A socialite is a person who is known to be a part of fashionable society because of his or her regular participation in social activities and fondness for spending a significant amount of time entertaining and being entertained. Some socialites may choose to use their social skills and connections to promote and raise funds for various charitable or philanthropic activities. Socialites are usually in possession of considerable wealth, inherited or self-made, that can sustain their steady attendance at social functions. Their social movements have been published in the UK's Tatler magazine and they might be listed in features such as the Social Register of the United States.


The socialite as a distinct cultural category in American cities arose in the late 19th century Gilded Age. Newspapers expanded greatly and reported the balls, parties and other entertainments among the expanding class of rich people and social climbers. Many newspapers published these reports in a regular "Society" page or section, and the persons who were regularly reported there came to be called "socialites." In the United Kingdom, the term "socialite" was first used to describe well-born women, usually married to prominent husbands, who became popular hostesses and planned extravagant, coveted society parties. Over the years, the term has come to represent people of all stripes and backgrounds who have developed a habitual presence on the social scenes of big metropolitan cities such as London, New York City, Tokyo, and Paris.


Socialites today are men and women known for living entertained lives and being reliably present at notable social events, which may sometimes involve charity fundraisers. Their recognition derives not merely from wealth or social stature, but instead from a reverence for socializing, interest in presenting themselves fashionably, and inclination to beguile. Some socialites are heirs and heiresses while others make their own name and/or money. The term "socialite" can be used in a string of descriptive nouns, such as "author, entrepreneur and socialite" to indicate a professional person's sociable lifestyle, but is perhaps best known for describing people whose recognition comes primarily from being a regular part of glamorous social gatherings.

By the mid-twentieth century, television news gave little attention to members of high society, and in the 1970s newspapers curtailed or discontinued their daily "Society" page to institute a Sunday "Style" section. In recent years, socialites have been largely neglected in the media and social prominence has come to reside with celebrities, who are more famous, have a public profile and are often accomplished at a specific profession. Socialites and celebrities were briefly united in the jet set around 1960 but in later years the former group were absorbed or displaced by the latter.

Distinction from celebrities

Celebrities are usually individuals who have enormous fame and public recognition which, unlike socialites, is not derived from attending and throwing parties. Most of them appear in the media limelight due to professional associations or achievements, especially through the entertainment industries, and they may or may not be inclined to attend parties.

Socialites, on the other hand, have very little public recognition and are known mostly within the media and cultured society circles where they socialize. They might be featured in magazines such as Vanity Fair following an eventful or scandalous occurrence in their lives, such as the elder abuse controversy surrounding American socialite Brooke Astor or the attempted murder charges leveled against British socialite Claus von Bülow.

Celebutantes form a relatively new social category that is used to describe individuals who have the habits of young socialites, known as debutantes, but have gained the media attention that is reserved for celebrities. Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian have been prime examples of this kind of public figures.


See also

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