Personal Finance

What's inside an Oscar nominee's swag bag

Key Points
  • Many Oscar nominees are sent some serious swag.
  • From a Costa Rican adventure to cannabis-infused edibles, here's this year's eclectic selection of freebies.
The stage at the Dolby Theatre at the 2016 Oscars, using Swarovski crystals in a set designed by Derek McLane
Scott Diussa | Courtesy of AMPAS

Regardless of who wins an Oscar on Sunday, no nominee will walk away empty handed.

Increasingly, the Academy Awards is a chance for brands and their marketers to catch the eye of A-listers and everyday Americans alike by gifting goods and services. That might explain why this year's swag bags furnished by Distinctive Assets offer a particularly wide assortment of stuff.

Indeed, there are the kind of ultra-luxe packages one might expect celebrities to receive, including their choice of a trip to the Amazon, Galapagos Islands, Iceland or Costa Rica — in addition to a weeklong Greek beachfront escape and a stay at the Golden Door Spa — as well as personal training sessions and jewelry.

But this year, there's also a heavy emphasis on cannabis-laced goodies, from CBD-infused face cream and bath salts to edibles and even a VIP membership to a "cannabis-friendly" private club in Los Angeles. (Meanwhile, "cannabis beauty" is becoming a real thing.)

"After a stressful Oscar week, you need to relax," said Distinctive Assets founder Lash Fary.

And then there are the gifts for the star who has everything, such as a custom stained-glass portrait, a session with a "phobia relief expert" and a toilet plunger in the shape of a poop emoji.

There's also hair care, beauty supplies, bottles of alcohol and "guilt-free" chocolate (it's gluten-free, dairy-free and naturally sweetened).

Altogether, the "Everyone Wins" gift bags are valued at over "six-figures" although Distinctive Assets declined to pinpoint their exact worth.

"While this gift bag does always boast an impressive value, that is never our goal," Fary said. "A great gift has nothing to do with the cost."

They are sent to all 25 Oscar nominees in the acting and directing categories in the days leading up to the big night.

And, yes, celebrities are taxed on the fair market value of what they use or redeem, which will vary greatly for each recipient since 95 percent of the bag is in the form of gift certificates. (Ready, set, file: Here's what you need to know to file your 2018 tax return.)

Of course, they are also welcome to pass on any or all of it if they choose, Fary said. "One of the best things about being a celebrity is being able to share the perks."

Lady Gaga arrives at the premiere of "A Star Is Born"
Neilson Barnard | Getty Images Entertainment | Getty Images

This year's nominees include Bradley Cooper, Lady Gaga, Adam Driver, Emma Stone, Melissa McCarthy and Spike Lee, among others.

To be clear, there is no direct connection with the swag and the Academy Awards. The Oscars, in fact, filed a complaint against Distinctive Assets in 2016 for promoting the impression that the gift bags were affiliated with the awards show.

"The Academy has no affiliation, connection, or association with Distinctive Assets' 'gift bags' or their contents, and certainly does not sponsor, endorse or approve of Distinctive Assets, its services or the products it promotes," it said in the suit.

Still, the swag continues — now in its 17th year — with a disclaimer that says "the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences does not award, sponsor, endorse, or provide these gift bags."

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