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Undercover-chella: A Brutally Honest Look Behind Coachella's Velvet Rope

Culture

I've lived in Los Angeles for 5 years, and have gone to Coachella - both weekends - for 4 of those. Am I crazy? Yes, obviously.

I've experienced every type of 'Chella possible: GA, VIP, with Artist bands, as Staff, No-Chella (AKA just attending the parties), paid full admission, got in free, camped-glamped-crashed-and-mansioned, planned it, and gone on a whim the day-of.


So what is it that brings me back each year? Ironically, the music festival takes a backseat to what in my opinion is the crown jewel of the desert: the parties.

Weekend One of the festival is the IT weekend: celebrities, YouTubers, Instagram models, influencers, socialites, fashion bloggers, professional partiers and the press go Coachella-adjacent: descending on the desert and turning it into a multi-page fashion spread. It's the weekend where pasties are acceptable outfits, Drake is most likely within 100 feet of you at all times, and you discover what the term “gifting suite" means.

Let's stop and talk about gifting suites for a hot second. At a party that shall-not-be-named, I was mistaken for an influencer (does it count if my mom tells me I'm special?) and invited into a mysterious room.

Let's call this room “Christmas Morning" because it was a pop-up store with gorgeous designer clothing, where I was given a shopping bag and instructed to grab whatever I wanted. I'm sorry, what?

"At a party that shall-not-be-named, I was mistaken for an influencer (does it count if my mom tells me I'm special?) and invited into a mysterious room."

Do you remember watching the Toys R' Us “Super Toy Run" on Nickelodeon as a kid? It's like that, but better. As an adult, you're able to appreciate how much these items cost as you dunk them into your hemp tote, shielding tears of joy behind those dope new sunglasses they gave you. I tried to cover it up like, “Don't worry, it's just sweat… dripping from my eyes." From swanky shades, to haute accessories, to perfumes, apparel, souvenirs, and flower-power-anything, it's 50 Shades of Swag. All day, erreday. Well, Friday through Sunday.

But why? Well, brand sponsors are willing to bet that if the right people are seen using or wearing their product, it'll be making a cultural splash big enough to trickle down in sales for the rest of the year. So do complimentary henna tattoos and mani/pedis at the Rachel Zoe party, or Quay sunglasses at Revolve and Forest Grant's at Poppy, or Batiste Dry Shampoo at Neon, or free rides from Fiat and Body Glove, and luxury cannabis giveaways at The Chroncierge mansion powered by Greenrush really do the trick??

Besides all the PR they get from people like me mentioning them, it actually does! Much of what influencers touch turns to gold. Even the CEO of Revolve said that, "This was our best week ever: Monday [before Coachella] beat our Cyber Monday," and that's because Revolve has Coachella down to a science. This year, they rented out an entire hotel just for influencers, flying them out from around the world and dressing them up in #instagrammable outfits that have the rest of us like, “Damn, where can I buy that?"

"The thing is, there's so much to see and do at Coachella W1 that it's impossible to do it all."

But ugh, even as am I'm writing this -- and having attended some of the most exclusive parties myself -- I still have FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). The thing is, there's so much to see and do at Coachella W1 that it's impossible to do it all. I take that back. It's impossible... unless you have a helicopter like Lil Wayne who literally flew from party to party to perform this year, skipping the godforsaken road closures and miserable traffic.

Like any music festival, the traffic at Coachella is the worst. If I could go back in time, I'd ask Steven Hawking to lend his genius to figure it all out.

We live in a world with self-driving cars and seedless watermelons, but it seems that nobody can figure out how to stop carmageddon every weekend. This year, it took me 2 hours to get to the Poppy party, which was about “15 minutes away" from our Airbnb in Bermuda Dunes. Luckily, the good parties don't stop until 4 am, but there's nothing worse than being stuck in the back of an Uber while receiving texts about how much fun the fiesta is. Thus confirming my “fear" that I was indeed, missing out.

"Besides the mandatory photo ops (duh) it gets wild."

OK so besides the free gifts and food and drinks and music, what's it like inside the parties?

Besides the mandatory photo ops (duh) it gets wild. At the Revolve Festival, they had an actual carnival ride from Michael Jackson's Neverland Ranch, but I've seen cool activations like: nursing stations where they administer IV's and vitamin B shots in the booty, massage stations, choose-your-own-flower-crowns, braid and glitter bars, makeup touch-ups, a crane-game machine where you can win a BMW at Poppy, dirtbikes and a bouncy house slide at FentyxPuma, and so much more. Dammit, I'm getting FOMO again just thinking about it.

But while I'd love to keep gushing about how wonderful of an experience it all was, I can't skip the arduous process of figuring out how to gain access to these coveted events. All the “free" comes at the price of working hard to hustle your way onto the list.

Even with Coachella being about 150 miles away from Los Angeles, you'll find that #HollywoodRules still apply: you gotta know someone to get in. Whether it's a gatekeeper (the PR person), the talent (bonus points if it's a musician), someone who has a plus one (start sucking up months in advance), an influencer or the goddamn line cook for all I care, you gotta know someone! If you're feeling lucky, you can also send a blind RSVP to the email address on the event invite and pray you get in. It does work… sometimes.

But one party that it definitely will not work at -- the event that deserves a paragraph all on its own -- is Neon Carnival. Known as the star-studded extravaganza of the weekend (maybe even the year) Neon attracts celebs like: Leonardo DiCaprio, Chance the Rapper, Diddy, Amber Rose, Paris Hilton, Logan Paul, Lele Pons and so much more. I'm pretty sure whoever coined the term “Disneyland for Adults" was referring to this event. With bumper cars, carnival games, a ferris wheel, an epic stage and dance floor, and beautiful people to enjoy it all with, it's is surreal AF. If you're ever in a situation to trade your left kidney for a party, do it for Neon Carnival.

All in all, I hope reading this has ignited enough curiosity (and FOMO) to convince you to make the pilgrimage to Coachella Weekend One next year. It sometimes feels like more of a glitter safari than a music festival, but it's well worth it!

3 min read
Lifestyle

Help! I’m Sick of Seasonal Weight Gain!

Email armchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get the advice you need!

Help! I'm Sick of Seasonal Weight Gain!

Dear Armchair Psychologist,
How would you deal with the seasonal weight gain that most women experience? I've put on literally 5–7 lbs around my waist/butt/lower thighs and it's the bane of my existence. Getting dressed hasn't even been fun lately:( I know it's "normal," but how do I battle the psychology behind this?
- McFattie in Brooklyn

Dear McFattie in Brooklyn,

I'm sorry to hear that the winter blues is making your zipper hard to close. Personally, I roll with the rolls during the dark and frigid winter season, while chalking the glutton up to a basic survival mechanism. The feelings that accompany being out of shape and not wanting to dress cute (because your clothes don't fit well) can be both demoralizing and a blow to your self esteem. In this fantastic post, the author suggests great techniques that include keeping things in perspective and to "Ignore the panic," "Get curious" about your weight gain, and to keep it moving by "getting out of your room." Best of all is the advice to "Remember all things that are more important than this." If these head games don't serve you over time, and you still feel low, there may be deeper underlying reasons to your weight gain. In this case, I suggest you speak to a qualified therapist.

- The Armchair Psychologist

Need more armchair psychologist in your life? Check out the last installment or emailarmchairpsychologist@swaaymedia.com to get some advice of your own!