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'Team Oscar' Winners Speak About Their Life-Changing Oscars Experience

  • By Oscar Insider
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Lounging poolside at the swanky Loews hotel Monday where they have been staying during their week in Hollywood as members of Team Oscar, Mackenna Millet and Nathan Flanagan-Frankl might be fuzzy about some of the details of their whirlwind experience but they're clear about one thing: they don't want it to end.

"I'm just trying to keep soaking it in," Flanagan-Frankl said staring past the pool and toward the iconic Hollywood sign in plain view in the distance.

Millet, who attends Pepperdine University about 30 miles away said that despite living so close to where the Oscars were held, it may have been a world away.

"In Malibu we see famous people once in a while when we're out at Starbucks or somewhere. But I feel like I've only seen reality-TV stars out there," she joked. "But at the Oscars, they were like big, respectable, talented stars. So I was starstruck, but I was happy that I remained professional."

How did she keep it together? "After I saw the first few rehearsals I realized they were just people. Super talented people, but people," Millet explained.

The college senior was given a pop quiz in being cool, however, not long after the Oscar presentation while heading to the official afterparty.

"When I was going up the escalators to the Governors Ball, Jennifer Lawrence noticed me and [fellow Team Oscar member] Zaineb [Abdul-Nabi] and said, 'Good job, you guys!'" Millet recalled. "And she was waving at us and we looked up and it's Jennifer Lawrence! She was acting like she was one of our old friends or something. It was so weird. So casual and so nice."
 
 
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Flanagan-Frankl had a similar reaction when the group met this year's Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award recipient, Angelina Jolie - not once, but twice.

"We all got to meet her during the rehearsals and then Sunday we saw her right after the Oscars because Brad [Pitt] won," Flanagan-Frankl said. "Brad had gone on his way towards the press room to take photos and do interviews, but she was still behind the stage with us and she offered to take a picture with us. She offered -- and that was amazing. She asked for all of our names again. I didn't expect her to be mean, but I didn't expect her, or anyone, to be so open and welcoming to what we were doing. They gave us more than the time of day."

Many people meet celebrities, but the pinnacle of the Team Oscar experience is an extremely rare opportunity: to be on the Oscar stage during Hollywood's biggest night.

"When I was chosen as one of the winners I had no idea what we were going to do," the piano-playing Bryson Kemp said while on a layover in San Diego. He was making his way home to Maryland. "Standing on the stage and looking out at all of those people who I have looked up to, it gave me shivers."

Millet agreed. "Being on stage for the final Oscar presentation was big because it was the award where five statuettes were to be handed out. So me and [fellow Team Oscar member] Jeanpaul [Isaacs] got to go out on stage with Nathan and it was cool because it was for 12 YEARS A SLAVE and they were so excited," she said. "And I looked up at the audience and saw all these people. And I took a moment to soak it all in and see all these people like Leo DiCaprio and - everyone I could imagine - and that was probably my big Oscar moment because it all hit me right then."

Stanford student Tayo Amos was another one who you'd think would have had seen it all living and studying in Silicon Valley, but the week was hugely memorable for her as well, she said.

"When I arrived at LAX just a mere week ago, I could never have anticipated the amazing experience that was headed my way," Amos said. "This trip exceeded my expectations and was seriously the best week of my life. It validated my dream and passion to be a film director one day and concretize my dreams into a tangible reality."

Amos admitted that she was nearly brought to tears a few times during the week.

"When I first entered the Dolby Theatre for rehearsals... that almost drew tears to my eyes. This theatre represents the most inspiring talent and role-models for me in the industry. All of the greats have once graced that stage and I was going to be part of it."
 
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But then tears actually happened on Oscar Sunday. "When they announced Lupita [Nyong'o] received the Best Supporting Actress award, I actually cried tears of joy because her victory shows the world that not only stories and performances of the African-American experience are important, but that with hard work and talent, you can make your dreams happen."

Kemp, like many of the winners at the Oscars, had some thanks of his own to dole out.

"From the minute I set foot in LA, I was surrounded by people who were kind, genuine, and really passionate about what they do," he said. "All of the press guides were very accommodating and made this experience much more memorable. Emily Benedict was my rock, Ben and Kyla were really nice and helpful, and Jessica and Lauren made the Team Oscar experience run like clockwork, and Bruce Pask our costume designer made everything less nerve wracking. Also, the stage manager John Esposito was sooo helpful and made our jobs easier and a lot of fun."
 
Amos was also very grateful, especially towards Channing Tatum, the face of Team Oscar, for an unusual bit of motivation when he stumbled while trying to pronounce her name to the 43 million television viewers.

"Again, many thanks to the Academy for providing me this amazing, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," she said. "Even though Channing Tatum messed up my name in front of millions of people, it has given me the motivation to be at a level in my career where no one would ever mess up my name again."
 
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