July 18, 2007 -- Apparently you can be too thin, at least if you want to be Victoria Beckham's personal assistant.
In a job interview from hell, filmed for her reality show, "Victoria Beckham: Coming to America," the former Posh Spice decreed that good-looking and thin candidates need not apply.
"It has to be all about me," Beckham said on the show.
Beckham then asked a young job applicant Renee Gauthier whether she found her hunky husband, soccer star David Beckham, attractive. Gauthier stammered, "I'm really nervous. … No, he's not ugly."
But perhaps there's a method to Beckham's madness. After all, several years ago it was widely rumored that David Beckham had a torrid affair with his own personal assistant Rebecca Loos.
"If you're a cute, young blond, you don't want another cute, younger blond working for you. That's a woman's choice. I don't blame her," said Dionne Mahaffey-Muhammad, president and CEO of Celebrity Personal Assistants Inc. "That said, you can't go around and say only ugly brunettes need apply."
Searching for the Perfect Assistant
Mahaffey-Muhammad's Atlanta-based company is a staffing agency that provides college-educated personal assistants to celebrities and sports stars. According to Mahaffey-Muhammad, the term personal assistant is no longer au courant. She prefers "lifestyle managers."
Whatever they call them, celebrities can be quite meticulous in the search for staffers.
"Our clients can be very specific about the type of person they want," Mahaffey-Muhammad said. "Some clients have said, 'I only want a black woman or a white male' or 'I prefer someone who is gay.' We try to identify their needs, but some of their demographic preferences can be challenging."
Some of the job requirements can also be challenging — not to mention odd. In a recent survey, the Los Angeles-based Association of Celebrity Personal Assistants, which boasts a dues-paying membership of about 150 assistants, asked its members to describe the craziest or most fun thing they had ever been asked to do.
The answers included: caring for a Tibetan mushroom by changing its goat milk daily, picking the boss' dog's nose, finding live swans for a pool party and filming a live birth. All that for an average salary of $61,460 per year!
Rita Tateel is a founding member of ACPA and teaches a course at the Learning Annex on becoming a celebrity personal assistant. Tateel said the job was not for the star-struck.
"I tell people it's hard to have plants or pets at home, nevermind kids, if you want to be a celebrity personal assistant," Tateel said. "The operative word is 'personal.' There's an intimacy involved in what the assistants have to do. So there can be issues."
And what about Victoria Beckham's particular qualifications?
"It's not necessarily different than the wife of a corporate executive not wanting her husband to have a pretty secretary."
Burned Spouses, Girlfriends Are Wary
There is at least one other celebrity who might be able to identify with Beckham's unique hiring policies: actress Sienna Miller. Miller was engaged to actor Jude Law when he reportedly had an affair with Daisy Wright, the nanny of one of his children. Miller called off the wedding and Law apologized for his boorish behavior.
While Beckham may now be the public face of underlying insecurity, the desire to hire a Plain Jane personal assistant, nanny or other staffer seems to be widespread.
"Very few people will come out and say, 'I don't want someone who will steal my husband,'" said Jen Oates, a placement counselor at the Boston Nanny Center, an agency that has placed 4,000 nannies over its 19-year history. "It's much more subtle than that. We'll ask Mom to describe her ideal nanny and she will say, "Oh, a grandmotherly type.'"
Oates said she knew of a widower who married a nanny. And she recently checked a nanny's references and learned the young woman had come between a wife and her husband. "So, it does happen."
That's the kind of scenario Maria Salomao-Schmidt would like to avoid. Salomao-Schmidt runs Massachusetts-based Brick House Realty. As a busy working mother, she has hired several nannies for her children, 12-year-old stepson Christopher and 3-year-old Mia.
"I would never hire a nanny that I thought was really, really attractive. That's like playing with fire. In fact one of the women I did let go was very flirty," she said. "Sometimes people are young and attractive and not out to get anybody, but there have to be some guidelines. Otherwise there's just too much candy in the candy store."
As for Renee Gauthier, she got the job despite her admission that Posh's soccer-star husband was easy on the eyes.
And, after the reality show aired, Gauthier's Myspace page (www.myspace.com/reneegauthier) was burning up with congratulatory comments, including "You go Pudding Cakes" and "You were hilarious on the show."
Oops. Even though Victoria Beckham apparently considers Gauthier too unattractive to be a threat, Gauthier may have ended up violating another cardinal rule for celebrity personal assistants: never get so famous that you outshine the boss.