Limousine Confessions: Inside the Car with a Celebrity Chauffeur
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
Because sometimes it’s OK to talk to strangers.
By Leslie Nguyen-Okwu
In this occasional series, OZY takes to streets and neighborhoods across the globe to ask a simple question: “How was your day?”
It’s a normal day for me so far. I’m just waiting for the royal family from the United Arab Emirates to arrive and for their security detail to come in. My regular shift is 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., but I’m always on call if a client comes into town. I’m like a fireman — once the phone rings, I get suited and booted, and I’m ready to go. Ready to rock and roll.
I wear a black three-piece suit with a tie and leather shoes. I make sure that my clothes are dry-cleaned and that everything’s spotless. You got to look like a chauffeur and you got to act like one, because you’re professional. I mean, I could be driving a royal family here in Vegas. Or I could be at the Super Bowl. Or I could be at the Sundance Film Festival, in Utah. I’ve driven Warren Buffett, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Andrea Bocelli, Christina Aguilera, Brad Pitt, Ryan Seacrest. The list goes on.
I’ve had to escort children of famous people — I would take a bullet for one of those kids.
There’s a lot to it — it’s not just looking nice. Sometimes we’ll get what I call a “sensitive” client, one that is very picky or has coordinators that are anal. One is coming up real soon, I’ve been warned already that she’s a quote-unquote B-word. My specialty. After I deal with her, she’ll be like melted butter. You just got to know how to read people.
We’re not allowed to take pictures. I don’t want the client to jump in the vehicle and then feel like they got the paparazzi for a chauffeur. Their life might be hectic, but when they’re with me, it’s normal. They don’t have to worry. There are a lot of fringe benefits that we get with this type of work. I’ve had clients invite me to dinner, autograph certain things for me without my asking. It’s always nice when clients show you love.
I drive every vehicle in the fleet — the Rolls-Royce Ghost, the Mercedes S550, the Cadillac Escalade, the Mercedes Sprinter, the six-passenger limo, all the way up to the 24-passenger bus. I carry backup iPhone chargers, Kleenex, gum, aspirin, mints, hand sanitizers, cigarette lighters, bottle openers, Fiji water. We’re not allowed to carry firearms, but we do have security teams that are armed. I get my clients to the safest, most discreet drop-off location. You got to know defensive driving also. You got to always have an escape route. I’ve had to escort children of famous people — I would take a bullet for one of those kids.
It was a like a war zone, where I grew up in Los Angeles. I was a high school dropout. The role models out there were gangbangers and drug dealers. I got involved in criminal activity. I was incarcerated, received a sentence of 235 months. I had to re-evaluate my whole life. That was the turning point in my life. I started going to college. When I was incarcerated, I thought it was the end of the road as far as pursuing my career in the movie industry. I’ve always wanted to act. You know, I’ve got my Screen Actors Guild card. Once I was released, in April 2011, one of my friends in Vegas offered me a position at a luxury transportation company and I took it.
If somebody were to say, “Wait a minute, this guy’s an ex-felon and we’re putting him around high-profile people?” I’d say that I have certain skills: how to read body language, how to know what to look for, what to avoid. When you have different cellmates, you got to learn to adapt to each personality, each character. As a chauffeur, it gives me the upper hand.