The Thin Veil of Fame

I just had a rather surreal experience. I was bored and in need of something to do while I procrastinated, so I went on Youtube and stumbled upon a short series called Celebrity Big Brother UK 2002. I’ve always been a Big Brother fan, and this series was only 10 days long, much shorter than a typical Big Brother season, which usually lasts for an entire summer, so I thought, why not? Here was an opportunity to be a voyeur but without the long term commitment.

To summarize, 6 celebrities entered a house where cameras watched them 24 hours a day, and the public voted them off one by one. It was all to raise money for charity. But what made the experience so strange for me was that I didn’t know any of these people. They are celebrities from a different country, and removed by more than a decade. If I passed one of them on the street, I wouldn’t even look up, most likely.

Some of them desperately wanted the world to see what they were really like, while others were more interested in closely guarding their personal character. They were all very conscious of public perception. Several of them talked about how they didn’t have a private life.

But I can’t emphasize this enough: I did not know these people at all. So really, it was pretty much like watching a regular Big Brother season, only at an accelerated pace. To me, they were just people on a reality show.

That must be a really strange feeling. It is all to one extreme or another. Everyone they meet is either a fan or a total stranger. How do you live your life when you’re constantly crossing that border from celebrity to anonymity? What does that do to your ego? How do you approach people when you don’t know which side of the spectrum they will fall on? What’s more shocking, being recognized or being ignored?

If I didn’t know it already, this experience convinced me of the artificial nature of fame. It must be awfully stressful to spend so much time trying to cling to something that is as insubstantial as smoke. It also reinforced the fact that there’s really no need to worry about what people think of you. In the overall scheme of things, we as individuals aren’t really that important, and we need to get over ourselves.

Next time I cross paths with a celebrity I won’t be nearly as intimidated. Actually, I’ll probably feel kind of sorry for them. I may not have much, but I do have a stable sense of my own identity, and can rely on the fact that most people won’t remember me three minutes after I’ve left the room. To be honest, that sure beats the alternative, as far as I can tell.


Famous people or total strangers?

[Image credit:]

5 thoughts on “The Thin Veil of Fame

  1. KerikM

    I can’t imagine being in the spotlight for half a minute, let alone all the time. And reality shows creep me out bigtime, and always have. Even in the name of charity. Even zoo animals have dens. Not just for the lack of privacy but the competition and nastiness. If I believed in any cyclical theory of history, I would consider this prime evidence that this civilization is decadent and on the verge of collapse. But I am neither a voyeur nor a subscriber to that sort of theory. Of course, not having a tv helps.

  2. Alas these lot are famous over here

    Goldie from his music, though I think he made one album and then decided to just focus his life being a celebrity. Melinda Messenger used to be a Page 3 topless model turned presenter. Les Dennis was a comedian turned game show host, I use to live near him. Sue Perkins is the only one I think is great, she’s pretty funny, a comedian turned presenter, she’s cool. Mark Own from the biggest boyband over here until One Direction came about. And Anne Diamond was a staple of breakfast TV presenting in the eighties. Quite glad I know these as I watch any such show or celebrity variant of normal shows now, I can say the same thing, that I have no idea who they are, it’s like someone drained the celebrity pool and just a few flounders left flapping for attention.

    I like your points though, for the most part I’m sure mega celebrities with the attention they get eventually becomes too much. But I know from more minor celebrities I see in London that some of them actively try and get people to notice them, whether in a pub or shop, they talk louder than anyone trying to draw attention to themselves. Thing is no one here is really that bothered, we see plenty of them but they live in the same streets as us so are probably no better off especially if their work has dried up.

  3. Carole

    in spite of the old adage “you’re only as good as your last novel” (replace with career of choice). We tend to be loyal beyond belief. Think Opie, Shirley,Valentino, and lately Modonna, Paris, Kim & Miley. Some fame is fleeting indeed, but who can explain those that endure that only have the gift of reinventing themselves to explain their long term “shine”? I like not being in the limelight. I am a behind the scenes type person, and if I am not remembered except by a select few, that is just fine with me.

    1. I’m with you Carole. I’d rather be the “pay no attention to the man behind the curtain” guy. And I am horrified at this new phenomenon of using a sex video to rocket yourself to a stardom which you then do absolutely nothing to deserve your continued notoriety other than being outrageous.

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