Photographs by ChiChi Ubiña
LOOK sat down with renowned event planner Brett Galley, the owner of Hollywood Pop Gallery, to talk about how she got involved with her family business. She is a creative visionary in the field of events. She chats with us about what is happening with parties these days and her work-life balance raising her teenage daughter and throwing parties all over the world. Brett has a wonderful sense of humor and her quotes from famous characters are inspirational.
Tell us about yourself.
My story started in New York City and includes the Middle East, Europe, Los Angeles, Florida, the Midwest, and other assorted states and countries. My mother was a Renaissance woman filled to the brim with creativity and a tremendous joie de vivre! She is a modern version of Auntie Mame. My father was an explorer. Yes, EXPLORER. Whenever I tell people what he did for a living I hear “Explorer? How interesting! What exactly is that?” He began as a veterinarian, went on to become a professor of marine biology, and eventually started a program with the New York Zoo as a labor of love to save rare whales in various parts of the globe. Hawaii to Alaska – he too was a lover of travel. My parents divorced when I was quite young and that is when my real journey began.
Initially, my mother was a successful fashion designer, then a portrait artist (with some of her commissioned portraits of world leaders hanging in museums). Through our time in the Middle East, she began a working relationship with an independent producer at CBS. She had her own radio show interviewing various world leaders from Idi Amin to Muammar Gaddafi. I was too young to appreciate her vision and expertise, but it certainly made an impact years later as I grew into a businesswoman of my own.
After high school, I went to art school. Growing up around all the uber creatives and powerful forces that my mother surrounded herself with inspired me to continue the tradition of working within some aspect of the artistic community. Once she decided to open Hollywood Pop Gallery on a fluke, no less, my newfound creative direction began.
Tell us about your family.
I’m blessed with an eclectic, creative, passionate and eccentric family. My teenage daughter is quite a fashionista. She loves travel, cheerleading and she has started an organization called “Letters with Love,” which encourages people to send words of support and appreciation to healthcare workers and cancer patients.
As Hollywood Pop Gallery is a family-run company, I hope that she’ll follow in our footsteps and one day join us at Team POP, but of course, it’s her choice. We’ll see if the creative calling points her in the direction of planning, design and entertainment bookings.
Tell us about how you got going with Hollywood Pop and how it has grown and changed over the years.
My mother, the acclaimed artist Joyce Galley, opened her first art gallery in Greenwich, CT over 20 years ago, renting it out for parties in between art openings. My grandfather had been a movie producer and owned theaters, therefore Joyce thought the word “Hollywood” should be in the name. Specializing in Pop Art at the time, Hollywood POP Gallery was born. Following my time at art school, and after a stint as Entertainment Director at Tavern on the Green, I decided to join the family business full time and see how I could enhance our HPG clientele’s experience. Early on, we booked mainly kids celebrations and entertainment for adult milestone parties. Over the years, we expanded to full party planning and design services, as well as destination events, weddings, mitzvahs. We hire name talent and produce large scale corporate events, which takes HPG to the next level.
In hindsight, the events we have designed over the years have been a direct reflection of the times we have all lived through. They span from current trends to worldwide events, from the Big 90s to 9/11 to the 2008 crash. Now Covid, and getting back to social connections and all the living, loving and laughing life has to offer. For an abbreviated history of Hollywood POP’s journey that seems to coincide with each global era, please click on the HISTORY tab at mwww.hollywoodpop.com.
Describe one of your all-time favorite or most memorable events.
There are so many epic events and experiences we have been privileged to design and produce that it’s difficult to choose just one! Again, I will refer to HPG’s HISTORY page on our website, www.hollywoodpop.com. From a whimsical “Over the POP” surprise Sweet 16 with a grand performance from Katy Perry to a milestone celebration with Tony Bennett, to a Mitzvah celebration at Cipriani featuring an intimate concert by Bon Jovi. Rockin’ out with Smashmouth, A Destination Celebration in St Barths to a private concert with Seal for 20 guests in Mexico.
An absolute stand-out POP event was a wedding anniversary at an exclusive castle in Ireland. The celebration was fit for a king and queen. The weekend was packed with activities including a private dining experience with guests costumed in Downton Abbey attire, classic horse and carriage rides, a falcon and bird demonstration, archery, clay shooting, golf on a stunning award-winning course, spa services, whisky tasting, and an Irish dance performance. The weekend was rounded off with a horse and hound send-off! Words cannot fully describe this magical experience!
One of the most momentous and inspiring productions we designed was last year’s 100th Global Anniversary celebration of Save the Children featuring a British motif as that is where Save the Children was originally launched. In commemoration of the 100th anniversary, STC announced the launch of the Promise of Childhood Centennial Campaign to secure 100 million dollars. Quite a worthy accomplishment!
Almost every interesting event we work on becomes “my favorite.”
What do you love about having your own business?
Being able to chart my own course! I love the creativity and flexibility and most of all, I love mentoring. The evolution of my life is parallel to my business – the opportunities, working with people, helping people, and finding business solutions. Creating jobs for uber creatives is wonderful. The opportunity to constantly improve and of course, having my own business allows me to follow my passion!
Tell us about your team.
I lead an all-female team of experts that bring their experience to social, corporate, wedding, not-for-profit, and destination celebration clientele. With backgrounds in the creative arts and some who have been with the family business from the start, HPG’s team of planners and artisans go above and beyond, approaching each event as a blank palette. Some of us have been working together for quite a long time, so we have formed a family of sorts and understand the ins and outs of how the other person might approach an event. We all wear many hats, and we all grow with each experience, learning what our individual strengths are to contribute to the team.
Team POP is a “kick ass – can do” group of professionals. I am the Director of Special Events, focusing my energy on customer relations, name talent bookings and overseeing the planning and logistics of various events. Christine Gavin is our long-time Creative Director who develops many of the creative concepts and ideas for a wide variety of private and corporate events, weddings, and brand experiences. Jenny Kawa is our in-house graphic designer, Director of Social Media, Pop Flick movies and so much more. Alex Stroud runs our financial department and Tamara Schrader is our in-house choreographer. Everyone comes from a theatrical background bringing their own brand of originality to the job.
Are there any negatives? Tell us about how you see things are going to change in events in the coming years.
As Albert Einstein said, “The measure of intelligence is the ability to change.” The same goes for an evolving business filled with growth.
About seven years ago, I started to feel a difference in the way clients discovered and hired us. The internet, e-commerce, Pinterest, and social media began to offer clients whatever, whenever, and wherever they wanted almost anything. EVERYTHING was and is accessible at one’s fingertips and the competition has become greater and greater. The level of service, attention to detail, and creative experience are paramount to success in this industry. I like to think I can anticipate any upcoming trends and new styles of celebration. Although after a year of stay-at-home orders, I believe we will see a great uptick in weddings, celebrations, and overall events. However, I think it will be with a more minimalistic approach. As Coco Chanel said, “Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.” The new event trend will be celebrating in style with uncomplicatedness and service in mind! It will be a seamless, more chic style of celebration. The gathering of family and friends will be a priority and all the other elements will follow.
Do you have any hobbies? What do you to relax or exercise?
If you call Soul Cycle a hobby, then that would be at the top of my list. Spending time with my family, friends, reading, traveling, visiting museums and finding new unknown talent feeds my soul, keeps my creative juices flowing and my joie de vivre alive! I enjoy meditation, long walks and kundalini yoga.
Tell us about your work/life balance?!
My POP teammates laugh when “I’m on the phone with Jenny” (my daughter’s nickname), and I have been known to multi-task team calls while on the stationary bike. Traffic to and from the city is most times ridiculous, my Jeep is my mobile office. I have a difficult time turning work mode “off.” When my undivided attention is needed, I am there 100%. Though my daughter is a teenager now, she is still my little girl, and a quiet night on the couch binge-watching her favorite TV show is precious to me.
Tell us about raising your daughter.
“It takes a village” is more than just a phrase. Her dad and I made an effort to be present for her. My daughter has always been a priority, and my team and clients understand and respect the importance of family. After all, this is a business of celebration.
Who are your mentors?
My Mother has always been my greatest mentor and inspiration. She leads by example and she is a dynamic example of what can be achieved if you persevere with a joie de vivre, service to others and a can-do attitude! I’ll quote Auntie Mame here, “Life is a banquet, and most poor suckers are starving to death!”
Tony Robbins is a personal hero and mentor. Ten years ago, I was introduced to Tony at an event HPG designed and then a year later, at another client’s event. Soon afterwards, I read he was producing one of his seminars. I decided to check it out and I never looked back. He remains a great influence on my personal and professional growth. “Anytime you sincerely want to make a change, the first thing you must do is raise your standards!” Words to live by!
Maya Angelou – I love her honesty and thoughtful perspective. “If you’re always trying to be normal, you will never know how amazing you can be.”