A celebrity, also referred to as a celeb in popular culture, is a person who has a prominent profile and commands a great degree of public fascination and influence in day-to-day media. The term is synonymous with wealth (commonly denoted as a person with fame and fortune), implied with great popular appeal, prominence in a particular field, and is easily recognized by the general public. Celebrities are primarily individuals who work as film and television actors and actresses, athletes, musicians, and a host other media-based professions, particularly within the spheres of the sports and entertainment (e.g. music, film, television, radio, modeling, literature etc.).
Modern day celebrities are generally prominent media figures, especially within the fields of sports and entertainment, and to a lesser extent, politics and business. Though celebrities come from many different working fields and facets of everyday life, most celebrities are typically associated with individuals that come from the fields of sports and entertainment or a person who is a public figure in that is commonly recognizable in mass media.
Various careers are associated with celebrity status, predominantly within the fields of sports and entertainment that produce prominent athletes such as golfer Tiger Woods, hockey player Wayne Gretzky, or basketball player Michael Jordan or major entertainment figures such as models Sofía Vergara and Adriana Lima, authors J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter and Stephanie Meyer of Twilight, pop singers Taylor Swift and Miley Cyrus, radio personalities Don Imus and Howard Stern, political pundits Bill O'Reilly and Glenn Beck, television talk show hosts Barbara Walters, Larry King and Oprah Winfrey, movie actresses Julia Roberts and Hilary Swank, television actors Charlie Sheen and Ashton Kutcher, national television correspodents Anderson Cooper, Katie Couric, and Meredith Viera or comedians Ellen Degeneres, Joan Rivers, Jay Leno and George Lopez.
While people may gain celebrity status as a result of a successful career in a particular field (primarily in the areas pertaining towards sports and entertainment, in other cases, people become celebrities due to media attention for their extravagant lifestyle or wealth (as in the case of a socialite) such as Paris Hilton, Ivanka Trump, or Kim Kardashian; for their connection to a famous person (as in the case of a relative of a famous person, such as Chaz Bono); or even for their misdeeds (as in the case of a well-known criminal such as Ronnie Biggs and Casey Anthony). Celebrities may be known around the world (e.g., pop star Michael Jackson), within a specific country (e.g., a top Australian rugby player); or within a region (e.g., a local TV news anchor).
- 1 Regional and cultural implications
- 2 Becoming a celebrity
- 3 Careers that offer celebrity status
- 4 Families
- 5 Restricted access
- 6 As a mass media phenomenon
- 7 15 minutes of fame
- 8 Social networking
- 9 See also
- 10 References
- 11 Bibliography
Regional and cultural implications
Cultures and regions with a significant population may have their own independent celebrity systems, with distinct hierarchies. For example, the Canadian province of Quebec, which is French-speaking, has its own system of French-speaking television, movie and music celebrities. A person who garners a degree of fame in one culture may be considered less famous or obscure in another. Some nationwide celebrities might command some attention outside their own nation; for example, the singer Lara Fabian is widely known in the French-speaking world, but only had a couple of Billboard hits in the U.S., whereas the francophone Canadian singer Celine Dion is well known in both the French-speaking world and in the U.S.
Regions within a country, or cultural communities (linguistic, ethnic, religious) can also have their own celebrity systems, especially in linguistically or culturally distinct regions such as Quebec or Wales. Regional radio personalities, newscasters, politicians or community leaders may be local or regional celebrities.
English-speaking media commentators and journalists will sometimes refer to celebrities as belonging to the A-List or state that a certain actor belongs to the B-List, the latter being a disparaging context. These informal rankings indicate a placing within a hierarchy. However, due to differing levels of celebrity in different regions, it is difficult to place people within one bracket. A Brazilian actor might be a B-list action film actor in the US, but an A-list star in Portugal. An objective method of placing celebrities from any country into categories from A-List to H-List based on their number of Google hits has been proposed.
Certain people are known even to people unfamiliar with the area in which they excelled. If one has to name a famous boxer, they are more likely to name Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson, since their fame expanded beyond the sport itself. Pablo Picasso's style and name are known even to people who are not interested in art; likewise many know that Harry Houdini was an illusionist, Bill Gates, an entrepreneur, Albert Einstein a scientist; Mozart and Beethoven classical composers; Luciano Pavarotti an opera singer.
The same phenomenon is true for fictional characters. If one has to name a famous wizard Merlin or Gandalf will be first to come in mind. Mickey Mouse is perhaps the most famous cartoon character and fictional mouse in the world. The most famous movie monsters are King Kong and Godzilla, the archetypical detective is Sherlock Holmes and most people's idea of a spy is James Bond. In many cases, the character is more well known than the name of the creator. Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman are superhero celebrities while the comic book artists and writers who created them are well known only within fandom circles.
Becoming a celebrity
People may become celebrities in a wide range of ways: from their professions, following appearances in the media, or even by complete accident. The term "instant celebrity" describes someone who becomes a celebrity in a very short period of time. Someone who achieves a small amount of transient fame (through, say, hype or mass media) may become labeled a "B-grade celebrity". Often, the generalization extends to someone who falls short of mainstream or persistent fame but who seeks to extend or exploit it.
There are no guarantees of success for an individual to become a celebrity. Though celebrities come from many different working fields, most celebrities are typically associated with individuals that come from the fields of sports and entertainment or a person who is a public figure in that is commonly recognizable in mass media. With innate talent, passion, diligence, discipline, self-motivation and tenacity, being the core factors of achieving success to becoming a celebrity, fame and fortune sometimes occurs spontaneously with relatively little effort due to sheer luck, being fortunate with connections, or simply being at the right place during the right time.
Celebrities are incessantly stereotyped and fantasized as individuals who possess exorbitant amounts of wealth and glamour. They are also sometimes denigrated by the general public as being overpaid and publicly overrated compared to a normal worker such as a doctor, nurse or a teacher. Though glamor and wealth certainly plays a role for only famous celebrities, most people in the sports and entertainments sphere, be it music, film, television, radio, modelling, comedy, literature etc. live in obscurity and only an infinitesimal percentage (usually less than 1%) achieve fame and fortune. Due to the Machiavellian and competitive nature within both industries, a vast amount of aspiring entertainers and athletes in the world, even some of the most talented may never be recognized and won't ever receive the opportunity to carve a name for themselves.
A large number of athletes who are unable to turn professional take a second job or even sometimes abandon their athletic aspirations in order to to make ends meet. A small percentage of entertainers and athletes are able to make a decent living but a vast majority will spend their careers toiling from hard work, determination, rejection and frequent unemployment. For minor league to amateur athletes, earnings are usually on the lower end of the pay-scale for minor league to amateur athletes. Many of them take second jobs on the side or even venture into other occupations within the field of sports such as coaching, general management, refereeing or instructing up and coming athletes.
A significant percentage of working entertainers (e.g. musicians, actors, talk show hosts, models, producers, writers etc.) in Hollywood typically work on-and-off and freelance their talents earn next to nothing to scraping a pitiful minimum union scale wage income for each gig. The Screen Actors Guild, a union well known for representing actors and actresses throughout Hollywood reports that the average television and film actor earns less than $5000 USD annually. Actors sometimes alternate between theater, television and film or even branch into other occupations within the entertainment industry such as becoming a singer, comedian, producer, or a television host in order to be monetarily diversified, as doing one gig pays comparatively very little. For instance, David Letterman is well known for branching into late night television as a talk show host while honing his skills a stand-up comedian, Barbra Streisand ventured into acting while operating as a singer, or Clint Eastwood, who achieved even greater fame in Hollywood for being a film director and a producer than for his acting credentials.
Less than 1% of all runaway models are known to make more than $1000 dollars USD for every fashion showcase. according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the median wage for commercial and print models was only $11.22 per hour in 2006. Most models only draw in around $500 USD every showcase and only famous models that are high in demand such as Miranda Kerr or Gisele Bundchen earn multi-million dollar salaries. Freelance writers and authors who aspire to be the next Stephen King and Dan Brown are known to submit manuscripts of their latest literary creations hoping for their big break are only to be bombarded with numerous rejection letters from major publishing houses. Many aspiring comedians who dream of becoming the next Russell Peters and Jerry Seinfeld never see the inside of a movie or television studio, but rather spend most of their careers doing stand-up in comedy clubs and other small venues, hoping to be discovered. Because gigs can be infrequent, it can be very difficult to make a living as a freelance entertainer. As a result, many supplement their income by holding down other jobs on the side.
Due to the stifling, insecure, and volatile nature within the world of sports and entertainment, many aspiring athletes and entertainers have simply gave up on their dreams and moved on towards a career in another field.
Careers that offer celebrity status
Some professional activities in fields such as ones that are commonly associated with celebrity prestige are careers within the sports, and entertainment sphere. Having a successful career such as being a pro-athlete or an entertainer are careers that many average people can identify with but can only dream about pursuing. Only a very small percentage or a tiny fraction of people can ever make a name for themselves as celebrities in the entertainment spheres such as (including music, film, television, radio, theater, modelling, literature etc.) or within the realm of sports. Since these careers are highly paid, well exposed yet the extreme difficultly to attain them and the stamina to excel are likely to confer celebrity status in themselves.
Quite evidently, careers within the sports and entertainment sphere such as being an elite professional athlete on a sports team, or an entertainment figure such as a pop singer that dominate the pop music charts frequently, or a television actor with lead roles on prime-time shows have strong likelihood to become celebrities. Sometimes informal references to celebrities have been dubbed as: sports stars, rock stars, rap stars, supermodels, movie stars, TV stars, radio stars, music stars, superstars, stardom, media personalities etc.
- Business leaders such as successful entrepreneurs and financially-successful investors that top the daily business headlines and coverage of financial markets have a strong likelihood to become celebrities. High-ranking politicians and top level government officials that headline current events in day-to-day media also have a strong likelihood to become celebrities.
- Prominent socialites, elite aristocrats and royal families, top level professional athletes, chart-topping musicians and pop singers, television and film actors with lead roles on prominently scheduled television shows and hit box office movies, critically acclaimed and best-selling authors and writers, internationally recognized supermodels and models are almost invariantly celebrities.
- Prominent media journalists, pundits on major nationally-syndicated television shows, commentators on prominently scheduled television shows, nationally acclaimed media columnists and syndicated columnists, major national newscasters and news analysts, national television reporters and television anchors, national television game show hosts on prominently scheduled game shows, radio personalities on prominently scheduled radio shows, comedians on major headlining comedy shows, reality television personalities on most prominently scheduled reality television shows, daytime television show hosts, and late night television show hosts have a strong likelihood to become celebrities.
- Individuals that host their own television show (as well as various components of television programmes) have a strong likelihood to become a celebrity: Examples include shows such as The Doctors, The Dr. Oz Show, and Dr. Phil. Cooking shows such as Emeril Live and 30 Minute Meals have spawned Celebrity chefs such as Gordon Ramsay, Rachael Ray and Emeril Lagasse who are famed for their culinary aptitude. However fame based on one program may often prove short-lived after a program is discontinued.
- A few humanitarian and religious leaders such as Mother Teresa and Desmond Tutu have achieved fame because of their charitable work around the world. Various pastors and other religious leaders and activists such as Rick Warren, Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson campaigned within various social and political causes have achieved celebrity status in mainstream media as well.
While it’s true that the top television and film actors have become movie and television stars, musicians and pop singers that become pop stars, or athletes that become sports stars often become celebrities, the other professionals that play a more peripheral role in the entertainment sphere, such as television, music, and film directors and producers, screenwriters, playwrights, and animators are less likely to attain celebrity status (albeit there are some exceptions, such as directors Steven Spielberg, Quentin Tarantino and animator Seth MacFarlane). Entertainment based occupations that are not as well known in the general public or are simply antiquated (e.g. magicians, photographers, and some visual artists such as painters and potters) relative to the present day mass media industry are less likely to become celebrities (though there are exceptions such as illusionists Criss Angel and David Copperfield, or photographer David LaChapelle).
In other sub-fields within the entertainment industry, there is a similar sitution. For instance, in the music industry, the top-selling pop singers have a strong potential to become celebrities, but the behind-the-scenes professionals tend to remain little known to the general public (e.g. dancers, disc jockeys, record producers, and composers); though in recent years, Club DJ's such as David Guetta and Deadmau5 or composer David Foster have achieved worldwide fame for their respective work in the music industry. High-end fashion designers and jewelry designers are likely to become celebrities but will not garner the same and equal importance in the entertainment sphere compared to a successful film or television actor or a widely known musician. Outside of the sports and entertainment sphere, the top inventors, professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and scientists, etc. are unlikely to become celebrities even if they are enormously successful in their field.
The top celebrity film and television actors and actresses, various media and television personalities, athletes, authors, models, comedians etc. earn annual multi-million dollar salaries that far exceed the paycheck of the average salaried man.
Forbes Magazine releases an annual Forbes Celebrity 100 list of the highest paid celebrities in the world. The total earnings for all top celebrity 100 earners totaled $4.5 billion over the course of 2010 alone.
For instance, Forbes ranked media mogul and talk show host, Oprah Winfrey as the top earner "Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the most powerful celebrities", with earnings of $290 million in the past year. In 2010, golfer Tiger Woods was one of highest-earning celebrity athletes, with an income of $75 million and is consistently ranked one of the highest paid athletes in the world.
Entrepreneurship and endorsements
Celebrity endorsements have proven very successful around the world where, due to increasing consumerism, an individual is considered a status symbol when they purchase a celebrity-endorsed product. On August 1, 2007 laws were passed banning health care professionals and public figures such as movie stars or pop singers from appearing in advertisements for drugs or nutritional supplements.
Many celebrities are persistent in staying within the public eye and have been involved with various business ventures and other related investments or endorsement opportunities that go beyond their multimillion dollar salaries derived solely through waged labor as musicians, athletes, actors, television personalities etc.
Numerous celebrities have become budding business moguls and established themselves as entrepreneurs, idolizing many well known business leaders such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, or Donald Trump. For instance, basketball legend, Michael Jordan became an active entrepreneur involved with many sports related ventures including investing a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats, Paul Newman started his own salad dressing business after a distinguished acting career, or rap musician, Birdman started his own record label, clothing line, and an oil business. Other celebrities such as Tyler Perry, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg have become successful entrepreneurs through starting their own film production companies and running their own movie studios.
Various examples of celebrity turned entrepreneurs included in the table below are:
Celebrity Net worth (2011) USD Sources of wealth Oprah Winfrey US$2.7 billion Main sources are television, radio, and film. Additional business holdings in Harpo Productions and the Oprah Winfrey Network with interests in film, television, magazines, books, motivational speaking, and publishing. 50 Cent US$150-$250 million Main sources include music, film, and television. Various ventures include sports endorsements with Reebok, video games, record labels: G-Unit Records and G-Note Records. Additional holdings in fragrances and cosmetics, fashion designing and clothing, books, radio, television and film production, talent management, real estate, and other investments. Jay-Z US$450-$500 million Main sources mainly in music with business holdings in a record label that include Roc Nation, sports teams (including a significant stake in New Jersey Nets and a potential stake in Arsenal FC), bars and nightclubs, books, clothing line Rocawear, real estate development, music touring, publishing, casinos, advertising, and other investments within his conglomerate (Gain Global Investments LLC). Martha Stewart US$638 million Main sources mainly in radio, television, film, and her conglomerate Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which includes interests in television production, magazines, cookbooks, and household cooking products. Others sources include internet related ventures, blogging, publishing, books, and retail merchandising. Magic Johnson US$500 million Main sources primarily in television and sports. Other holdings include the promotion and theater chain Magic Johnson Theatres, movie studios, food services, sports teams (minority stake in the LA Lakers), and motivational speaking. Arnold Schwarzenegger US$100-$800 million Main sources include film and bodybuilding. Minor holdings in various global businesses, restaurants, real estate, Planet Hollywood, and other investments. Tyra Banks US$90 million Main sources include television, film, and modeling. Has holdings in clothing lines and fashion design, cosmetics, model and talent management, film production through her company (Bankable Productions). Additional endorsements with household related items and fragrance related accessories.
Tabloid magazines and talk TV shows bestow a great deal of attention on celebrities. To stay in the public eye and build wealth in addition to their salaried labor, numerous celebrities have participating and branching into various business ventures and endorsements. Many celebrities have participated in many different endorsement opportunities that include: animation, sports team ownership, publishing, fashion designing, footwear designing, fragrances and cosmetics, consumer electronics, household items and appliances, cigarettes, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, jewelry design, fast food, credit cards, video games, writing, and toys.
In addition to various endorsements, a number of celebrities have been involved with some business and investment related ventures also include: baby and toddler related items, fashion retailing, establishments such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, and casinos, management related ventures such as sports management, model management, and talent management, record labels, film production, publishing, salons, health and fitness, and real estate.
Although some celebrities have achieved additional financial success from various business ventures, the vast majority of celebrities are not successful businesspeople and still rely on salaried labored wages in order earn a living. Most businesses and investments are well known to have a 90 to 95 percent failure rate, not all celebrities eventually succeed with their own businesses and other related side ventures. Some celebrities either went broke or filed for bankruptcy as result of dabbling with such side businesses or endorsements. Though some might question such a validity since celebrities themselves are already well known, have mass appeal, and are well exposed to the general public. The average entrepreneur who is not well known and reputuable to general public doesn't the same marketing flexibility and status quo as most celebrities allow and have. Therefore compared to the average person who starts a business, celebrities already have all the cards and odds stacked in their favor. They can have an unfair advantage to expose their business ventures and endorsements and can easily capture a significant amount market share than the average entrepreneur.
Another example of celebrity is a family that has notable ancestors or is known for its wealth. In some cases, a well-known family is associated with a particular field. For example, the Kennedy family is associated with US politics; The House of Windsor with royalty; The Osbournes, Chaplin, and Barrymore families with entertainment. Other well-known families include the Hilton family, the Bush family, and the Jackson family.
Access to celebrities is strictly controlled by their entourage of staff which includes publicists, agents, personal assistants, and bodyguards. Even journalists find it difficult to access celebrities for interviews. An interview with writer and actor Michael Musto cites:
“ You have to go through many hoops just to talk to a major celebrity. You have to get past three different sets of publicists: the publicist for the event, the publicist for the movie, and then the celebrity's personal publicist. They all have to approve you. ”
Celebrities often hire one or more bodyguards (or close protection officer) to protect themselves and their families from threats ranging from the mundane (intrusive paparazzi photographers or autograph-seeking fans) to serious (assault, kidnapping, assassination, or stalking). The bodyguard travels with the celebrity during professional activities (movie shoots or concerts) and personal activities such as recreation and errands. Celebrities also typically have security staff at their home, to protect them from similar threats.
As a mass media phenomenon
Celebrities often have fame comparable to royalty. As a result, there is a strong public curiosity about their private affairs. Celebrities may be resented for their accolades, and the public may have a love/hate relationship with celebrities. Due to the high visibility of celebrities' private lives, their successes and shortcomings are often made very public. Celebrities are alternately portrayed as glowing examples of perfection, when they garner awards, or as decadent or immoral if they become associated with a scandal. When seen in a positive light, celebrities are frequently portrayed as possessing skills and abilities beyond average people; for example, celebrity actors are routinely celebrated for acquiring new skills necessary for filming a role within a very brief time, and to a level that amazes the professionals who train them. Similarly, some celebrities with very little formal education can sometimes be portrayed as experts on complicated issues.
Famous for being famous
Famous for being famous, in popular culture terminology, refers to someone who attains celebrity status for no particular identifiable reason, or who achieves fame through association with a celebrity. The term is a pejorative, suggesting that the individual has no particular talents or abilities. Even when their fame arises from a particular talent or action on their part, the term will sometimes still apply if their fame is perceived as disproportionate to what they earned through their own talent or work.
Amy Argetsinger coined the term "famesque" to define actors, singers, or athletes who have become celebrities despite having achieved very little, if any, success in their careers. Examples include athletes Anna Kournikova, Matt Leinart, and Danica Patrick, singer Jessica Simpson, and Actresses Sienna Miller and Kerry Washington.
15 minutes of fame
Andy Warhol famously coined the phrase "15 minutes of fame". "Celebrities" in the 21st century can now be famous simply by being in the right place at the right time. These "celebs" are regular people who originally are not celebrities, becoming celebrities, and are often turned into celebrities based on the ridiculous things they do. An example of this is reality TV contestant Tiffany Pollard also known as "New York", from VH1's Flavor of Love. "In fact, many reality show contestants fall into this category: the only thing that qualifies them to be on TV is that they're real." Other "15 minutes of fame" celebrities can be average people seen with an A-list celebrity, who are sometimes noticed on entertainment news channels such as E! News.
Warhol also hinted that these people would be famous for "15 minutes", or in other words "a really short time until the fad or trend has died out." This also explains why certain people can be world famous in a certain century, decade, year,... but already obscure soon after. Lorenzo de' Medici was a famous Florentine statesman during the 15th century, but today only people who are familiar with history might know his name. Film actors like Harold Lloyd and Louise Brooks, who were world famous in the 1920s are not as well known by the general public nowadays as they were back then. MC Hammer is famous to people who were young in 1990, but later generations are less familiar with his name or music.
Certain people are only remembered today because of a movie portrayal, certain story or urban legend surrounding their life and less for their accomplishments. Antonio Salieri was a famous and well-known 18th-century composer, who sank into obscurity the next two centuries. He was rediscovered thanks to the musical and film Amadeus, but his fictional portrayal as an antagonist has been more famous than his music since the end of the 20th century. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and O.J. Simpson are more notorious for their association with murder trials than for their respective movie and sports careers. Ronald Reagan is more famous as a politician today than as a movie actor. Centuries after his death, Andrea Mantegna now better known as the mentor of Leonardo Da Vinci than for his own paintings.
Celebrities have been flocking to social networking and video hosting sites such as Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, and MySpace. Social networking sites allow celebrities to communicate directly with their fans, removing the middle-man known as traditional media. Social media humanizes celebrities in a way that arouses public fascination as evident by the success of magazines such as Us Weekly and People Weekly. Celebrity blogging have also spawned stars such as Perez Hilton who is well known for not only blogging, but also outing celebrities.
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