“The gift bags have their own reputation within the entertainment industry,” says Lash Fary, founder of Distinctive Assets. Besides the nominees, they are also popular with the nominees’ representatives, agents, and managers, he adds.
“We get calls from about 25% to 30% of the nominees each year who want to make sure we know where to get their bag to them,” Fary says
When Oscar nominees are in Los Angeles for the Academy Awards, they usually receive their bags at their hotels. Other clients have them delivered to their homes in LA or at the offices of their production companies.
“I am mailing them to Olivia Colman and Judi Dench at their homes in the UK, and Penelope Cruz wanted hers shipped to Madrid,” Fary says. “It’s incredibly expensive, so I try not to ship them if I don’t have to, but I will for the Penelope Cruzes of the world, that’s for sure.”
Who will receive this year’s ‘Everybody Wins’ swag bag?
The ‘Everybody Wins’ bag this year will be distributed to 28 people, says Fary. Among the recipients of the bag will be the five nominees in the categories of “Best Actress,” “Best Actor,” “Best Supporting Actress,” “Best Supporting Actor,” and “Best Director.” Also included are each of the three hosts: Wanda Sykes, Amy Schumer, and Regina Hall.
Due to the fact that Distinctive Assets is not affiliated with the Oscars and instead distributes gift bags independently, Lash is able to decide to who he wants to send the gift bags. Whenever he has partnered up with other awards shows, like the Grammys, he was required to pack gift bags for all nominees.
“It’s a very small group of people compared to the 150 gift bags we create for the Grammys,” Fary says. “That allows for products or services that would never be able to give away 150 items to be able to give away much more valuable things.”
“West Side Story” director Steven Spielberg, “Power of the Dog’s” Benedict Cumberbatch, and “Spencer’s” Kristen Stewart are among this year’s goodie bag recipients.
The most expensive item in the bag this year is a $50,000 three-night stay at Turin Castle in Scotland, which honors Denzel Washington’s nomination for “The Tragedy of Macbeth.” Guests will have full access to the 17th-century castle, complete with butler service and bagpipers upon arrival.
52 other items and experiences are also included in the bags. Some highlights include:
- “Celebrity Arms” liposuction, a $12,000 procedure by Dr. Thomas Su
- The title of “Lord” or “Lady of Glencoe” and a small plot of land in Scotland
- A renovation package worth $25,000 from Maison Construction in Los Angeles
- A variety of “flavor-wrapped” popcorn packages from Opopop
- Treatments and rejuvenation procedures worth up to $10,000 from Dr. Konstantin Vasyukevich
- An accommodation package worth $15,000 for two at the Golden Door luxury hotel and spa in Escondido, Calif.
- From The Chai Box, an Oprah-approved small-batch tea collection
- A life coaching session with wellness expert Kayote Joseph valued at $1,200
Can all this really be free?
According to the IRS, recipients do not pay for any of the gifts they accept, however, their value counts as taxable income.
CNBC Make It talks to Eric Bronnenkant, head of tax at Betterment about how the company provides these items, products, and services with the hope the celebrity will use the product, go on a vacation. “They’re trying to influence behavior.”
Fary says that even after taxes, the bags offered by Distinctive Assets are a great deal for nominees.
“The reality is if you do get to go on a $50,000 trip, and all you have to do is pay a tax percentage of that value, you’re still getting a pretty good deal,” he says. “No one wants a deal more than rich people.”