Unicorn Lady: "Suck on my boobies, Katy." Katy Perry: "This is when I walk away." She ran away.

In all of this craziness, I just kept thinking about what an incredibly strange way this was to distribute information with a jammed line of hundreds of people thrusting microphones and waiting for someone to come over and talk for thirty seconds or give you a little piece of knowledge about their outfit or next album. Still I was grateful to experience it from this angle.

As the crowd started to die down and rush inside for the start of the start of show, I looked up and read a billboard on a side of one of the downtown LA buildings that said, "Nothing beats seeing it live." They got that right.