As a young woman, Carlina Gugliotta hated recitals. Despite going to a music school in her native England where live performance was required, Lizzo’s future tour manager couldn’t stand being on stage and playing for an audience.
But she loved going to concerts. Gugliotta would organize train trips for herself and her friends, book a night or three at a local hostel, and just pick out shows to go to. She eventually was asked to help an act out and work as a runner for a night, and she was hooked – and would never have to take a stage again.
She worked various behind-the-scenes jobs, where she rarely saw other women, eventually being invited to join a tour in Paris for one show – with Adele and her band.
That one-off freelance gig lasted for the remainder of the tour and launched Gugliotta’s career to a whole other level, which eventually led to her being asked to join Lizzo’s current “Special Tour” as tour manager – with a twist. She’s now leading a team that leans heavily female in support of the boundary-breaking “About Damn Time” singer on a global trek.
Of Lizzo’s core production team, 15 of its 44 members are women. Several play key roles that have traditionally been filled by men, including Lighting Director Katherine “Kat” Borderud, Video Director Colleen Wittenberg and accountant Ashley Joshi.
On top of that, there’s 18 women sharing the stage with Lizzo and an office team that includes Full Stop Management day-to-day manager Alana Balden and a business management team of four women: Joshi, Cat Marcasciano, Michelle Cope and Lauren Lee. And then there’s B-Party tour manager Molly Gordon, whom Gugliotta says she could not do without.
Pollstar: Your role is not that of a traditional tour manager. Tell us what your job entails?
Carlina Gugliotta: I’m involved in helping everything come together. I am a very logical, practical person. I’ll often be on the calls when the creatives have their discussions. So if there’s a great idea, I’m the one saying, “But if we do that, it’s going to mean X, Y and Z for the production.” I can say when something won’t necessarily work. Then, once we do have a plan, say, “This is what you need to do. This is who is involved in production. This is the vision. This is how we need to make it happen. This is the timeline.” Making sure everybody knows what they need to do and is doing it.
As you were rising in the business, was there a particular big break for you?
I started to get into freelancing, which was hard. A tour canceled at the last minute and I was absolutely gutted. And I actually called up my mentor and said, “I’m supposed to go out this weekend and now I’m not going anymore.” And he said, “Oh, does that mean you’re free on Friday?” And he says, “I need someone to go to Paris with this band I’m working with.” And I was like, “Great, sign me up.” It turned out to be Adele’s band. I went out with the band and ended up doing the entire tour, for two years. And I’ve been out ever since.”
And now you’re with Lizzo, a gig that came through sort of a side door.
I worked for a time with Meghan Trainor, who’s great and lovely. But there weren’t a lot of shows. She was doing different things, like TV, which we had quite a bit of. And Lizzo’s team was just taking off then.
I got a call from Meghan’s manager that they were looking for a new team for Lizzo and asked if I was around for a few months. Lizzo was going to the UK at the time, and that’s where I was, so I met up with them and said, “I can do this.”
I remember looking her up, Googling her, because I really had no idea. And I got like thrown into it [laughs]. I’ve been with them ever since.What’s really interesting is that you have so many women on your crew, and in roles that we usually see occupied by men.
We’ve really tried to support having women on the road. Lizzo’s business managers, the whole team, are women. Almost a quarter of the crew, if not more, is female, which is pretty massive. We have three in video, with a woman as director. Those kinds of roles are a bit more difficult for women to break into, and we’re loving it. I think it adds a different vibe to the whole tour. Just having women around is great for everybody.
Molly Gordon [Lizzo’s B-party tour manager] and I got started right in the thick of [the “Special Tour”]. I’d never met Molly but knew I needed someone now. She was only meant to be with me for two weeks. And besides the crew, we have 19 women on stage, including Lizzo, every night. I’ve been the only female, besides maybe a photographer, so it is unusual to have so many around.
Was hiring a more diverse crew intentional?
It was intentional. But it also happened that we’ve ended up with diverse personnel when it’s been middle-aged white men as a rule. We widened our search rather than going for people we already knew. It certainly wasn’t, “You’re female, so we’ll take you.” It was, “You’re female and you do a great job and the references are great.” We have who we have because they deserve to be there.
What advice would you give a young woman looking to get into a job like yours?
Do any job that comes to you, even if it’s not what you think it is you want to experience. You never know who you’re going to meet. And on those gigs, there’s never a stupid question. I’d rather someone asked me a thousand questions than not ask at all. Another thing that’s really important is not to go in thinking that you’re going to have an advantage because you’re female, because that’s certainly not been my experience. But don’t go in thinking you’re at a disadvantage, either. Going in with the attitude that you’ve got just as much right and knowledge as anyone else is really helpful. Have confidence and stick with it.
Would it be correct to say that casting that wider net and bringing more, and different, types of people into the show is also reflective of Lizzo’s ethos?
You know, all the women on stage are Black women. And the dancers are called the Big Grrrls because they’re not your typical body type and it’s great. It also brings a different vibe because the girls are so excited to be there. I’m so pleased to be there! They’re having fun. And sometimes you find that when it’s the same people time in and time out, it can seem like just another tour. Whereas our team, every night, is really excited. That’s what’s so great. That is what [Lizzo] stands for and that’s what she believes in. And that’s what our team hopefully represents.