The word ‘celebrity,’ in and of itself has become ubiquitous in our culture. Trying to define it isn’t what many of us may have thought it was say less than a decade ago. That of course is the beauty and perhaps the sorrowful demise of the word- in that almost anyone can be a celebrity today, yet who we nominate (or perhaps nominates themselves as one) is almost too arbitrary and lacking in any substance or acclaim. And yet, here we are more than ever transfixed by celebrities, their comings and goings, their rise and fall and their ardent desire to reflect the aspirations (and perhaps the fears) of a society besotten with identity crises and new found insecurities. If only you could become a celebrity you think…and yet so many of you already have.
To understand how you became a modern day celebrity, for temporary argument sakes we will define it as someone who has presence and validation in society (or perhaps a microcosm of society) one has to appreciate the origins of celebrity itself.
In a compelling article recently released by Salon –A short history of celebrity (which I urge all of you to read) the author Adam Kirsch makes an astute observation:
“…modern celebrity has always been an unstable compound of admiration, envy, and contempt. Lola Montez, the mid-19th-century erotic dancer whose conquests included the King of Bavaria, comes across in Inglis’ description as a proto-reality star: “an ungifted, tarty fake who, without any insight into what she was doing, intuited how to make herself into a celebrity while lacking talent, opportunity, birth, and money.”
Already we are being told the clues as to what used to make one a celebrity (talent, opportunity, birth, and money) and how someone like Lola Montez lacking in all of the above qualities managed during her time to become her own modern day celebrity. Which begs the question then, if not money, talent, opportunity or birth what then allowed someone like Lola to become a celebrity? After all, so many of today’s modern day celebrities (Kate Gosselin, Bethenny Frankel, Bristol Palin, Levi Johnston, Steven Slater– the Blue Jets air steward who dramatically quit his job and believe it or not is being considered for his own reality show) started of with none of the above just like Lola and yet whether we like it or not we read about them ad nauseum in the tabloids.