In February of 2011, Jill Serjeant of Billboard Magazine published one of the most important, thought-provoking pieces of journalism our generation has ever seen: an article entitled “Billy Ray Cyrus: ‘Hannah Montana’ show ‘Destroyed my Family.’” In the piece, Serjeant details Billy Ray Cyrus’s interview with GQ in which he exposes the detrimental effects Miley Cyrus’s fame has had on he and his family’s life. Cyrus claims that his divorce and family problems, along with Miley’s poor behavior and drug use, all stem from the popularity of his family in the mainstream media. Despite the massive coverage of celebrities’ poor behavior, a 2010 survey reported on by The Independent shows that 54 percent of 16-year-olds answered that “[Becoming] a celebrity” was their ideal career path. Generally, when you think of the life of a celebrity, things like money, popularity, and happiness come to mind. However, media coverage of celebs like Lindsay Lohan, Amanda Bynes, and Shia LaBeouf show that fame is not all that it’s cracked up to be. All of them cracked under the heavy burden of living in the public eye.
So why do young people idolize celebrities and vie to live their lives? Perhaps it’s because, as a whole, people have turned a blind eye to the negative aspects of being famous.
In reality, factors such as lack of privacy, societal pressures, and the falsified stigmas surrounding being famous make living a life of distinction quite undesirable.
What makes being famous stressful?
First and foremost, the pressures of society are perhaps one of the biggest pitfalls of celebrity. Celebrities are expected to act, look, dress, and conduct themselves in specific ways. All of their “mistakes” and shortcomings are heartlessly reported by tabloids and teens across the world. In her Billboard article “My Anti-Fame Manifesto,” Australian singer Sia Furler (more commonly known simply by her stage name Sia) perfectly characterizes those who perpetually pressure and criticize celebrities:
“Imagine the stereotypical highly opinionated, completely uninformed mother-in-law character and apply it to every teenager with a computer in the entire world. Then add in all bored people, as well as people whose job it is to report on celebrities. Then, picture that creature, that force, criticizing you for an hour straight once a day, every day, day after day.”
Through her words, Sia we can see that the pressures placed on celebrities are delivered from a wide range of people and media, whether they be teenagers through social media or paparazzi and writers through tabloids. Sia recognizes the perils of living in the public eye, thus why she often claims that she detests fame and wants none of it.
Sia shies away from the spotlight because she’s familiar with the detriments of fame. Early on in her music career, Sia almost committed suicide because she couldn’t deal with the pressures put on her as a celebrity. She struggled with depression, drug addiction, alcoholism, and bipolar disorder all because of the constant scrutiny she was under. She illustrates the adverse effects of fame and the consequences it can hold. Just like Billy Ray Cyrus, Sia’s life was torn apart because of fame.
Do celebrities really have privacy?
Another major downside of being famous is the lack of privacy. In August of 2014, hundreds of risqué photos of dozens of celebrities were leaked by an unknown hacker. Victims of the leak included US women’s soccer goalie Hope Solo, model Kate Upton, and actresses Kaley Cuoco and Jennifer Lawrence. The photos were obtained when the hacker managed to break into several personal iCloud streams. This nefarious act alone shows the extreme lengths that some people will go to make celebrities look bad. It’s also a major invasion of privacy.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Jennifer Lawrence said that “just because [she’s] a public figure, just because [she’s] an actress, does not mean that [she] asked for this.” Which is absolutely right.
Simply because she’s a celebrity doesn’t mean she’s not entitled to any degree of privacy less than that of a common person. This brings up an important question, however: can celebrities expect to have normal private lives?
In an article for BBC News, Genevieve Hassan cites media commenter Mark Borkowski as saying, “[T]o a certain extent, [celebrities] are public property.” By labelling celebrities as “public property,” Borkowski is saying that the fame brought upon them is dehumanizing; they’re not people, but property. As such, their lives are constantly on display through social media, tabloids, and television. Imagine not being able to go to Starbucks or the grocery store without being recognized. Imagine constantly being bombarded by people asking for “selfies” and autographs while you’re trying to enjoy a peaceful day with friends or family. Surely, it’s enough to make someone detest fame. While it might not be that apparent, leading a normal life has its benefits.
People don’t realize that fame ≠ fortune
Finally, there are several misconceptions surrounding being famous. Perhaps the most apparent is that fame equates to fortune. While in the cases of celebrities like the Jenner sisters, Floyd Mayweather, and Beyoncé this might ring true, there are numerous examples of famous people who blew all their money away.
Perhaps the most prominent example is famous rapper MC Hammer, the rapper who rose to fame with his hit song “U Can’t Touch This.” By 1990, Hammer had amassed a personal fortune of $33 million. However, by 1996, Hammer was nearly $4 million in debt. In his contribution to the Time article “Top 9 Celebrity Bankruptcies”, Keith Wagstaff explains that Hammer paid for a two-hundred person entourage that reportedly cost him around $200,000 every month. He also bought himself a quaint $30 million mansion in Fremont, California. Hammer is the perfect example of a celebrity who had plenty of fame, but in the end it resulted in no fortune. Another major misconception about being famous is that it brings happiness. After all, how could you be sad when you’re constantly surrounded by the rich and famous?
To answer this question, we can turn to “Mirrors” singer Justin Timberlake. In an interview with the UK’s Express newspaper, Timberlake says that his fame has caused his relationships with people to change negatively. In the article, Timberlake expresses his unhappiness with the changes brought on by his celebrity. This just goes to show how fame doesn’t always bring happiness since it can, in fact, destroy relationships and influence your life negatively.
So what’s the big picture of it all?
While we may be attracted to the glitz and glamour of the celebrity lifestyle, it’s easy to see that there are a multitude of negative side effects that come along with it. We can see that societal pressures, a lack of privacy, and stigmas make being famous no easy job.
Celebrities like Sia, Jennifer Lawrence, and Justin Timberlake and more have shown us the dark side of the limelight; they’ve expounded on their firsthand experiences with their social status. So next time you think about how perfect it’d be to live like a Kardashian, the next time you think your life would be better as a star, it might be best if you think again.