May 19, 2023
On a Tuesday several weeks ago, Meghan Grimm and two of her college interns gathered around her dining-room table for an all-hands meeting. Improvising an office setup in her Greenwich Village one-bedroom, Grimm displayed a laptop on her kitchen island that featured a third intern on video and an elaborate, color-coded spreadsheet filled with the names of celebrities, executives, and socialites, reports The Wall Street Journal.
“This is my second official day without Jen, so everything is a little crazy,” she said.
After almost five years as a personal assistant to Jennifer Lawrence, Grimm, 30, parted ways with the Oscar-winning actress to focus on her own company, Clyde Staffing Ventures, where she sets up entertainment-industry players with Meghans of their very own. Her client list includes the actors Dakota Johnson, Anne Hathaway, and Uma Thurman, as well as the model Kaia Gerber.
On the spreadsheet were 37 open positions she was working to fill for, among others, an A-list singer; a Gen-Z television heartthrob; both members of a divorced Hollywood couple; and a billionaire businessman in search of a “travel assistant.”
Grimm calmly read through the list—noting to whom she’d sent candidates; who needed to see more résumés; and desirable qualities and qualifications for specific clients. She described one, a socialite and businesswoman, as “super polished and proper.” Grimm wanted to send her candidates who were equally as burnished.
“I think being an assistant is very much like dating—you have to be 100% compatible with your boss because it is such an intimate job,” she said.
Many stars have multiple assistants; and a chief of staff whose job is to know and manage everything about his or her boss’s life. When a pairing is particularly compatible, the employer could one day become a best friend or business partner to an assistant. On the other extreme, assistants may find themselves at the whims of a tyrannical or abusive boss.
Some examples veer into parody: Earlier this year, an executive-assistant job listing for a New York power couple went viral for its extensive list of responsibilities, including managing dog potty breaks and packing the couple’s bags ahead of travel.
Grimm said that, for most assistants, a good work-life balance exists, “as long as you’re aligned on boundaries and expectations.”
There are established entertainment-industry staffing agencies, including the Grapevine Agency, Career Group Companies, and Hire Society. Grimm said that her experience as an assistant puts her in a position to ensure that talent will have the support they need and place assistants in roles that will be fulfilling.
“Years ago, many applicants were willing to work for much less money,” said Rachel Zaslansky Sheer of the Grapevine Agency, adding they were up for longer hours, too. More recently, she said, balance is a top requirement.
“When people heard that I’m an assistant, what would really offend me is when someone would say, ‘Oh, what do you do all day—dry cleaning and errands?’” Grimm said, whereas the job often entailed much more.
“You are their gatekeeper, you oversee projects, you deal with vendors, you are on set. You’re wearing one million hats, and you pretty much learn how to do everything, with contacts in every city,” she said.
“If your boss is getting married, helping them plan their wedding,” she went on. “If your boss is moving into a new home, overseeing that entire move with art and furniture and personal effects and household construction from the ground up. If your boss has a company, you are sitting in those meetings. You’re their right hand.”
Lawrence, Grimm’s former boss, echoed that sentiment. “Meghan played an integral role, really as the COO of my life,” she said. “She kept me organized, advocated for me, protected me, and was always five steps ahead.”
Seeing herself as a mentor figure to the assistants she places, Grimm said she trains each one before they start their job and makes herself available to both them and their bosses whenever they need. “I’ll have a client who will say, ‘Could you please do a Zoom with my assistant tonight? She’s never been on a movie set, do you mind walking her through protocols and just giving her some advice?’” she said.
If a placement doesn’t work out within 90 days, she refunds the client and works on finding another candidate for them. So far, this has happened once.
‘All the good jobs are word-of-mouth,’ the former assistant says of her industry.
In addition to her staffing services, Grimm created a Slack workplace that Clyde assistants and other assistants in her network can join as long as they sign an NDA.
She described it as a “little black book,” where members—who identify themselves with both their own name and their boss’s—can trade tips about private chefs, upscale jewelry-repair services, and nannies in specific cities where their bosses are shooting or touring. “We have a person for everything,” she said.
Grimm said she wishes people understood that bad bosses are the exception, not the rule. “I think people have a really bad taste in their mouth about assistant jobs because of what you’ll read from one experience,” she said. “My number one goal is to have better fits all around to avoid that problem.” She said she has only turned down one client. If a business relationship goes south, she said, it’s usually because the two people weren’t a fit.
Grimm grew up in Manhasset, New York, and studied English at Georgetown University. After graduation, she worked her way up the assistant ranks at Ralph Lauren, ultimately assisting the vice president of communications. While helping to style celebrities at the fashion company, she realized she could bring her assisting talents to Hollywood. Before working with Lawrence, Grimm assisted Madonna, the actor Tim Blake Nelson, and the producer Casey Patterson. She donates a percentage of her proceeds from Clyde to Madonna’s charity, Raising Malawi.
“She’s resourceful to a fault,” said Florinka Pesenti, Grimm’s former boss at Ralph Lauren. “Like she found me every babysitter I’ve hired—this was after she worked for me.”
Before starting Clyde, Grimm was doing the sort of matchmaking her company offers, setting up students from Georgetown and Manhasset looking to get into entertainment with assisting gigs. “All the good jobs are word-of-mouth,” she said.
“If a candidate writes me and reiterates how happy they are, then there’s this increase of people doing these jobs,” said Grimm. “They tell their friends, their friends tell their friends, and now people want to become an assistant. That’s what I’m trying to create.”
Research contact: @WSJ