- Category: Commentaries
- Written by Jane Musoke-Nteyafas
Chasing the Hollywood Joneses
We are living in a celebrity-obsessed society. A society in which millions of people, especially women are obsessed with being someone else other than their true selves. One of the greatest manifestations of this issue is the desire to emulate celebrities. They have become models for the latest trends in almost everything, ranging from fashion to cars to homes to jewellery. With tabloids and magazines showcasing every item a celebrity owns and showcasing them as must-haves, it is easy to see how many people; especially women would fall into that trap of wanting to be like a particular celebrity.
From the glamorous Oscar® night parties, to the million-dollar pay cheques, to being serenaded by Oscar de La Renta’s and other fashion designers to wear gorgeous gowns, to the Manolo Blahniks, to the L’Oreal and Pepsi endorsements, to the magazine cover profiles, to the out-of–this-world vacations and luxury spas, to the seemingly spotless skins and endless beauty, it seems that celebrities have it all.
There is an illusion that Hollywood is a magical land of happiness, fantasy and beauty. Celebrities are seen by millions of people all over the world as people who live happily ever after. After all they have the millions to pay for everything they own, right? But is everything what it seems?
Even billionaire Oprah Winfrey admitted that everything is not always what it seems. Oprah could not have said it better on her show on Tuesday April 19th 2006 where she featured people who were living lies, one of them a 24-year old woman who was obsessed with looking like a celebrity. Oprah mentioned that the celebrity craze and worship in America has risen to astronomically scary heights and many people are living lies. She mentioned that it had reached such an incredible pinnacle that she felt she had to address it. Millions of people – again mostly women - are racking up debts, visiting plastic surgeons, starving themselves and basically setting unrealistic goals for themselves in order to look like Jennifer Lopez, Angelina Jolie and the Sex and the City gals (fashion sense and all.)
What many do not realize is that celebrity life is really about illusion, buzz, publicity and glamour. Yes, it can have its glamorous side but like all stories there is another side to it. Phillip Bloch who is a top Hollywood stylist and the mastermind behind a lot of the star's trendsetting looks says the Hollywood image everyone is buying into isn't what it seems. "It's all about creating this whole world, this magical fairy-tale land to create this great illusion."
A lot of work goes into creating that image: from hairstylists, to fashion stylists, to publicists, to dieticians to personal trainers, to the media, to airbrushing – what we get to see is the result of this entire good PR, image-creating mélange. The illusion of success of Hollywood stars basically translates into sales for everyone involved. If Versace or Vera Wang dresses Jennifer Aniston, Beyoncé, or Nicole Kidman, it will generate sales for them. If Angela Bassett holds a Gucci bag at the Oscars, it will generate sales for them. If P. Diddy wears his Sean John brand, it will generate sales for him. If Michael Jordan wears Nike it will generate sales for them. Cover Girl, Garnier, Fresh and Lovely, Coca Cola, Reebok, McDonalds, trendy spas, trips, airlines, design watches, jewellery and so much more will also benefit from this arrangement.
That is because there are a growing number of people who feel that they must have those products too, even if it means pulling out the credit cards, committing fraud, stealing, borrowing or going broke. This would explain why last year thousands of teenagers went out to buy $700.00 dollar boots after they had seen the Olsen twins wearing them in a magazine or why a woman making $20, 000 a year will buy a $500.00 Louis Vuitton bag that she saw in a Lil’ Kim video.
What is the truth?
What many people do not realize is the fact that these products which have average Joe and Mary breaking their banks in order to acquire are given to celebrities free of charge or are simply borrowed.
Many celebrities attest to that. One of them, the beautiful actress Gabrielle Union clarified that most celebrities aren't even paying for a lot of the latest must-haves. "I've gotten everything—literally—from purses to clothes to trips free of charge. There's no need to go into debt trying to chase a celebrity who didn't pay for it in the first place!"
Even Donald Trump, one of the richest men in the world, mentioned in an interview that he gets a lot of free things including meals at the most expensive restaurants in the world. Many hip hop artists admit that some of the things they wear, the cars they drive in videos and the houses they display in their videos are borrowed and rented.
What about their picture perfect beauty?
Aisha Tyler another celebrity, who is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful black actresses and comediennes out there, pointed out in interview in Glamour Magazine that even she, as beautiful as she is, had her photo airbrushed before it hit the print stands. There were before and after images of her in the magazine, showing what had been done to ‘improve’ her, including slimming certain parts of her body and face, removing a few spots and lines, removing two pimples, removing stray hairs, whitening her teeth and lightening up her tired eyes. The changes were subtle but she looked beautiful even before they had been done. She had mentioned that it did affect her ego because she had worked out, eaten healthy and was in what she had thought was her best shape. Imagine what this does for the other millions of women out there who can never attain any of the airbrushed, unrealistic enhancements which are portrayed as the epitome of picture-perfect.
Somebody – most likely a man - went and picked a random number, 0, and decided that this would be the size of the ideal woman. Whoever did that, probably forgot that most women have curves, breast, hips and butts which throw them out of the size 0-4 loop. No amount of starving or exercise can attain that. The problem is that many women believed that hype and set out to succumb to that ideal. So as a result many women from celebrities to your neighbour are starving, exercising, slicing, botoxing, throwing up, and doing whatever else they can conceive to fit the unrealistic standard that somebody set.
Much as the media likes to pick on her, Oprah is not the only one with weight and self worth issues - look at Star Jones, Calista Flockhart, Nicole Ritchie, the Olsen twins and Whitney, not to mention millions of women all over the world. Women trying to fit a unilateral benchmark weight and size wise are the norm today. Subtly telling women that they are not enough as they are was one of the most criminal acts ever to be done to women seeing as women’s images are very important to them. How they are perceived is extremely important to them. Women more than men are obsessed with being beautiful - and to limit that to a limited vision is nothing short of a crime. But it seems like the ideal of beauty changes every ten years or so and totally ignores the multicultural and physiognomic diversity. Hopefully like the mini-skirt which keeps appearing every fear years, Marilyn Monroe curves will come back.
The press as the middleman
Of course it does not help that the press spends far too much time covering the private lives of celebrities, catering to those who live vicariously through these celebrities. They feed into the general public’s fascination with celebrities, hence promoting materialism, momentary self-gratification, superficiality and a false sense of self-worth, beauty and security. There is not a newspaper stand or television channel which does not feature celebrities. Celebrity magazines and shows are multiplying like rabbits. We can see that in the proliferation of celebrity shows, from Extra to E-Talk, to Star! to ET – They are endless.
Consumers unfortunately think that the Hollywood illusion can rub into their lives and transform their lives magically. Many times celebrities are portrayed at their happiest moments – what Oprah refers to as their Kodak moment - and so the general public assumes that they are always happy. They imagine that by acquiring all the material possessions celebrities have, they too can give off the semblance of happiness, wealth, popularity and success. They wrongfully think that by dressing, driving, shopping, smelling, dining and partying like a celebrity they will be happy. They mistakenly think by leading false lives and being what they are not they will be happier.
They do not realize that they are cheating themselves out of their own lives. They are robbing the world of their own uniqueness. We are all brought to this world to live the best of our lives, and that is not done by trying to be the Joneses or anybody else. Celebrities are human beings just like the rest of us. Let us have the power to be ourselves. The pop star Pink has challenged the status quo of certain celebrities with her new song ''Stupid Girls''. JK Rowlings – the Harry Potter series author - has done that as well by criticising celebrities who are what she calls "empty-headed, self-obsessed, emaciated clones…in a skinny-obsessed world.” Seeing as they are both celebrities in their own right, maybe we should take a cue from them and instead of trying to be other people, just try to be the best that we could be as OURSELVES.
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