Celebrity or the slang term celeb, refers to the fame and public attention accorded by the mass media to individuals or groups or, occasionally, animals, but is usually applied to the persons or groups of people (celebrity couples, families, etc.) themselves who receive such a status of fame and attention. Celebrity status is often associated with wealth (commonly referred to as fame and fortune), while fame often provides opportunities to earn revenue.
Successful careers in sports and entertainment are commonly associated with celebrity status, while political leaders often become celebrities. People may also become celebrities due to media attention on their lifestyle, wealth, or controversial actions, or for their connection to a famous person.
Athletes in Ancient Greece were welcomed home as heroes, had songs and poems written in their honor, and received free food and gifts from those seeking celebrity endorsement. Ancient Rome similarly lauded actors and notorious gladiators, and Julius Caesar appeared on a coin in his own lifetime (a departure from the usual depiction of battles and divine lineage).In the early 12th century, Thomas Becket became famous following his murder. He was promoted by the Christian Church as a martyr and images of him and scenes from his life became widespread in just a few years. In a pattern often repeated, what started out as an explosion of popularity (often referred to with the suffix 'mania') turned into a long-lasting fame: pilgrimages to Canterbury Cathedral where he was killed became instantly fashionable and the fascination with his life and death have inspired plays and films.
The cult of personality (particularly in the west) can be traced back to the Romantics in the 18th century, whose livelihood as artists and poets depended on the currency of their reputation. The establishment of cultural hot-spots became an important factor in the process of generating fame: for example, London and Paris in the 18th and 19th centuries. Newspapers started including gossip columns and certain clubs and events became places to be seen in order to receive publicity.
The movie industry spread around the globe in the first half of the 20th century and with it the now familiar concept of the instantly recognizable faces of its superstars. Yet, celebrity wasn't always tied to actors in films, especially when cinema was starting out as a medium. As Paul McDonald states in The Star System: Hollywood's Production of Popular Identities, "in the first decade of the twentieth century, American film production companies withheld the names of film performers, despite requests from audiences, fearing that public recognition would drive performers to demand higher salaries." Public fascination went well beyond the on-screen exploits of movie stars and their private lives became headline news: for example, in Hollywood the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor and in Bollywood the affairs of Raj Kapoor in the 1950s.
The second half of the century saw television and popular music bring new forms of celebrity, such as the rock star and the pop group, epitomised by Elvis Presley and the Beatles, respectively. John Lennon's highly controversial 1966 quote: "We're more popular than Jesus now," which he later insisted was not a boast, and that he was not in any way comparing himself with Christ, gives an insight into both the adulation and notoriety that fame can bring. Unlike movies, television created celebrities who were not primarily actors; for example, presenters, talk show hosts, and news readers. However, most of these are only famous within the regions reached by their particular broadcaster, and only a few such as Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer, or David Frost could be said to have broken through into a wider stardom.
In the '60s and early '70s the book publishing industry began to persuade major celebrities to put their names on autobiographies and other titles in a genre called celebrity publishing. In most cases the book was not written by the celebrity but by a ghost-writer, but the celebrity would then be available for a book tour and appearances on talk shows.
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 United States.
Regions within a country, or cultural communities (linguistic, ethnic, or 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.
In politics, certain politicians are recognizable to many people, usually the head of state and the Prime Minister. Yet only heads of state who play a major role in international politics have a good chance of becoming famous outside their country's borders, since they are constantly featured in mass media. The President of the United States, for instance, is famous by name and face to millions of people around the world. Since World War II the U.S. Presidential elections are followed closely all across the globe, making the elected candidate instantly world-famous as a result. In contrast, both the Pope and The Dalai Lama are far more famous under their official title than under their actual names. Usually when politicians leave active politics their recognizability tends to diminish among general audiences, as other politicians replace them in their official political functions. Certain politicians, however, are still famous today, even decades or centuries after they were in power. They owe their fame to historical deeds which are kept in memory in history classes, for instance people like Julius Caesar, Genghis Khan, Napoleon Bonaparte, Abraham Lincoln and Mao Zedong. Scandal can also unwillingly make certain politicians famous, even among those who aren't particularly interested in politics.
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 U.S., but an A-list star in Portugal.
Some elements are associated with fame, such as appearing on the cover of Time, being spoofed in Mad, having a wax statue in Madame Tussauds, or receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
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, Tiger Woods a golfer, Richard Branson, Bill Gates, and Donald Trump are entrepreneurs, Albert Einstein a scientist; Mozart and Beethoven classical composers; Luciano Pavarotti an opera singer, Bruce Lee a martial artist, William Shakespeare a playwright, Walt Disney an animator and Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong astronauts.
Criminals can also become world-famous if the media cover their crimes, arrest, trial and possible punishment extensively and/or if the crime itself is sensational enough. Assassins of high-profile celebrities can become famous, like Brutus who is remembered for murdering Julius Caesar. People who commit extremely gruesome crimes can also achieve infamy, such as Nazi doctor Josef Mengele. Certain criminals have achieved lasting fame thanks to romanticization in popular culture, such as Guy Fawkes, Blackbeard, Billy the Kid and Bonnie & Clyde. Others owe their fame to never being identified or caught, like Jack the Ripper, or by regularly being interviewed in jail, like Charles Manson. However, certain criminals are covered far less extensively in media and, as such, don't become very famous at all. In other cases the huge media coverage disappears after the conclusion of their trial, causing them to fade in obscurity again. This has even happened to people who commit high-profile crimes, like François Ravaillac whose murder of Henry IV of France in 1610 is nowadays only remembered by people with historic knowledge. In some cases people who've been acquitted of certain crimes are still remembered as being guilty today, like Lizzie Borden, showing that the sensation occasionally overshadows the actual facts.
The same phenomenon is true for fictional characters. Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Frankenstein's Monster and James Bond continue to be portrayed in film, television and literature decades after the original stories were published. Superman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Wonder Woman, and Batman represent super heroes to a far wider audience than that of the comics and graphic novels in which they appear. The same can be said about other comics characters which enjoy international distribution and syndication such as Popeye, Tintin, Snoopy, Astérix, Garfield and Astro Boy. Disney have theme parks around the world which rely on the fame of its creations headed by Mickey Mouse. Thanks to the global reach of film and television characters like King Kong, Godzilla, The Flintstones, The Muppets and The Simpsons are instantly recognizable to millions. Certain fictional characters known from TV series have become so famous that their names are more well known than those of the actors who perform them. A good example is Larry Hagman who played J.R. Ewing on the TV series Dallas. When his character was shot during a cliffhanger episode without the viewers knowing who was the killer, it caused a media hype around the question: Who Shot J.R.?. By the time the answer was given in the first episode of the next season millions of people instantly recognized Hagman's face as J.R. rather than that of himself. Some characters from video and computer games have developed a celebrity life beyond these media, such as Mario, Lara Croft and Pikachu. Certain advertising characters have also become iconic thanks to decades of constant merchandising, such as Ronald McDonald
, Bibendum and Hello Kitty.
Becoming a celebrity
People may become celebrities in a wide range of ways; from their professions, following appearances in the media, or 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, of course, 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 the fields of sports and entertainment, or a person may be a public figure who is commonly recognizable in mass media with commercial and critical acclaim.
Though glamour and wealth may certainly play a role for only famous celebrities, most people in the sports and entertainments spheres, be it music, film, television, radio, modelling, comedy, literature etc. live in obscurity and only a small percentage achieve fame and fortune.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 due to society's disinterest in science, invention, medicine, and courtroom law which is not fictional. American microbiologist Maurice Hilleman is credited with saving more lives than any other medical scientist of the 20th century. After Hilleman's death Ralph Nader wrote, "Yet almost no one knew about him, saw him on television, or read about him in newspapers or magazines. His anonymity, in comparison with Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jose Canseco, or an assortment of grade B actors, tells something about our society's and media's concepts of celebrity; much less of the heroic."
A number of athletes who are unable to turn professional take a second job or even sometimes abandon their athletic aspirations in order 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. 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 recruiting and scouting up-and-coming athletes.
Becoming a celebrity in the U.S.
The Screen Actors Guild, a union representing actors and actresses throughout Hollywood reports that the average television and film actor earns less than US$50,000 annually; the median hourly wage for actors was $18.80 in May 2015. 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 as 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.
According to American entertainment magnate Master P, entertainers and professional athletes make up less than 1% of all millionaires in the entire world. Less than 1% of all runway models are known to make more than US$1000 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 and was also listed one of the top ten worst jobs in the United States.
Forbes Celebrity 100
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. Forbes cites that Lady Gaga reportedly earned over $90 million in 2010. 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. In 2013, Madonna was ranked as the fifth most powerful and the highest earning celebrity of the year with earnings of $125 million. She has consistently been among the most powerful and highest earning celebrities in the world, occupying the third place in Forbes Celebrity 100 2009 with $110 million of earnings, and getting the tenth place in the 2010 edition of the list with annual earnings equal to $58 million.
Entrepreneurship and endorsements
Celebrity endorsements have proven very successful around the world where, due to increasing consumerism, an individual is considered to own a status symbol when they purchase a celebrity-endorsed product. Although it has become commonplace for celebrities to place their name with endorsements onto products just for quick money, some celebrities have gone beyond merely using their names and have put their entrepreneurial spirit to work by becoming entrepreneurs by attaching themselves in the business aspects of entertainment and building their own business brand beyond their traditional salaried activities. Along with investing their salaried wages into growing business endeavors, a number of celebrities have become innovative business leaders in their respective industries, gaining the admiration of their peers and contributing to the country’s economy.
Numerous celebrities have ventured into becoming business moguls and established themselves as entrepreneurs, idolizing many well known American business leaders such as Bill Gates and Warren Buffett. 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 leaving behind a distinguished acting career, and rap musician Birdman started his own record label, clothing line, and an oil business while maintaining a career as a rap artist. Brazilian football legend and World Cup winner Ronaldo became the majority owner of La Liga club Real Valladolid in 2018. 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 beyond their traditional activities of screenwriting, directing, animating, producing, and acting.Various examples of celebrity turned entrepreneurs included in the table below are:
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, publishing, fashion designing, cosmetics, consumer electronics, household items and appliances, cigarettes, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, hair care, hairdressing, 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: and toddler related items, sports team ownership, fashion retailing, establishments such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, and casinos, movie theaters, advertising and event planning, management related ventures such as sports management, financial services, model management, and talent management, record labels, film production, television production, publishing such as book and music publishing, massage therapy, 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 to earn a living. Most businesses and investments are well known to have a 90 to 95 percent failure rate within the first five years of operation. 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 reputable 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. This means they can have an unfair advantage to expose their business ventures and endorsements and can easily capture a more significant amount of market share than the average entrepreneur.
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. The release of Kim Kardashian's sex tape with rapper Ray J in 2003 brought her to a new level of fame, leading to magazine covers, book deals, and reality TV series.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. Some celebrities have been very vocal with their political views. For example, Matt Damon expressed his displeasure with 2008 US vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as well as with the 2011 United States debt-ceiling crisis.
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.The coinages "famesque" and "celebutante" are of similar pejorative gist.
Also known as being internet famous, contemporary fame doesn't always involve a physical red carpet.
Online Fame in Asia
A report by BBC highlighted a longtime trend of Asian internet celebrities such as Chinese celebrity Wang Hong (birth name Ling Ling). According to BBC, there are two kinds of online celebrities in China—those who create original content, such as Papi Jiang, who is regularly censored by Chinese authorities for cussing in her videos, and those such as Wang Hong and Zhang Dayi, who fall under the second category, as they have clothing and cosmetics businesses on Taobao, China's equivalent of Amazon.
Social networking and video hosting
Most high-profile celebrities participate in social networking and photo or video hosting platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat. 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.Social media sites have also contributed to the fame of some celebrities, such as Tila Tequila who became known through MySpace.
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 Hilton and Rothschild families with business; the Jackson family with popular music; and the Osbourne, Chaplin, Kardashian, Baldwin, and Barrymore families with television and film.
Access to celebrities is strictly controlled by their entourage of staff which includes managers, 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.
Cult of celebrity
15 minutes of fame
Andy Warhol famously coined the phrase "15 minutes of fame" in reference to a short-lived publicity. Certain "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. These persons are ordinary people becoming celebrities, often based on the ridiculous things they do. "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."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, but his fictional portrayal as an antagonist (for example, in the musical and film Amadeus) 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. Centuries after his death, Andrea Mantegna is now better known as the mentor of Leonardo da Vinci than for his own paintings.
John Cleese said being famous offers some advantages such as financial wealth and easier access to things that are more difficult for non-famous people to access, such as the ability to more easily meet other famous or powerful people, but that being famous also often comes with the disadvantage of creating the conditions in which the celebrity finds themselves acting, at least temporarily (although sometimes over extended periods of time), in a superficial, inauthentic fashion.Common threats such as stalking have spawned celebrity worship syndrome where a person becomes overly involved with the details of a celebrity's personal life. Psychologists have indicated that though many people obsess over glamorous film, television, sport and music stars, the disparity in salaries in society seems to value professional athletes and entertainment industry based professionals. One study found that singers, musicians, actors and athletes die younger on average than writers, composers, academics, politicians and businesspeople, with a greater incidence of cancer and especially lung cancer. However, it was remarked that the reasons for this remained unclear, with theories including innate tendencies towards risk-taking as well as the pressure or opportunities of particular types of fame.Furthermore, some have said fame might have negative psychological effects, and may lead to increasingly selfish tendencies and psychopathy.
Recently, there has been more attention toward the impact celebrities have on health decisions of the population at large. It is believed that the public will follow celebrities' health advice to some extent. This can have positive impacts when the celebrities give solid, evidence informed health advice, however it can also have detrimental affects if the health advice is not accurate enough.
Goldman, Jonathan (2011) Modernism Is the Literature of Celebrity. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2011. ISBN 978-0-292-72339-9
Grinin, Leonid (2009) "‘People of Celebrity’ as a New Social Stratum and Elite". In Hierarchy and Power in the History of Civilizations: Cultural Dimensions (pp. 183–206). / Ed. by Leonid E. Grinin and Andrey V. Korotayev. Moscow: KRASAND/Editorial URSS, 2009
Miles, Barry (1997). Paul McCartney: Many Years From Now. Henry Holt & Company. ISBN 978-0-436-28022-1.
Schikel, Richard. Intimate Strangers: The Culture of Celebrity New York: Doubleday, 1985. ISBN 0-385-12336-1
Quotations related to Fame at Wikiquote
Media related to Celebrities at Wikimedia Commons