The days of personal protection being easy are long gone. In today’s world, where modern surveillance and invasive tech has made it easy to track and target those in the public eye, bodyguards must do more than simply stand and look intimidating. Instead, they are required to meticulously plan movements, remain constantly alert to a catalogue of threats and react instinctively to protect their principle.
Simon Newton became a Private Security Contractor in 2003, after several years serving in the Iraq War. He soon landed a job as a Close Protection Officer for the Foreign Commonwealth Office in the Middle East, and subsequently travelled back to Britain to start a career as a bodyguard.
“There are many skills required to be a bodyguard,” Newton tells us. “From the ability to think on the move — often in difficult situations and when tired — to good organisational skills and computer literacy.” So what does it take to be a modern day bodyguard? We asked Newton, a man who has guarded Bella Hadid, Kendall Jenner, Naomi Campbell, Rita Ora and even Michael Jackson, how he rose to the top of his game.
Know how to use transport to your advantage
Top of Newton’s list comes transport. Every move you make, he says, be it by road, plane or boat, has to be painstakingly managed to ensure you always have a safe environment on hand at any given time. Take Newton’s guarding of Michael Jackson during the 2006 World Music Awards: an impenetrable crowd had gathered to mob the singer-songwriter after the show, so Newton had to drive the vehicle itself inside the venue to collect Jackson.
“As a celebrity bodyguard,” says Newton, “your principle is normally known to the public. Fanatical fans and stalkers can be common for A-listers. So, often I would choose to use a vehicle for a trip that anyone else would easily walk. Even if we are going around the corner to a local shop, by using a vehicle it would give me a mobile safe environment. That way, I can remove the principle immediately to a safer place.”
Learn how to outwit the paparazzi
But it’s not just the general public, says the bodyguard. Paparazzi are professional haranguers — and require a higher level of ingenuity to evade.
“Dealing with paparazzi can be a challenge,” says Newton. “You have to remember that if anything goes wrong, you need to deal with it quickly — as the rest of the world will know about it within half an hour. It could be the end of a bodyguard’s career if a situation isn’t handled correctly. So, when booking restaurants or hotels, you would always use a pseudonym and use the hotel loading bay to enter and exit whenever possible.”
"If anything goes wrong, the world will know about it within half an hour..."
The same goes for public places and venues, the bodyguard adds, and you must scope out the playing field before rolling out any A-list star. “Places like Wembley Stadium and the bigger venues are always challenging. Even if you’ve been to the location before, depending on the set-up of the event, there may have been a lot of changes compared to the last time you visited.”
Dress according to the job you’re carrying out
Newton has provided his protective services all over the world, and any shots that the paparazzi have managed to sneak by the bodyguard tend to show him meticulously dressed next to his A-list clients. From crisp white shirts and pinned ties to statement suits and luxury Swiss watches, part of the job is to blend into the background of his principle’s glow — and that means dressing for the job you’re on.
“That’s the general rule; dress according for the job you’re carrying out,” says Newton. “You may find yourself in black tie at a charity dinner for one job, and then in shorts and a T-shirt on a boat for another. If you feel like it’s necessary in a situation, a stab vest or gloves could be worn and, overseas, you might even find yourself wearing a bulletproof vest or helmet.”
Ensure you have the right qualifications
Being burly enough to muscle into situations may be helpful, but it’s not enough to qualify you as an efficient and effective bodyguard. Rather, Newton reveals, there are rigorous training courses you must complete. And, even once you’ve got your qualifications, he adds that being a bodyguard is less a job — and more a way of life.
“You would normally be expected to have a police or military background,” says the bodyguard. “And, to be licensed to work in Britain, you have to go on a two-week minimum bodyguard training course and complete three days of medical training. It’s also important to keep physically fit, maintain a good personal appearance and ensure you have the option to leave your home at a moment’s notice and not return for a considerable amount of time — in some cases, for months.”
Always tailor your equipment to local laws
A celebrity’s life is a jet-setting life. That means a lot of international travel comes with the bodyguard job – and many hours navigating airport terminals and different social situations. But, as Newton is keen to stress, it also means a lot of different laws that you must familiarise yourself with. Because, while bodyguards in the States and other overseas countries may be permitted to carry sidearms or other specialist equipment, these rules could change as soon as you cross a border.
“In Britain,” explains Newton, “you’re very limited on equipment. Overseas is, of course, different, when quite often you’ll have armoured vehicles and firearms depending on the country you’re operating in. And, outside of the normal personal communication equipment we always have, I carry a notebook, pen, torch and medical kit.”
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