Lessons From Celebrity Encounters Told By NYU Students

These NYU students rehash their celebrity sightings around campus and discuss why they did or did not approach them.


Sophomore Valentina Parra-Rodriguez with model Jacob Elordi. Students frequently run into celebrities in NYC. (Photo by Zendaya Coleman)

Addison Aloian, Contributing Writer

One of the best parts about living in New York is constant celebrity sightings. As NYU students, we can brag that we walk past stars on the daily whether it’s strolling by the Kimmel Center for University Life or weaving through the crowds at Times Square. If you’ve ever seen a celebrity, you know how intimidating they can be.

Some people like CAS sophomore Valentina Parra-Rodriguez just seem to attract celebrities. She’s seen celebrities from Matt Damon to Jacob Elordi and Zendaya. She spotted the rumored couple while walking on Houston to meet her roommate at a nearby Chipotle.

“I was like, ‘Oh my god, hi, can I take a picture?’ and [Elordi] said yes,” she recalled. “Zendaya was the one who took the photo. And she handed my phone back to me, and I didn’t even realize it was her, so I got a pic with her too.”

CAS junior Tori Bianco is another lucky student to have experienced a celebrity encounter. She met “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez.

“Gina Rodriguez was filming ‘Someone Great’ in Washington Square Park,” she said.

After her sorority sisters alerted Bianco to Rodriguez’s presence, she sprinted across campus.

“I would normally never go up to a celebrity,” she said. However, she took the risk and asked Rodriguez for a picture. “Then I said ‘I just wanna let you know you’re even more perfect in person,’ and I started to walk away.”

To her surprise, the actress grabbed Bianco’s shoulder and replied, “Thank you, by the way, you’re stunning.”

“And then I cried in the park,” Bianco admitted.

While some celebrities welcome selfies and compliments, others don’t want to be bothered. CAS junior Kayla Arradondo has been lucky to see four celebrities in the city: Tyler, the Creator, Guillermo Diaz, Vanessa Williams and Ben Schwartz. She spotted both Tyler, the Creator and Guillermo Diaz on Lafayette next to the NYU Broome St. shuttle stop, but didn’t speak to either.

“[Tyler, the Creator] was just casually strolling in the middle of a circle of four bodyguards,” she said.

As for Diaz, she didn’t approach him because she could tell he didn’t want to be bothered.

Although Arradondo did not talk to Tyler, the Creator or Guillermo Diaz, she did get to meet Vanessa Williams during the NYC Pride March last year.

“She was in a huge -ss rainbow-feather, coat-type thing, strolling with a team of eight people around her,” she said. “We sprinted to catch up to her, and then finally, we got close. My friend chickened out, but I asked her, ‘Hi Ms. Williams, can I please have a picture?’ And she said, ‘Yeah, hurry up.’”

While some students strike up courage to speak to celebs in the heat of the moment, others like Tandon first-year Lillie Connors, maintain their silence. After seeing “Hadestown,” the musical, last October, Connors ran into Reeve Carney, one of the show’s stars.

“I was walking up the subway stairs of the West Fourth station a week later, and he was walking down, so we made eye contact but, like, there was no time to say ‘hi,’” she said.

Similarly, Global Public Health junior Anelis Hernandez has seen both John Legend and Phoebe Tonkin roaming around SoHo near NYU’s Broome Street Residence Hall. She saw Legend in Taasha’s Deli, which he frequents.

“When I realized it was him, I was like, ‘I just wanna see him’ because this was the first time I saw a celebrity,” Hernandez said. “I didn’t talk to him because I didn’t wanna bother him. They’re people too, so it must get annoying.”

That same year, she saw Phoebe Tonkin, who starred in an early 2000s TV-show, “H20: Just Add Water,” in passing on the way to the Broome shuttle stop.

“I did a really obnoxious double take but didn’t bother her on the off-chance that it wasn’t her,” she said. “But it was because it was the day she posted an Instagram photo in SoHo.”

Regardless of whether or not you decide to talk to a celebrity when you see one, it still makes for a great story and lets you flex on your friends. Another piece of advice: hang out at the NYU Broome shuttle stop.

A version of this article appears in the Monday, Feb. 10, 2020, print edition. Email Addison Aloian at [email protected]