Winning 2 tickets to Grammys lifts local woman into music heaven
By Samantha Lyles
Darlington resident Wendy McKellar, 33, was scrolling through her Facebook feed one December day when she noticed a sweepstakes with an enticing grand prize: a trip for two to the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles.
“I thought, well I’m probably not going to win, but I’ll enter it anyway just to see what happens,” McKellar recalls. Wendy believed it was just a lark, because she’s a self-professed serial contest loser who enters contests all the time and never wins. “I might have won a dollar from a scratch-off lottery ticket, but that’s about all,” she says.
And so she filled out the entry form. Weeks passed, and she forgot all about the contest. Until she received a Facebook message Jan. 15 announcing that her sour contest luck had suddenly turned very sweet indeed.
“I was like, ‘No way! No way! There’s no way I won.’ But the man I spoke to said I had won two tickets to the Grammys,” Wendy says. “I really didn’t believe him because I never win anything!”
In addition to the awards show tickets, McKellar won air fare, two nights at swanky Hotel Indigo, a $300 expense card, tickets to the Grammys after party and Grammys museum. Once the initial shock wore off, Wendy walked into her teen son Shamar’s bedroom and told him the good news, that they would be present in person for the music industry’s biggest night of the year.
McKellar admits that she still worried that she was being pranked somehow. Days before their trip, she made a series of phone calls to confirm flight information and hotel reservations, just to be certain it wasn’t some sort of mistake. Once those suspicions were set aside, she still had one big hurdle to clear: a major fear of flying.
“My nerves were wrecked because we had never been on a plane before, ever,” Wendy says.
While Shamar kept his cool on the flights, his mom cried nervous tears all the way from Florence to Charlotte to Los Angeles. Wendy says she was fortunate that her seatmate was a veteran air traveler who managed to ease her fears and talk her through the scariest parts of the trip.
Once they landed, Wendy and Shamar were dazzled by the luxurious hotel, which they explored and photographed extensively for the folks back home in Darlington. They dressed and caught a cab to the Grammy pre-show, where they saw some of the disciplined preparation artists like Ariana Grande went through to make sure their airtime performances were flawless.
When the big show started, the big stars came out to play. McKellar says she remembers laughing as Cardi B (apparently displeased that her seats were too far from the cameras) upgraded herself by plopping down on the laps of Lizzo and then Ariana Grande. Wendy says her personal favorites from the live acts were Usher’s tribute to Prince (which included some slick dance moves during “When Doves Cry” and “Kiss”) and Lil Nas X performing “Old Town Road” with Billy Ray Cyrus.
Although not as exciting as screaming out Billy Ray’s name in a fit of starstruck love, Wendy says she was highly impressed by the efficiency of the production crew and support teams as they speedily shifted sets and equipment and lighting to accommodate each new performer.
“It was amazing to be able to see how they put the sets together during the commercials. … It was really awesome to see how they put all of that together so quickly,” Wendy says.
Once the final award was given out and the final goodbyes were spoken, Wendy and Shamar spent some time at the after party and decided to walk back to their hotel. The trip took them through the Staples Center plaza, which was packed with people mourning the shocking death of L.A. Lakers legend Kobe Bryant. There were observations during the Grammys, but McKellar said that inside the venue, there was a sense that the show must go on.
“It was sad. Everybody was trying to deal with their feelings about it, but at the same time they knew they had to go on with the show. … It was really heartbreaking,” she recalls. “Outside, we tried to talk to a few people about it, but everybody was just crying. They were in shock.”
Exhausted from an emotional whirlwind day and night, the McKellars crashed at their hotel and prepared to return to Darlington the next day. That lingering exhaustion had the positive effect of calming Wendy’s nerves, so the flight home was much less traumatic. After considering the trip as a whole – the joys of seeing beloved artists performing live, the sadness of sharing a community’s grief, and the wearying ordeal of travel – Wendy says it was truly wonderful.
So wonderful, in fact, that she’s considering ways to extend her lucky streak … perhaps by entering more contests.
“I would really love to win a trip to the Oscars,” she says, laughing.