I Got Paid To Kiss A Stranger In Times Square — Because NYE Is A Lie

Photo: Christopher Gregory/Getty Images.
As Times Square confetti fluttered across my face and the sound of Frank Sinatra's “New York, New York” blared in my ears, I screamed along for the final "Five! Four! Three! Two…One!"

That was my cue. I smiled, closed my eyes, and leaned in to kiss…a total stranger.

Okay, technically he wasn’t a total stranger. We’d actually met three hours prior when we rehearsed how our kiss would go down in slow, excruciating detail. It had to be long and romantic with absolutely no tongue —children are watching! — and in a spot so the ball drop was directly above our heads. We looked at each other, shrugged, and just went for it.
“Good, good… But can you try again, this time with a bit more feeling?” the cameraman shouted at us, as we broke out laughing and leaned in for a second time. “Good! Do exactly that — and nothing else — when we go live,” he urged.

That’s right, kids. Those dramatic midnight kisses you love to watch every year on TV? They're just as staged as Lady Gaga’s performances and Ryan Seacrest’s jokes. This is show business, after all, and in show business everything is perfect and...maybe not entirely real.

The fact of the matter is, the thousands of people who show up to Times Square and stand on their feet for 12 hours in the freezing cold, rain, and snow — with little access to food, booze, or bathrooms — are not exactly the people you want fronting your international broadcast. They’re tired, red-faced, frizzy, irritable…and, maybe worst of all, unpredictable. Add on all the paperwork, and it’s probably easier to just hire some extras.

That’s where I came in. As a “New Year’s Eve Reveller,” my airtime was planned before I even hit 42nd street. I showed up camera-ready, signed a bunch of release forms, and hung out in a green room with snacks and hot chocolate before it was time to go live. They ushered me out to dance along to the performers' songs, then back to the warm room to take off my stilettos. I’d run out to stand behind the hosts while they helped a couple propose (thankfully, not fake), and then back inside to inhale a few slices of pizza. And, of course, at the end of the night I’d deliver “The Kiss.” All in all, I spent about 30 minutes total in the street, but everyone watching at home would have thought it was hours.
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We didn’t once stop to think about the fact that we’d be announcing our new, completely staged relationship status to the entire world.

There were about 12 of us in the group and, to be fair, several of them were actual couples. (They still had to rehearse, though — regardless of how long they’d been together.) But I, being a 22-year-old living in New York City and giving zero fucks, signed up solo with my best friend. We showed up, got matched with the other two single guys in the group, and didn’t once stop to think about the fact that we’d be announcing our new, completely staged relationship status to the entire world.
My kiss was broadcast first — immediately after the countdown — and went out to more networks, states, and countries than I can count. My phone was blowing up, mostly texts and Facebook posts from friends who were just excited to see me on TV. The rest of the messages were from relatives curious as to who my new boyfriend was, and why I hadn’t mentioned him once during Christmas dinner just six days before.

My best friend’s kiss went second — and, boy, did it go long. The camera panned on her for a good 15 seconds, catching every intimate detail of the kiss she was sharing with a guy whose last name she didn’t even know. If you’ve ever drunkenly made out with someone at a bar, imagine that, and add someone filming it and sending it to every single person you’ve ever met — from your middle school geometry teacher to your ex-boyfriend. But we didn’t care. We were having the time of our lives

So, did we end up marrying these guys and living happily ever after? No, of course not. But we did end up making out with them for a couple more hours (did I mention we were 22?), and laughing until we cried watching the YouTube videos of our segment. In the end, we walked away with $100, a free hat, and one of our favourite memories in 10 years of friendship.

If you’ve ever drunkenly made out with someone in a bar, imagine that. Now imagine someone filming it and sending it to every single person you’ve ever met.

The fact is, as much as we try to get excited about NYE, it’s always a bit of a letdown. The parties are hard to get into, the booze is overpriced, and there isn't a pair of heels on the planet that feels comfortable until 12 a.m.

And you don’t need me to tell you that Times Square is the fucking worst of it all.

So, if you see someone on TV this year having an amazing time and looking perfect doing it? Chances are, they’re getting paid. But, let me tell you, they’re probably loving every minute of it.


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