To get a measure of PR maven Gina Rodriguez’s celebrity clients—controversial, D-list, catnip for the tabloids—observe her latest signing. Not for Rodriguez the decorous, red-carpet likes of Gwynnie, Sandra Bullock, or Tom Cruise, but “hot criminal” Jeremy Meeks. Meeks’ mug shot went viral mid-June when he was arrested for numerous state charges. On July 8, it was announced that Meeks would also be facing a federal gun charge. Yet, despite his criminal record, countless women fawned over the seemingly sexy felon. And that adoration was enough to earn him a spot on Rodriguez’s wide-ranging client roster.
She only likes signing controversial clients, and relishes being able to capitalize on a scandal. She’s also the reason that most ‘celebrities’ we love to hate (Michael and Dina Lohan, countless “Real Housewives,” for example) never seem to leave the public eye, as much as we would like them to. The saying that all publicity is good publicity? It’s practically Rodriguez’s motto.
“I ended up signing Jeremy because one of my friends, who works at a media outlet, contacted me and told me that they were looking for someone to represent him and to help with the media [coverage] because everyone had been contacting them,” Rodriguez tells The Daily Beast.
“Currently, I’m handling things for him as far as trying to get him a reality show—we’ve had quite a few people call wanting to cover his foray into the entertainment industry. He just recently signed with Jim Jordan of White Cross, who will be handling his modeling career and doing his bookings... [But] we really can’t start anything until we get him out [of jail]. Everything’s kind of on hold until we know what his situation will be.”
It may seem like a dangerous career move, taking on, and attempting to build a career, out of someone famous merely from a readily shared photo on the Internet, but for Rodriguez that’s the norm.
At 22, she began her career in the adult industry, posing for Playboy and starring in over 140 adult films. After starring in her own short-lived reality show, Mommy XXX, created by Sony, she left her porn star years—which happened to coincide with Tiger Woods’ cheating extravaganza.
“I knew one of the girls [from the Tiger Woods scandal]—Joslyn James. I saw her face on TV and so I reached out to her and that’s when I figured out that, ‘Wow, this person hasn’t even talked to the press, even though it looks like she has,’ just from watching television. She was hiding out in the house and she literally had no money—she was cleaning this woman’s house for a bedroom to live in. I flew her to California and… waited about three months until we brought her to the press.”
Rodriguez then did what she is now best recognized for—turning people’s 15 minutes to fame into a half-hour or more.
“What I did with Joslyn was not just handle her media onslaught, but get her some endorsements afterwards—she was the face of some cheating websites, she started her own make-up line called ‘Shameless,’ and we were getting her bookings at different Adult conventions. And then she did a sex tape of a remake of all the text messages she had gotten from [Woods]. We just went with it from there and more girls started coming to me from the Tiger Woods scandal. And then Jesse James cheated, then Charlie Sheen, then Mel Gibson, it was just one right after the other and the girls were just coming to me.”
Mistresses became somewhat of Rodriguez’s calling; damage control became her specialty, and she somehow mastered the ability of transforming a difficult or tawdry situation into a form of monetization. Rodriguez recognized that with notoriety came publicity, and with publicity could come a significant amount of income, even if it was for a limited amount of time. After 13 mistresses sought Rodriguez’s assistance, her management company was born.
“It wasn’t that I intended to have this mistress agency, but in the beginning, that’s how it began,” she’s not afraid to admit. “Then I started getting quite a bit of tabloid personalities: Michael and Dina Lohan, Octomom, the White House party crashers [Michaele and Tareq Salahi]—I was with them all the way through their divorce when she left with [rock guitarist] Neal Schon. Originally the intention was to start a PR business, but it quickly turned into PR and management because I was taking control of these people’s entire entertainment career and trying to build them one so that they could earn.”
Her clients, however famous—or infamous—they may be, have certainly made a steady living under Rodriguez’s guidance. Octomom Nadya Suleman (a former client of hers), for example, raked in over $200,000 in 2012. But the path for Octomom’s career wasn’t as smooth as some of Rodriguez’s clients like Lohan or Anthony Weiner’s former sexting “friend,” Sydney Leathers.
“When I started working with [Suleman], I thought, ‘Wow, this is great,’” Rodriguez explains. “She came to me, and I wasn’t too familiar with her story, but I thought there would be great endorsements for her with all the babies. And then we found out it was not that way at all.
“Everyone was like, ‘Stay away from us, we don’t want anything to do with her.’ So we had to take a whole different road with her. And the press, no matter what she did, they were never rooting for her. As much as we would try and try to get them into the family’s life—all these types of people—they have so much baggage that they come with, [the press] is watching their lives with a microscope, so anything they do, the press can turn, you know, horrible in the media.”
The fascinating thing about Rodriguez is that she’s not embarrassed of the clients she represents. They’re not A-list celebrities, and they never will be—and that’s fine. But as long as she can keep their fame lasting for that extra 15 minutes after the first 15 minutes, her job is more than done. Jeremy Meeks should prepare to get ready for a few more close-ups.