Why anyone can be a celebrity

By: Amanda Ray Filed under: Gaming & Technology

February 6, 2012

students on a computer

Back in the day, it took incredible talent to become a celebrity. Now, it seems all you need is a computer and some determination. Fame is now within anybody’s reach, thanks to the 24-hour news cycle and a constant need for Internet content. Actors, musicians, and athletes are being upstaged by the likes of Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and just about any “what’s his face” performing a stunt on YouTube.

“I think the 24-hour news cycle is more to blame for our focus on celebrity than the Web, per se,” explains Joe Godfrey, academic director of Audio Production and Web Design & Interactive Media at The Art Institute of California – San Diego. “But you can blame the Web to the extent that it contributes to headlines over substance, and immediacy versus depth.”

The arrival of cable news programming sparked around-the-clock news coverage and increased the demand for all sorts of news content. As a result, viewers have become obsessed with up-to-the-minute news and information provided by television and the Web. To fill an entire day with news, a steady stream of gossip about anyone in the limelight — whether they are as big as Lady Gaga or just a real housewife from New Jersey — is mixed in with the more serious news of the day.

People, who last year didn’t know a Snooki from a Snuggie®, are now bombarded with oodles of information and gossip about the Jersey Shore cast.

Me? Celebrity? 

According to Dan Schawbel, personal branding expert and author of Me 2.0, the Internet is a global talent pool that not only pulls people out of obscurity but compels those who are already celebrities to increase their Web presence.

“If you don’t have a strong Internet presence, it will be harder for people to find you,” Schawbel says. “Everybody is producing content and the Internet has forced those building their personal brands to work harder.”

Schawbel says that celebrities are tapping into the power of social media and other online tools to immediately connect with their fans.

“With social media, they have direct contact with their fan base instead of going through media,” he says. “You basically know who your fans are and direct them to your latest appearance, TV show, or concert.”

The Justin Bieber phenomenon shows how sites like YouTube can help propel a fortunate few into superstardom. A couple of years ago, a record label executive discovered videos of Bieber singing while searching on YouTube. The videos were posted by Bieber’s mother for family and friends to see.

Fast forward to today — Bieber is all over the place. The teen pop star is so popular, Google has launched a specific site for him called, where fans can search for anything related to him. He also has more than 5 million followers on Twitter.


While there are many celebrities who have proven that they are  talented enough to deserve fame, there are those who are not quite as worthy of stardom — introducing the pseudo-celebrity.

The stellar life forms that exist in the pseudo-celebrity galaxy include; celebutantes — heirs to fortunes who have become famous — like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian; celebrities by association like Nicole Richie and Bristol Palin; and the elusive impregnators like Kevin Federline, Jon Gosselin, and Levi Johnston.

Due in large part to reality television, people with no discernible talent can get their time to shine, but Godfrey says, even TV shows built around showcasing talent can sometimes fall short.

“I think what worries me more is that so many shows seem obsessed with averageness,” he says. “Every time I see somebody flame out on American Idol I think about the truly talented singers who are probably sitting home, and should be on TV.”

Schawbel says that people can still recognize true talent, but it is about putting those with it in the proper channels.

“Even if you are very talented, you still have to know how to market yourself,” he says.


Then there are Internet microcelebrities — people who have a cult or mainstream following because of viral Internet distribution. Microcelebrities may not be famous to millions of people, but they are well-known to a smaller group connected through sites like YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook and through blogs. Think gossip blogger Perez Hilton and YouTube star Chris Crocker, who just wanted everyone to leave Britney alone.

“For many, widespread fame is not the most important thing,” Schawbel says. “Some people just want to connect with a targeted group about something they are interested in or good at. Because of the Web, everybody can become a microcelebrity.”

No matter how it happens, or if it’s even warranted, becoming famous is no longer just for singers, movie stars, or athletes. Today it’s about being in the right place at the right time, self promotion, marketing, and it doesn’t hurt to have wireless Internet.

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