Pick a celebrity you really hate. Think of the most awful famous-for-being-famous, always-in-TMZ piece of garbage you can, someone who would scare the cast of Keeping Up With the Kardashians. No matter whose name is in your mind, Gina Rodriguez probably has something to do with them.
The proprietor of GR Media has counted Michael Lohan (whose relationship with his daughter Lindsay has led to reality television stints and endorsement deals), Nadya “Octomom” Suleman (who gave birth to octuplets and has since made a porno and remained a topic in the gossip news for years) among her clients, along with Tan Mom, Tila Tequila, Farah “Backdoor Teen Mom” Abraham, Sydney Leathers—the list goes on and on. Gina’s job, basically, is to help people extend their 15 minutes of fame by any means necessary.
“I don’t call myself a publicist, but I end up doing their press for them, because it’s part of the whole thing of me marketing them and getting their name out there and making sure nobody forgets them,” she told me. “I’m trying to brand them, so I can get them other things like bookings, appearances, endorsements—whatever is good for them.”
Gina used to be on the other side of the business. After posing for Playboy in 1992, she starred on a couple Baywatch episodes and later married porn star Randy Spears, her third husband. When her acting career failed to grow, she went to beauty school and opened several day spas. The spas faced money problems, and as a solution, she began starring in porn films with her husband as “Demi Delia.” Eventually, this lived to a short-lived online reality show, Mommy XXX, on Crackle.com.
“I was actually performing for about a year and a half,” she said. “As soon as I was in porn, I was trying to get out of it.” On set, she told me, she became a mother figure to the younger porn stars. “I was trying to get those girls out all the time,” she said. In the struggle to help these girls escape porn, she saw an opportunity for a new business. In 2009, when she was in her late 30s and newly divorced, she quit porn to open up a management company that would help porn stars rebrand themselves as mainstream celebrities. Then, that November, Tiger Woods got caught cheating on his wife and everything changed.
“I would see the mistresses come out,” she said. “They’d do the interviews, and then you’d never hear from them. I thought, I’m surprised they can’t be marketed more.” She knew Joslyn James, a porn star who was one of Tiger’s mistresses, and flew her from Las Vegas to Los Angeles. Gina moved Joslyn into her home, took her to see Gloria Allred, and then reintroduced Joclyn to the press three months later. She was an overnight success. Tiger’s other girls began calling Gina, and within several months, she was managing 37 former mistresses.
She helped the girls secure a platform so they could host club events, sell products, and star in porn films. Because of her experience in the industry, Gina prefers her clients star in a single porn film from which they can receive royalties from over time. “I’m not trying to get them to be in the porn business,” she said. “If anything, I’d rather them not be in that business.”
Since then, reality stars and tabloid anti-heroes have flocked to Gina. Believe it or not, she’ll occasionally turn down clients. When Patricia “Tan Mom” Krentcil came to Gina in January 2013, Gina initially didn’t want to work with her. It had been over a year since Tan Mom had been arrested for allegedly placing her daughter in a tanning bed. “What do you do a year later?” Gina said. “I thought, Well, what if I can do a photo shoot with her? I set her up with a photo shoot [with TMZ]. She took off her top. She was doing exercises and headstands. I saw that and thought, Oh my God! She’s funny. Of course, the press ate it up.” Gina used the publicity from Tan Mom’s photoshoot to score Tan Mom a cameo in a gay porno and a campy song with Adam Barta (another GR Media client), which gay icon Michael Musto called “the all-time high/low watermark of kitsch culture.”
One of her most prominent clients is Michael Lohan, who she reached out to years ago when he was living in Long Island. “When I was in LA, I looked her up to meet her,” Michael told me. “We hit it off instantly.” Gina began securing Michael interviews and TV gigs, including his stint on Celebrity Rehab. If you see Michael on TMZ talking about Lindsay, chances are Gina organized the interview. In recent years, she has assisted Michael with his work as an interventionist at three rehab clinics in South Florida, where he lives with his fiance, Kate Major, a former reporter at Star Magazine.
According to Michael, Gina doesn’t take a standard 15 percent manager’s cut from payments he receives from work she gets for him. Her fees vary, Michael said: “Sometimes she doesn’t take the cut at all. She’s very fair about that. Sometimes I give her more than a cut.” Michael credits Gina’s business practices to the way she treats her clients as family. She speaks to Kate nearly every day and sends regularly gifts for Michael and Kate’s baby. “She’s more like family to me than anything else,” Michael said. “We don’t leave a conversation without saying, ‘I love you.’”
The family approach stems from GR Media’s structure—like a small-town mom-and-pop diner, Gina only employees her family. Her daughter, Brandi, works as her assistant and a make-up artist to the clients, while Brandi’s fiance, Colton, manages the clients with Gina. Besides outside contractors who help land the clients club hosting gigs, Gina’s only other employee is her son’s girlfriend. This holiday season, Gina’s mom, Joyce Ragone, will become a part of the family business, selling Italian-style cookies on QVC.
Occasionally, Gina steps away from her business relationships to help her clients deal with their own personal problems. At one point, she represented both Michael and Dina Lohan, which meant she was essentially a Lohan family mediator. “At the time, Dina needed money to keep the house,” Michael said. “I [agreed to negotiate] with people to give her money, so she could pay her house off. Ironically, she didn’t use any of the money for her house at all. [She used it for] her own personal expenses.”
When Tan Mom and Farrah needed drug treatment in June, she sent them to the Lukens Institute where Michael works. According to Radar Online, the treatment center kicked Farah out of the program early because she tried to take photos of Tan Mom in group therapy. Shortly afterward, Gina and Farrah split ways.
That might seem like a mere publicity stunt, but Gina has helped her other clients with drug and alcohol problems—which practically all of them seem to have. Last year, she encouraged Octomom to seek treatment at the Chapman House Drug Rehabilitation Center to deal with her Xanax addiction because she thought Nadya’s life was spiraling out of control. While Octomom dealt with her issues, Gina made sure a staff watched her children. “I had gotten her into rehab, moved her out to Palmdale, put a whole staff in place at her house to take care of her kids while she was in rehab,” Gina said. If she wanted to continue working with Gina, Octomom would have to stay clean. Octomom couldn’t keep her side of the bargain, so Gina terminated her as a client, choosing not to deal with her problems and give up the money GR Media could have made from further Octomom deals.
Although Gina acts as a mother to her clients, reality television producer Jason Fine says she’s one of the most professional women he’s ever met: “She’s up at 5 AM on the West Coast working till midnight. She’s got like three phones going at any given time, yet you never feel like she’s not paying attention when you’re with her and she’s working. She deals with people who she has to actually babysit, and even though she spends so much time babysitting some really outrageous characters, she’s way professional.”
This year, Jason and his production company, Spinboi Films, approached Gina about making a reality show, tentatively titled D-List Diva. Jason describes the show as “the behind-the-scenes of how Gina presses the snooze button on her clients’ 15 minutes of fame to extend it.”
Cable networks jumped at the chance to air a show about Gina. He said, “The cable stations were like, ‘We get one show with all these lunatics?’ It’s actually been the easiest project to pitch that I’ve ever been a part of.” It has sometimes taken Jason years to sell a show after he started developing it. Only six months after he began speaking to Gina, they inked a deal with major cable network to shoot a pilot.
He credits the success to Gina’s ingenuity. “Her work is amazing, because when you think about it she spends her average day trying to monetize Tan Mom—someone who by all accounts, we should have forgotten about two years ago, and yet here we are talking about her. You can’t forget about these people. We’d like to, but Gina makes sure we don’t.”
More about the wonderful world of Gina Rodriguez: