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As a civilian who resides outside of the entertainment industry and far, far outside of the 1%, celebrity swag bag culture is by far one of the more nonsensical parts of awards season. With each award show, presenters and performers are often given loads of free stuff just for showing up to do their jobs, while others are invited to gifting suites, where they walk from station to station collecting pool cleaning and pet grooming devices, gift certificates, and top-shelf liquor. The practical brain can’t help but ask (OK, let’s face it, whine): “But, do they really need any of that stuff?”
Of course, the point of celebrity giving isn’t about need, but marketing— and brands pay handsomely for the chance to put their stuff in the hands of a celebrity (or celebrity assistant). It’s just one of the ways that award season has developed into an industry of its own (think: fashion and beauty partnerships, styling and glam, parties, luncheons, and events—every bit of it sponsored.)
One man largely responsible for that growth is Lash Ferry. He’s the founder of Distinctive Assets, the company responsible for assembling this year’s Grammy Awards gift bags (and every Grammy Awards gift bag for the past 25 years). Back then, he would set up gifting suites backstage during the rehearsals of an awards show, where presenters and performers had tons of downtime to check out merchandise and take some home. Since then, Ferry’s company has orchestrated gift bags for every awards show in America, proving time and again that you’re never too rich or too thin to enjoy free swag.
What makes a gift bag A-list worthy? According to Ferry, it’s about discovery. “These are busy folks who don't necessarily have time to go out and research the latest and greatest [in a particular category],” he says. “It’s about little things that can change their daily life in a small way.” Ferry proudly shares having seen home decor from one of his gift bags in the home of Sheryl Lee Ralph (who is also a neighbor of Ferry’s).
“I’ve been to Justin Timberlake’s house and seen the blender we gave and that the dogs were playing with the pet toys we gave,” he says. “These are people who could have bought these items, but the point was that it was something that they liked, and wanted to use—and it impacted their lives.”
To Ferry’s point, sometimes it’s the affordable and ubiquitous items that delight celebrity recipients most. Sure, past swag bags have included five-figure gift certificates for facial injections or comped Lasik surgery. One year, Viola Davis happily cashed in a gift certificate to a Hawaiian resort after being disappointed with accommodations she had booked on her own, Ferry says. But he also notes that only about 10 percent of such gift certificates get used. It was an oversized tin of Altoids, of all things, that had Beyoncé absolutely beaming when she collected her gift back at a previous Grammys ceremony. Altoids!
This year’s bag, valued at $36,000 and reserved for 100-plus performers and presenters, features a $25,000 gift certificate for a private session with Dr. Carl Christman, a professor and mind reader who performs at the Magic Castle in Los Angeles. But if recipients like Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, and Olivia Rodrigo are anything like the Queen B., it will be a more modest offering (perhaps Karma Nuts air-roasted cashews?) that will make schlepping the suitcase-sized bag home—and the tax owed on the gift—worth it.
Ahead, find a few of our favorite items from the 66th Grammy Awards Gift Bag, and take note: if you see host Trevor Noah sipping on Poppi soda next week, you’ll know why.
Dyson Zone Noise-Cancelling Headphones
Leave it to Dyson to make noise-canceling headphones with a detachable air purifier shield. The magnetic purifier shields the mouth while directing purified air into the nose and mouth. It’s the ultimate way to say “Don’t talk to me—or so much as breathe on me” to your seatmate on a plane—all without saying a word.
Poppi Beach Party 12-Pack
It’s the soda upgrade our nutritionists have been waiting for: fruit juice and prebiotics replace traditional syrup for a tasty drink that packs just five grams or less of sugar and 25 calories or less.
Solawave Solabiome Plumping Peptide Serum
Skincare junkies love Solawave’s affordable device for red light therapy, galvanic current, warming, and facial massage therapies. In the wake of the devices’s success, the brand has launched Solabiome skincare, which boasts prebiotics and probiotics to strengthen and balance the skin’s own microbiome. This serum also includes three molecular weights of hyaluronic acid to sequester the skin’s hydration and avocado peptides to support bounce.
Bird Buddy Smart Bird Feeder
This tech-enabled bird feeder isn’t just cute; it captures images of the birds that pop by for a bite, and then sends them to your phone, affording busy people the chance to bird watch without having to sit around and actually watch for birds.
Smack Sample Variety Pack for Dogs
For the type of pet parent who reads dog and cat food ingredients meticulously (even if we still eat junk food ourselves), this Canadian-made dog food comprises raw, dehydrated, organic, and non-GMO ingredients that checks all the boxes.
Pardon My Fro Squad Cosmetic Bag
We would carry this vegan leather bag for the cool artwork alone, which celebrates all kinds of natural hair styles. But it’s the bag’s deceptively roomy interior that has us sold (and sorted): it’s big enough to carry full size hair serums and gels, along with enough makeup to fix a whole face.
Wine Enthusiast x Cheer Moda Electric Sparkling Wine Opener
Wine openers get all the glory, but with a pop that could take out an eye, it’s the sparkling beverages that we need the most help with. Enter this battery powered, stainless steel opener, made especially for uncorking champagne and sparkling wine bottles (billed as the world’s first)—all with the tap of a button.
Living Prana BrainCakes Functional Organic Pancake Mix
Pancakes and waffles get the superfood treatment in this mix made with organic, gluten-free and plant-based ingredients included to boost focus and calm the nervous system (think cordyceps and lion’s mane mushrooms and herbs used in ayurvedic medicine, like bacopa monnieri and gotu kola).
Helight Red Light Sleep Aid
We never would have believed that a glowing red light, of all things, could lull us to sleep faster than an episode of Seinfeld, but sure enough, after tapping the “on” button on the side of this portable light, we drifted to sleep as it dimmed over the following 28 minutes. To work its magic, the NASA-inspired tech uses 630nm of red light therapy with a timed protocol that replicates the natural cycle of light at the end of the day—a godsend for those who have trouble falling asleep after a long day or when on the road.
Cate Brown Designer Toss Pillow
Vintage textiles from the likes of Chanel, Dior, Kenzo and other designers, get new life with these throw pillows made from heritage fashion fabrics. Even cooler: an accompanying QR code links to the exact origin of the fabric and materials used.
Your Ears Rock High Fidelity Earplugs
Any concert lover (or performer) risks major ear damage by enjoying shows at full volume. These reusable earplugs are designed to protect your hearing by reducing noise levels at all frequencies without muffling sound or taking you out of the moment.