After a final rally our last night in Berlin, in which most of us stayed out nearly until it was time to cab it to the airport, we were all lagging. To put it mildly. Out of the group of seven, only three of us continued on from Berlin to Dusseldorf to NYC. While making my way to the JFK-bound flight in a severely caffeine-deprived haze, I was distracted by the squawking from a nearby passenger.
“She’s a diva! A f****n’ diva, yo!”
I turned around to see an American guy, no taller than I, clad in a diamond-encrusted hoodie, sagging pants, a backwards cap and—get this—toting a full set of Louis Vuitton luggage, accompanied by four or five of some of the biggest guys I’ve ever seen, easily double his height.
I couldn’t decide if they were famous or just obnoxious and ignorant. At that point, my friend Renee rejoined me, and I pointed out the scene. Shorty (or rather, Shawty, I suppose) was pushing his way to the front of the line at our very gate. He humored bystanders by stopping to sign autographs before passing them all to board.
“I think that’s Ja Rule!” Renee said (only perhaps minus the exclamation point as she possesses a much calmer demeanor than I do). There’s a reason Renee works as a fashion editor and I don’t. For example, music is not my forte. I mean, I wouldn’t know Chris Brown from Akon. The music or the artists. So Ja Rule didn’t mean anything to me. Sure I’d heard his name before—I’m not that dense—but I racked my brain for some song he had sung and came up empty.
Nevertheless, I did what any tech-toting Millennial would do: pulled out my phone and quickly Google image searched “Ja Rule.” Sure enough, my friend and Ja were one and the same. I then looked up his Twitter account (@ruleyork) and Tweeted: “Ja Rule (@ruleyork) is on my flight. Think I should approach him and say, ‘are you Kanye West? I just LOVE your music!'”
After a pretty rough flight over, in which a thousand and one things went wrong, airBerlin was kind enough to upgrade me to a luxe business class seat (complete with some of the best airline food I’ve had ever). I boarded to find a near-empty cabin with my only neighbor as—you guessed it—Ja Rule. His posse of 300-pounders—if anyone needed more legroom, it was them—was stuck back in coach. So were my two friends, but that didn’t stop Farlito from e-mailing me constant updates from his Blackberry.
Such as: “The big one just said he wants to clear everyone out of this section. Then the swine flu mask woman walked by and the posse erupted in laughter, one guy screamed, ‘it looks like she has a f****n’ beak, yo!'”
Strangely, Ja was silent the entire seven-hour flight. Not a peep. No more pretentiousness. He just did his thang, slept and listened to tunes. With about two hours remaining, his manager, Fredrich, came sauntering into biz and took the seat across the aisle from me (two-thirds were unoccupied). I got up to use the lavatory and heard a whisper. I turned to him and said, “HUH?” and he asked me again, meekly, “what’s your name?”
I never expected such a big dude to have such a gentle bedside manner.
Well, I responded, as I’m no rude traveler, and then he began reeling off the questions. He asked for my business card—is that what the rappers are doing these days? asking their managers to collect unassuming young women’s cards?!—and continued to chat me up for the remainder of the flight. (Don’t worry, I hinted often that I have a FIANCE.)
Still, he invited me to party with them on their upcoming stop in San Francisco. We swapped travel stories, as these guys have been all over the world—“did you know Georgia is a country, not just a state?” Freddie asked me; why yes, yes I did—and he told me all about their recent trip around Africa. I have to say, you think I have the life? These guys are getting put up in penthouses in Abu Dhabi, while I’m still CouchSurfing in Reykjavik to get by. I’d be happy to swap. Or join Ja’s groupies. Either way.
As we were deboarding, Freddie grabbed Ja and said there was someone he wanted him to meet. Now, I had been traveling for 15 hours or so at this point, following an all-night bender, and was in no state to meet “celebrities.” Still, Ja was so polite, I almost couldn’t believe it after his little outburst in the Dusseldorf airport. We walked the length of JFK, passed through customs and went to retrieve our bags together, all the while him regaling me with tales over his legal dispute for his Twitter name (someone else took “Ja Rule” and he’s currently fighting it in court; oh what ails the rich and famous) and living in Jersey.
I suddenly felt bad for sending him a snarky Tweet and tried to retract it, but apparently you can do no such thing on Twitterberry. So I told him what I had done, to soften the blow (as if he cared what some nobody from San Francisco had to say about him on a social networking site anyway!), and that I was totally just joking (erm). He laughed, logged onto Twitter on his iPhone and started following me back. He was so kind and easy to talk to, I almost forgot this was a millionaire recording artist I was hanging with. It’s probably a good thing I didn’t really know who he was before the fact; if it were, say, Taylor Kitsch or Ryan Reynolds, I don’t think I could have remained so calm and collected.
I sauntered up to the baggage claim, Freddie on one side, Ja on the other, as Farlito and Renee emerged, their eyes about popping out of their heads at the new friends I had made. I introduced everyone, snapped a quick picture with my new friends, got kisses (on the CHEEK, people!) from Freddie and Ja, and ran to catch the AirTrain to the terminal of my connecting flight. But not before stopping to call my sister, rap and R&B queen herself, possibly the only person I know who would even find this whole anecdote the slightest bit impressive.