A celebrity is a widely-recognized or famous person who commands a high degree of public and media attention. The word stems from the Latin verb "celebrere" but they may not become a celebrity unless public and mass media interest is piqued. For example Virgin Director Richard Branson was famous as a CEO, but he did not become a global celebrity until he attempted to circumnavigate the globe in a hot air balloon.
A small number of celebrities can be considered 'global', in that their fame has spread across the world, even across linguistic and cultural boundaries. These celebrities are often prominent political figures, actors, globally successful artists, musicians and sports stars.
The rise of international celebrities in acting and popular music is due in large part to the massive scope and scale of the media industries, enabling celebrities to be viewed more often and in more places. The reach of entertainment products is further extended by large-scale illegal copying of movies and music, which makes inexpensive pirated versions of DVDs and CDs available throughout even less economically developed countries.
Each culture and region has its own independent celebrity system, with a hierarchy of popular film, television, and sports stars. Celebrities who are very popular might be unknown abroad, except with culturally-related groups, such as within a diaspora. In some cases, a country-level celebrity might command some attention outside their native country, but not to the degree that they can be considered a global celebrity. For example, singer Lara Fabian is widely-known in the French-speaking world, but only had a couple of Billboard hits in the U.S., whereas singer Celine Dion is well-known in both communities.
Subnational entities or regions, or cultural communities (linguistic, ethnic, religious) also have their own 'celebrity systems', especially in linguistically or culturally-distinct regions such as Quebec (a French-speaking province in Canada) and Wales (a constituent country of the UK). Regional radio personalities, newscasters, politicians or community leaders can be considered as local or regional celebrities.
A local celebrity can be more of a household name than a national celebrity and may often experience the same type of attention from the public as a national celebrity albeit in the confines of their particular region. For example, while journalist Lin Sue Cooney is a well known television reporter in Arizona, she is little known outside the Southwestern US.
Another example of celebrity can be merely cultural or unique to a particular diaspora. Tehran Ghasri has a highly celebrated Iranian television program accessible by Iranian satellite. His program is mostly in Persian restricting by nature most of his viewers to be of Iranian, Afghan, Turkish, Armenian, Assyrian or Kurdish descent. His celebrity is acclaimed in the diaspora of Persian speaking people spread through out the world, including the United States, Canada, Europe and Iran. While visibility of the show is world-wide understanding is limited to Persian speaking people. Tehran Ghasri's recognition is mainly cultural or in this case restricted to those of a particular lingual identity. Therefore while his celebrity maybe deemed world-wide geographically it only reflects a small fraction of people.
In a smaller country, linguistic or cultural community, a figure will be less likely to gain a broader celebrity. Shakira and Daddy Yankee were known largely in the Spanish-speaking world before becoming popular in English-speaking communities, by performing English language songs. Similarly, Spanish actors Penélope Cruz, Antonio Banderas, Elsa Pataki, Xoel Pamos and Javier Bardem who were country-level celebrities in their native Spain, were able to become global celebrities only after they became Hollywood actors in English-speaking films.
English-speaking media commentators and journalists will sometimes refer to celebrities as A-List, B-List, C-List, D-List or Z-List. These informal rankings indicate a placing within the hierarchy. However, due to differing levels of celebrity in different regions, it is difficult to place people within one bracket. A Nicaraguan actor might be a B-list action film actor in the US, but be an A-list star in the Czech Republic. 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, but while this method is quantitative, it only works for individuals with distinctive names, e.g., Jason Mewes, not Kevin Smith.
Just as one may become a regional or cultural celebrity, one may also become a celebrity in their niche' market and have limited fame apart from it. While Lisa Leslie is a WNBA player who has transcended her niche' and has gained recognition even among those who do not follow women's basketball, a player such as Janeth Arcain is less likely to be well known among those who do not follow the WNBA. Deitrick Haddon may be a popular gospel singer and considered a celebrity among gospel music fans however he may not be well known among those that do not listen to gospel music.
One may argue that all celebrities are niche' market celebrities, some niche's are simply much bigger than others and many celebrities gain fame apart from their niche' market as well. A good example can be seen among the numerous professional athletes that are well known even among people who do not follow sports.
Some professional activities, by the nature of being high-paid, highly exposed, and difficult to get into, are likely to confer celebrity status. For example, movie stars and television actors with lead roles on prominently scheduled shows are likely to become celebrities. High-ranking politicians, national television reporters, daytime television show hosts, supermodels, successful athletes and chart-topping musicians are also likely to become celebrities. A few humanitarian leaders such as Mother Teresa have even achieved fame because of their charitable work. Some people have achieved fame online and thus are Internet celebrities.
While some film and theatre directors, producers, fashion designers, artists, authors, trial lawyers, journalists and Dancers have achieved celebrity status, in general they are less famous than actors of equal professional importance to the business.
Individuals with their own television show (or sections of television shows) often become a celebrity, even when their profession would not normally lead to celebrity status: this can include doctors, chefs, gardeners, and conservationists on shows like Trading Spaces and The Crocodile Hunter. However, fame based on one program may often prove short-lived after a programme is discontinued. In areas of the world where the relevant programme is not being broadcast, a such person is very likely not to be known. In order to reserve themselves the possibility to have a private life, some local celebrities prefer to live in a part of the world where they are rather unknown; thus, an entertainer who is well known in the German-speaking world could chose to live his private life in the U.S. and fly into Germany to perform his shows (as Thomas Gottschalk actually does), and on the other hand, a U.S. celebrity could decide to privately live in Europe.
An individual can achieve celebrity on the basis of their profession, accomplishments, or notoriety, without necessarily having any family or social connections to aid them. However, there are families where the entire family is considered to have celebrity status. In monarchies, all members of royal families are celebrities, especially when they are associated with a real or perceived scandal. As well, there are artistic 'dynasties', where several members of a family are associated with a profession - such as music, sports or politics.
In Bob Greene’s article “The new stardom that doesn't require paying any dues,” he argues that for “most of man's history...people of talent would work to create something--something written, something painted, something sculpted, something acted out--and it would be passed on to audiences.” With the rise of reality TV shows, Greene points out that audiences have been turned into the creators. He argues that the “alleged stars of the reality shows "Survivor" and "Big Brother,"have become famous not for doing, but merely for being.”
Greene says that “You simply have to be present, in the right place at the right time.” Whereas “...public[ly famous] people were once defined as such based upon the fact that their remarkable skills had brought them to the attention of the public,” Greene states that with reality TV, “one can become a public person just by being a person, in public.”
"Celebrities often have fame comparable to that of royalty," claimed famous author Micha Frydman. 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.
Tabloid magazines and talk TV shows bestow a great deal of attention on celebrities. To stay in the public eye and to make money, more celebrities are participating in business ventures such as celebrity-branded items including books, clothing lines, perfume, and household items.
Clive James, the Australian writer, broadcaster and performer, wrote a book on the phenomenon of fame in the 20th century (Fame in the 20th Century). He contends that true fame was almost unknown before the 20th century, because of lack of global mass media, and the first true media celebrity was Charles Lindbergh, initially because of his aviation feats and later because of the tragic kidnapping and murder of his son.
James points out that celebrity eventually became distinctly different from fame, resulting in the phenomenon of people who are famous for being famous. He cites Elizabeth Taylor as an early example, whose private life made her more of a celebrity than her film career had. He also contends that fame sometimes backfires on those who seek it by depriving them of their privacy for life, a point illustrated by the rise of the paparazzi and their fanatic desire for pictures and personal stories about celebrities.
The whole concept of 'celebrity' and the obsessive interest caused by certain media publications such as 'chat mags' and daily paper gossip columnists, has reduced the notion of celebrity to being anyone who has been on the television, or involved in a third rate reality TV program.
Celebrity Mania; The media is full of news about the rich and famous. Mary Corrigall takes a look at the the forces behind society's insatiable appetite for gossip about famous folk.(Life)
Mar 04, 2007; The rich and famous have always garnered attention, but the past decade has seen Celebrity mania intensify. Politics and...