Lindsay Lohan is expected to be released from jail this weekend following her incarceration on July 20 for violating probation related to a 2007 drunk-driving charge. No one knows exactly when she'll exit the Lynwood, Calif., detention facility, but chances are some intrepid paparazzi will be there to capture the moment. TIME spoke with celebrity expert and image consultant Michael Sands about the choreography that goes into a celebrity's release from jail.
When you're working with a client who is about to be released from jail, do they ask you to coordinate their walk from the jail door to the car?
As an image consultant, I assess the situation beforehand. I would call the sheriff's department and ask what time the release will be. If a client prefers not to have media present, then we'll do it in the middle of the night, which I find is appropriate for an A-list client, because we don't want it to be a sideshow. The client's not a clown. He or she has paid their debt to society, and we want to make this a private matter. I would probably release a very brief statement. Usually, my basic briefing to a client is that you want to be under the radar. You want to move on with your life.
But even if you coordinate a night release, there will still be press present, right?
Yes. I will personally call up those paparazzi and news shows that I trust. I really believe in doing it with respect toward the client. To the press, I'll ask if they want to come over and handle it but will ask them to agree to the way I'm going to handle it. Maybe they can only ask one or two questions. This way, it's not a media blitz. I'm not there to control the media, but I want to make sure that the message gets out that my client has finished their debt.
On the other side, if a client wants to come out at 9 in the morning, then I'll call the media and ask them not to storm the client. They'll set up a microphone and we'll answer a few questions. That's the way to do it. Rushing through a crowd is so déclassé. And this way the media doesn't chase them. I always give the media the shot they need, or you risk being chased.
It was widely said that Paris Hilton had her release from jail coordinated, and that for Tiger Woods' first press conference after his cheating scandal, the hug with his mother was staged. Is that the norm for these situations?
Some of these people will do that, yes. It's really just a show. It's a photo op. They coordinate each step of the way. I think they do the client an injustice, but I understand how it works. There are those people who coordinate who is going to throw the clothes on her. They'll have them all picked out. They'll have her hair and makeup ready to go, because that's the shot they feel is most important. They think that is what is going to resurrect her, so they coordinate the moment. It's an orchestration. It's staged down to where the mother's going to stand. It's a joke. They make a mockery of being in [jail]. That's not my style, but they do it, yes.
It's a little hard to believe that this goes on.
People will pay $10,000 for 20 seconds of perfection. It's highway robbery.
Does anyone actually specialize in this?
No, not really. There's no specialist for the walk of shame. I prefer my clients to talk to the camera, to just be themselves. That's the real million-dollar shot. Turning it into a sideshow is making a joke of the legal system. Lindsay should be more concerned with getting her life in order. She should walk out of there at an odd hour and be done with it, really go out a pro. Show people she's going to turn it around. That's the honorable approach.
Does Lohan need an image consultant for her release?
No. She ought to come out the way she went in. She should talk to the camera. Don't have people chasing you. You need to stop and do the picture, because people can get hurt. You can get cut with a camera. I'm not into the walk of shame or the running, because it's a big adrenaline rush for the paparazzi.
There is a lot of speculation about what she should wear. Does that make a difference?
No, it really doesn't matter. There's nothing wrong with a fresh change of clothes. Of course she wants to look her best. I don't blame her. The place is dirty. I've been in there for clients. The doors are slamming 24 hours a day and the lights are on.
What should she wear?
I'd put her in a pair of jeans and sweater. I'm sure the clothes are already there. They'll be given to her in her cell, and she'll get ready there. They've already said she can't use the place as a dressing room. It's a correctional facility. They'd have a lawsuit on their hands that every inmate has the right to a stylist and a makeup artist.
When it comes right down to it, how do you choreograph a walk of shame?
It's hard to choreograph a walk. If she's not going to stop, you have a brisk walk, almost a run. It depends on what the sheriff has set up. They could keep media behind yellow tape or on the other side of the road. They don't even have to let her outside. They can bring a car around underground and let her out that way. We don't even know if there will be a walk. That's the real question, Is she going to walk? I don't think so. I think they're really going to tone this one down. This is not going to be Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie.