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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Friday, September 08, 2006

Celebrities: Passé? (Part 1 of 2)

by Jenna Ness

Blame Britney Spears.

A few years ago, the once-glamorous pop tart was photographed coming out of a gas station bathroom in bare feet and it was the “Ewwww” heard ‘round the world. Since then, paparazzi have had a revelation. Why fight to get gorgeous photos on the red carpet, when you can get paid just as well (or sometimes better) for catching stars shoving food in their mouths, filling their cars with gas, or buying toilet paper?

After all, if there’s anything readers enjoy more than pictures of our glamorous heroes, it’s seeing those same heroes taken down a peg or two. In print, on television, and on the internet, casual shots have become big business. One of Us Weekly’s most popular sections has become “Stars: they’re just like Us!”

The pictures and articles have worked too well. We know too much about these people. On some level, we have come to honestly believe that stars are not that different from us – okay, richer and skinnier, but so what? Didn’t I recently see Madonna looking heinous in a track suit and cap after working out? Wasn’t that Sarah Jessica Parker buying lettuce at the supermarket? Didn’t Nicole Kidman recently say that her favorite store is Linens n’ Things?

So when I see Madonna, SJP and Kidman hawking clothes or perfume (for Versace, the Gap, and Chanel No. 5 respectively), the “I can be like them if I buy the stuff” fantasy just doesn’t play like it used to. Especially since we know that nearly everything stars wear is given to them gratis by companies wanting free publicity.

“Ten years ago, having a celebrity in your ad would class it up,” Robert Thompson, founding director at Syracuse University’s Bleier Center for Television and Popular Culture, said recently in the Wall Street Journal. “Now, there’s something cheesy about it. … There are so many celebrities on so many magazines all the time.”

Madonna’s Versace campaign bombed. SJP was fired by the Gap for falling numbers. Even the illustrious Angelina Jolie (whom I would have ranked as a sure thing for selling anything), has seen her multimillion-dollar campaign for St. John Knits this past summer crash and burn.

In response, luxury brands are starting to give up pricey stars and hire unknown models, or even names from the heady Supermodel days of the early ‘90s. Pregnant 41-year-old Linda Evangelista just appeared on Vogue last month after over a year of actresses on the cover. 37-year-old Christy Turlington has just been hired by Versace. Kate Moss, in spite of a cocaine scandal a few months ago, has recovered her modeling contracts, picked up a few more, and is on track to have her best year ever. And young Daria Werbowy, not yet a household name, is poised to become the first new Supermodel in over a decade.

The era of actress as Ultimate Glamous Goddess appears to be ending.

But that's just for clothing and luxury brands. What about companies that sell music, movies and books? With all the technological changes, they’ve been bleeding red ink, and their marketing departments have just started to realize that drastic change is in order.

To be continued next month in part 2, The New Celebrity: You.


At 7:51 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

There's a show, maybe only on for the summer, called Cover Shot (on the Style Network), in which women in their 30's and 40's are transformed into cover models with a billboard on Times Square. A model, a fashion consultant, make-up artist, hair stylist, and fashion photographer all perform their magic and the women really do look like cover models at the end!

At 1:49 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

That sounds like a cool show, Diane.

Jenna, another great post. I always love a good pop culture post. :) I think shoppers are just too savvy to buy into the star hype when making purchases. Doesn't mean they don't still lap up info about favorite stars (goodness knows I'm all over info about David Boreanaz), but buying a product just because a star hawks it? Nah.

At 7:45 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

Cover Shot is on TLC, though. I made a mistake!

At 10:43 AM, Blogger Jennie Lucas said...

Ooh, thanks for the tip, Diane! I love makeover shows. I wonder if that kind of transformation is similar to what Studio 16 does with author photos? Does anyone know?

And Trish - David Boreanaz, huh? I still remember him as Angel. So you wouldn't buy something (dish detergent, for example) if he was in the ad? I bet Diane would buy detergent for Gerry. :)

At 5:38 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

No, I wouldn't necessarily buy the detergent, but I'd sure keep the ad. :)

At 8:18 PM, Blogger Kiki, aka Esri said...

This is interesting stuff, Jenna! Ladies Home Journal recently had an interview with Candice Bergen, and she said her daughter and she make jokes about "Just Like You." "Here's Candice Bergen, taking out the trash!" Here's Candice Bergen, scooping up after the dog!"

It's an interesting question: whether celebrities have more value to us, psychologically, as an ideal to which we aspire, or a reminder that ordinary people can achieve greatness (sometimes, through sheer luck).


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