Meet Macau’s host to the stars: Reggie Martin

Reggie Martin has travelled a long way to become the favourite host of VIPs and celebrities visiting Macau

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 19 April, 2016, 3:10pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 20 April, 2016, 3:09pm

Not everyone can say that they get to hang out with the likes of Beyoncé, Chow Yun-fat, Nicolas Cage, Daniel Wu, Eason Chan and Daniel Radcliffe for a living. But it’s all part of the job for Reggie Martin, who is head of VIP/celebrity relations at The Venetian Macao. 

“Over the years I have made some great friends,” Martin says. “It’s nice to be able to get a text message from someone that millions of people would love to just get a photo with, and I’m sitting there hanging out with them and have relationships with them.” 

His ability to charm and befriend some of the world’s biggest stars and most influential VIPs has led to the nickname of “the stars’ star”. The New York Daily News coined it after speaking to boxing promoter Bob Arum and American rapper Ja Rule. “They started saying that I was like the star for the stars – and so I guess I’m doing something right,” Martin says.

A short walk to a photo shoot reveals how much of a people person Martin is. He’s able to spark up a conversation with almost every passerby and leaves them smiling. “It’s not easy to get close and become friends with the prince of Saudi Arabia,” he says. “You’ve got to be born with the gift of the gab, the personality and the swagger.” 

You’ve got to be born with the gift of the gab, the personality and the swagger

Martin has been looking after VIPs at the world’s biggest casino since The Venetian Macao opened in 2007. These days, his hard-earned reputation as a host who can make things happen has led to celebrities specifically requesting his services when they come to town. 

“When they come to me, they know that things will already be laid out the way that they like. I anticipate their requests and make sure that everything is just flawless,” Martin says. “Celebrities look at it like I’m here to be trusted, since I’m already close to celebrities even more famous than they are.”

But being the go-to host to the stars is not always as glamorous as it sounds. “You’re dealing with a lot of egos in this industry, and there are some celebrities where I’m like, ‘Oh God, they’re coming again’.

People look at it and think I just spend my time hanging with Eason Chan or whoever – but it’s not like that; my working hours can be all over the place, and there’s a lot of waiting around. To do my job, you have to have a great personality, a lot of patience, and you can’t have a quick temper, because not all the VIPs understand when things can’t be done. High VIPs want things right now.”

Martin grew up a world away from the bright lights of the Cotai Strip, in East Chicago, Indiana, in the US. In his neighbourhood, it wasn’t uncommon to see gang violence, drug dealers and many other negative situations, but he managed to avoid getting involved in any of them. “I never drank alcohol, never smoked a cigarette, never did any drugs of any form – none of that – and I always thought that I’m my own boss, and I’m not going to follow just because everyone else is.” 

He credits his parents for setting him up with the life he has now, as they used to send him to summer basketball camps to help him pursue his childhood dream of becoming a professional basketball player. This enabled him to experience travel from a young age. “At 10 years old, I had learned how to be independent. That’s why it was so easy for me to adjust to living in different places.”

After graduating from university with a degree in resort management, Martin joined Club Med Resorts and travelled the world to work on different exotic islands. A chance meeting with the senior vice-president of Starwood Hotels worldwide led him to move to Macau in 2002, where he landed a job as club manager at The Westin Resort. 

“Before coming to Macau, I never heard anything about it,” Martin says. “I was surprised at how much history there was here.” He fondly recalls the time in the city before the casino industry boomed and visitors were not common. “When I used to go out to the Senado Square area, my colleagues and I were often the only people walking around.” 

But having witnessed the transformation of the old Macau to the new Macau, Martin is fond of both versions of the city.

“I miss the old Macau, and I appreciate the new Macau. I miss when it was less people, not as much stress, not as much traffic – you used to have a lot of home-style restaurants, but now there’s plenty of fancy restaurants in town and lots of big, glittering resorts. But the new Macau has so much to offer the locals – there’s so much entertainment – whereas we used to have to go to Hong Kong for that type of thing.” 

As a African American, Martin finds himself in a minority among Macau’s predominantly Chinese population. But he has tried to make that work for him in a positive way.

“I think a lot of Chinese visitors here have never seen what black Americans really are. I’m probably the first black American that a lot of them have even spoken to,” he says. “All the black movies they show on TV here are all with black people as gangsters, drug dealers and being arrested. So living in China as a black American, I take it upon myself to educate them and show them that not all black Americans are that way.”

Martin takes every opportunity to set new standards and break negative stereotypes. “Every time [people] see me, I’m always clean, I’m always proper. You’ll never catch me looking scruffy or rough,” he says. “It’s my responsibility to show and educate them – none of them know that I’m doing that – but I’m installing it in their mind by honouring my principles.” 

That same positive can-do attitude has served Martin well in his 15 years of living and working in Macau. During that time, his career has gone from strength to strength.

Aside from his main job as head of non-gaming VIP celebrity relations at The Venetian Macao, he is also co-founder and vice-chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Macau. AmCham Macau, as it’s commonly known, helps to promote the development of trade, commerce and investment between the US and Macau. 

In addition, Martin’s success in Macau has been recognised and celebrated back in his hometown of East Chicago, where he was given the key to the city four years ago. Veteran CNN anchor Wolf Blitzer appeared with him on stage, an experience that Martin describes as “a dream come true” and “like having a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame”. 

Today, Martin is enjoying the fruits of his hard work and the privileges that his lifestyle affords him. “These days, I’m sitting in the best seats for a lot of the NBA basketball games, and many rich people behind me are looking at the back of my head,” he says. “But I had to work hard to get to this point in my life. No one just gave it to me."

And he takes none of his success for granted. “If you had told me that I was going to be living on all these amazing islands, meeting all these amazing people … if you had told me that when I was in high school, I would have probably laughed at you, because that stuff don’t happen to blacks in East Chicago. But I’ve always been a dreamer, and I’m still a big dreamer.” 

VITAL SIGNS

1972 
Born March 13 in East Chicago, Indiana

1997
Joins Club Med Resorts and works all over the world in locations including Bali, Dominican Republic and the Bahamas

2002
Moves to Macau and starts work as club manager at The Westin Resort

2004 
Becomes US warden of the American Consulate in Macau

2007
Joins The Venetian Macao doing special events, eventually handling all non-gaming VIPs

2008
Becomes co-founder and vice-chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Macau

2011
Receives the key to the city of East Chicago from Mayor Anthony Copeland in recognition of his outstanding civic achievements

2014
Makes a cameo appearance in the film Vegas to Macau alongside Chow Yun-fat