Nanci Ryder, one of Hollywood’s most important and outspoken celebrity publicists passed away on June 11 after a six-year battle with ALS. Also known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis causes a steady loss of the ability to move, walk, speak, and perform other normal functions over time.
Ryder, who helped found one of Hollywood’s premiere PR agencies, BWR (formerly Baker Winokur Ryder), worked with some of the biggest stars in her 30 years in the business, including Renee Zellweger, Reese Witherspoon, Jennifer Lopez, Robert Downey Jr., Viggo Mortensen, Woody Harrelson, Michael J. Fox, Paul Reiser, Jennifer Garner, Leonardo DiCaprio, Helen Hunt, Mariah Carey, Courteney Cox, and Sarah Jessica Parker. Ryder was noted for her honesty, hilarity, and dogged support of her clients, who all considered her a great a friend. BWR, which she co-founded with Paul Baker and Larry Winokur, has grown into one of the giants of Hollywood public relations, now representing over 200 actors including Anna Kendrick, Adam Sandler, Zoe Saldana, Matt LeBlanc, Connie Britton, Julia Fox, Luke Hemsworth, and Maggie Siff. Brad Pitt was a loyal client for many years as well.
Born in Florida and raised on Long Island, Ryder was known to have an eye for young talent and great relationships with journalists and the press as a whole. Hysterically funny, self-deprecating—but always the Boss Lady and the Lady Boss—she was also known for her great sense of style and input into the red carpet styles of many of her clients, especially Renée Zellweger. She had frequent interactions with many of the great fashion houses, including Carolina Herrera, Gucci, Prada, and Armani, and was known herself to be an aficionado of designer high-heeled shoes; she could often be spotted hunting them down at Neiman Marcus on weekends.
When Ryder was diagnosed with breast cancer back in the late ’90s, she lost all of her hair but refused to ever wear a wig. In 2001, when Zellweger won a Best Actress Golden Globe for Nurse Betty, Ryder was at her side in black tie and a completely bald head, showing her constant bravery in the face adversity.
Ryder’s funeral will have to be kept private, due to coronavirus, but a memorial service for her many friends, clients, and coworkers will take place at some later date, to be announced.
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