The changing nature of celebrities

Now I am sure we have all seen Katy Perry’s latest performance on SNL with rap trio Migos…. but if you haven’t, the only word to describe it is: CRINGE! 

I personally found watching it without sound to be so much more bearable, but still, I just have so many questions!! All beginning and ending with: WHY?!?

However, this isn’t the first time I have questioned why whilst witnessing a celebrity attempt to change their image in the pursuit of trying something new. The first few people that come to mind are the likes of Miley Cyrus, Justin Bieber and Lindsay Lohan. However, in terms of full career change they have nothing compared to good old “I’ll be back” star Arnold Schwarzenegger, and New York’s much-loved sisters, The Olsen Twins.

Aside from Arnys rise to fame the notion of the changing celebrity got me thinking.

Celebrities dominate contemporary pop culture; with their names, brands and images saturating modern media. The culture of the ‘celebrity’ has changed dramatically over the years as; you guessed it, the spread of the Internet, mass media and society. Celebrities used to be singular stars within the fields of signing, writing or acting however now they are known for much much more. Oliver Driessens uses the term the ‘celebritization’ to depict their evolving capability, “…celebritization is conceptualised as a meta-process that grasps the changing nature, as well as the societal and cultural embedding of celebrity”.

Within todays list of celebrities there are a handful that supersede traditional notions of the ‘celebrity’ as we all know them as your elite A-lister’s. These ‘larger than life’ individuals are not just entertainers but tastemakers. Instead of contributing to culture through mere artistic expression, these celebrities are defined by their power and influence within the public sphere. Public sphere is defined by Jurgen Habermas as “a discursive space in which individuals and groups associate to discuss matters of mutual interest and, where possible, to reach a common judgement about them”.

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This ‘new celebrity’ sees a swift change from celebrity entertainers as we know them to be to shift towards celebrity entrepreneurs in the 21st century. Furthermore, with the age of globalisation and mediatisation, the celebrity takes on a whole new meaning. Celebrities today sign multimillion dollar endorsement deals to advertise consumer products. From cosmetics to phone deals, these products serve as a just another vehicle to imbed their identity and brand into another market.

One name that comes to mind as much as it pains me to say are the Kardashian/Jenner clan. They have created their own empire- ranging from a clothing store, emojis, makeup, mobile app and books.. the list goes on. You name it they have basically done it. However, you can’t deny that they know what they are doing when it comes to making money.

But in my opinion there are a few other people whom reflect this idea of celebrity entrepreneur way better than Kardashian/Jenners as I mentioned earlier-  The Olsen twins and Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now despite their need to not ever smile, The Olsen have gone from child stars on the program ‘Full House’ and ‘New York Minute’ to fashion designers in one swift transition. Arnold on the other hand has moved his carrier into politics taking the form of John Street’s idea ‘celebrity politician’. Street outlines the concept of a ‘celebrity politician’ to be “…an elected politician whose background is in entertainment, show business or sport, and who trades on this background in the attempt to get elected”.

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The most note worthy influence into the changing nature of celebrities is their ability to saturate the media. New forms of digital and social media are aiding the very nature in which celebrities are seen in society today. Celebrities are able to market themselves to consumers using social media and therefore become omnipresent. As Ellis Cashmore author of Celebrity Culture says ‘ Like it or loathe it, celebrity culture is with us: it surrounds us and even invades us. It shapes our thought and conduct, style, and manner. It affects and is affected by not just hard-core fans but by entire populations’.

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The diverse nature of the developing role of the ‘celebrity’ is much more complex than it has ever been, with their power and status becoming more influential with every change. I guess you could say celebrities are more engaged and switched on than we ever thought, repositioning their identity and personal brand as more than just a pretty face. This ever-changing celebrity environment is just something that develops and flows with the current trends and times. Much like Katy Perry’s performance, they have us talking and I guess that’s half their goal in ensuring they stay relevant.

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