10 Lessons #Celebrity #Paparazzi Rick Mendoza Taught Me


by Mella Noir

Have you ever met a man who is always on the cusp of fame?  Seriously.  Next to it nonstop.  So much so that it becomes contagious and the fame seeker becomes famous?

I have, and his name is Rick Mendoza.  



We met because I was working with a client who decided he wanted to hire a paparazzi and sent me on a mission to find one.  I placed an ad, set up several appointments, and headed to the Starbucks in Beverly Hills – the top spot for a mix of both wanna-be’s and mover n’ shaker meetups.  I chatted with each applicant, the next worst than the last…no equipment, no spots they’d stake out, no idea where celebrities would be, nada.  My heart sank as none were experienced in what we needed.  I had failed my task. 

Next thing I know, a man leans into my left side and gently says, “Excuse me, but I couldn’t help but overhear what you need and I am exactly who you’re looking for…”  I glanced and beheld a cool-lookin’ cat with a pork pie hat, horned-rimmed spectacles, a bright bandana, vintage T, and a massive black and white striped Beetlejuice camera.  He explained his status and gave a brief description of his history, including that he was one of the O.G.’s of TMZ.  Yep, that’s right – he helped create it way back when it was a fledging blog…and then became a storyline himself here and here.  The guy who got his foot ran over by Britney Spears?  And spent days following her around?  Yup, that’s him…



For the last 20+ years, every celebrity image you’ve seen has most likely been shot by his telephoto lens. He’s been featured in The New York Times, Los Angeles Magazine (more than once), Rolling Stone, Radar Online, (more than once), Entertainment Weekly, a cool YouTube video generating 1.7 million views, all the way to South China newspapers and Jerusalem Post.  

A common question used to be asked: Stalkers or Photojournalists?  You see, somewhere along the way, “paparazzi” stopped being a dirty word representing some strange, scary, stalkerish person peering in your windows  – and instead became the hype machine that could share your image to the masses.  Nowadays, they could and can make you famous.  Crazy, right?  Mendoza, A.K.A. “Sellebrity Rick” is now on speed dial for A-D listers.  He is the “go-to” guy when you want to show yourself to the world, which increasingly everyone does, therefore it becomes harder to stand out among a sea of Look At Me…

But beware – gone are the days when he would show up for an enticing A-lister at a moment’s notice…nowadays, Rick himself has become the one to watch.  He’s been featured in many magazine articles, radio shows, reality shows, and even a movie or two, and finds interest generated at him from all angles.  The fame chaser is now the following one.  Everyone wants to know the secret to instant fame and he carries the key.  How is that for irony?

I asked him, who I fondly refer to against his wishes as “PapRick”, what are his top 10 pieces of advice – whether it be in love, life, and business…what has he learned in his incredible life journey? 

Here is what he shared:

  1. Do Not Let Anything Stop You – When I had a photo to chase, my mission was to get that picture and I would not let anything get in my way…that’s how I got my foot run over by Britney! Seriously though, be it what I do or what you do, don’t make excuses to be second best. Go after it and dominate. Excuses are not an option.
  2. Set A Daily Accomplishment and Make It Happen – Set a goal that’s achievable on a daily basis and complete it. Whether it is work or play, do what you say you will.  Follow through is so critical, especially in a work of shifting priorities and easy excuses like “I’m so busy.” We all are…make time to complete your objective that day.
  3. Be True to Your Feelings and Express Them – Any feeling you feel, welcome it with open arms for it is a sign of care for yourself – from happiness to sorrow. Express yourself honestly to allow the energy back to the universe. Sounds Rumi, but it’s truth.
  4. Capture Moments of Your Day and Be IN That Moment – If you are always thinking about the past or future, you aren’t in THE NOW. Enjoy the present moment, be it work, play or relaxation. It’s all happening only now, the rest is your imagination or memory. Imagine life is a constant recess and you’re always in the midst of it!
  5. Love Others and Yourself – Do unto others with love in your heart, but make sure you love yourself first and foremost.  Yes, we all wish we could improve certain aspects of ourselves, so then do what is necessary to make yourself better and realize that you are work in progress. Be kind as beiing self-critical makes it easy to be unhappy and that will translate, impacting your relationships. We all aren’t all perfectly made-up celebrities, and the image they present isn’t real most of the time anyway…we just don’t see the ugliness behind the scenes. I have. Believe me, it’s all an illusion presented to make you buy into the mass hype that we create.
  6. Converse With People – Speak to people for one might need human connection more than we know. It’s so easy to live inside our heads and be in a rush all the time, but there is nothing more beautiful than the human connection. I saw it so many times, whether it was a celebrity or a homeless person on the street – make time to exchange words or even a smile if you can. I firmly believe that this is what we are all here for – to participate in this game called life. You can and will change a life or a mind without even knowing that you have.
  7. Thank the Maker for Life – Whatever you feel is in control of universal existence, give thanks for life of all. It is a marvel of wonder and enchantment, truly it is. Reflect and be appreciative for the being that you are. 
  8. Self Worth – Knowing the value of your worth is everything you do that you bring to the table of life. Your experiences, skills, and relationships are critical, and mostly as I see it, we don’t pay enough attention to what we offer to others which makes us better friends, family, lovers, workmates, etc.  Know your worth and always keep striving to be better than you were yesterday.  Each moment is a chance to shine! You never know when someone like me is around the corner waiting to take your photo…
  9. Consume Less – It’s easy to always want the latest image, craze or object, but I can’t stress enough that it’s not what you’ll feel good about later, you’ll always need to fill that void.  Giving to others and being there when needed truly has a value that you’ll never be able to buy. It’s really the simple things that bring joy. Get out into nature and you’ll know what I mean.
  10. Pretend A Camera is Always on You and You Are Front Page News – We tend to think that we have secrets and various selves that we reveal in public and in private. The truth is that eventually it will all be transparent. Everything you’ve ever done, emailed, texted, taken a photo of or said will be out in the open. Always say what you mean as one day you never know when everyone will read your words or see your image. Viral is just that – it knows no expectations or planning…so make sure if you were ever to “be exposed” your social media and words are ready for the masses to view, review and judge. 



Pretty profound thoughts from a paparazzi, eh?  

Nowadays, with the world spinning in a different axis through quarantines, isolation, and shutdowns – Hollywood isn’t what it was, and chasing celebrities doesn’t exist as they are indoors with the rest of us.  So, Rick, ever the trendsetter has now veered into selling vintage concert t-shirts and accessories as well as adding a casting agent to his resume.  Since he meets folks daily and can recognize that “it factor”, he’s able to send photos and info to many directors and producers…if you see him on the street, say “Hey Sellebrity Rick!” as it probably is your lucky day if you desire fame in your future…

He also has stepped into the PR world to help brands become “influencers”, that ubiquitous word that means what you share as popular becomes the next trend.  Together, he and his team of social media experts, makeover professionals, photographers, and videographers can shape-shift your tepid online presence into a juggernaut and help you navigate the attention that comes with it.  He’s certainly a powerhouse for a guy who picked up a camera decades ago because he wanted to keep being part of the rock n’ roll scene he loved so much.  And look at him now, a star maker. 

What I learned from Rick is that life is precious and although society is always chasing fame, in his view it’s all about love for others and yourself…life is something to enjoy and cherish.  The little things like being in the moment, having conversations with strangers, and setting daily goals are all things we seem to overlook.  We are always “reaching for the stars” and perhaps wishing we were somewhere else or could be like someone else…according to him, it’s about being happy being YOU.  Do what you can do to be true to yourself and set goals that you can finish daily.  For a paparazzi, he sure is deep.  Perhaps that’s what happens when you spend 20 years chasing what everyone else is hungry for…you realize that it really is about what is inside you that brings happiness and ultimate satisfaction.  Profound. 




Thanks for the lessons, “PapRick!”

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