Whenever I hear that I’m on the brink of stardom, I feel like I want to run into a cave. —Kate Bosworth
As easy as it is for people of my advanced age to look at the current generations of 20-somethings and think them slackers, I have to admit that, in reality, millennials and the Gen-Y folks coming after them seem to have an impressive amount of drive. Stardom seems to be coming to many, and for most of those, it is coming quickly, outside what we might consider “normal channels. Makers of mobile apps can become millionaires literally overnight if their apps become even remotely popular. Appearance on a talent show such as The Voice or American Idol can create a career where none previously existed. The allure of stardom is strong.
The Twittersphere went apoplectic yesterday when model/reality star Emily Ratajkowski posted the following picture:
However sexual our bodies may be, we need to hve the freedom as women to choose whn & how we express our sexuality. pic.twitter.com/1KK0MtXRuv
— Emily Ratajkowski (@emrata) March 30, 2016
Given Ms. Ratajkowski’s rather untraditional rise to stardom, hitching her wagon to that of another reality star of even bigger fame seems to make sense. Mind you, I’m not saying the message behind the tweets is in any way insincere, but this brand of do-it-yourself stardom requires constant maintenance; one has to create ways of constantly remaining in the public eye or one’s star begins to fade.
Retail fashion consultantAdheer Bahulkar wrote an article for WWD earlier this week which advocates a system wherein fast fashion gives rise to new, “fast” designers. The way he sees it, fast fashion outlets such as H&M and Forever 21 have a high demand for new clothes and by essentially turning young designers into brands themselves, the designers achieve a level of stardom much more quickly than they would through the normal path (which can take years).
The fast strategy of do-it-yourself stardom may be best embodied, though, by pop musician Lady Gaga. Looking at a music industry that was already overcrowded with less-than-spectacular talent, Gaga took the bizarre route with wild costuming and outlandish videos that forced people to stop and stare. After building an audience from sheer spectacle, she then dropped the facade and did an album with old-school crooner Tony Bennet, showing much to the surprise of many, that Gaga actually had the musical talent to justify her fame. Gaga turns 30 soon and already has the world by the tail.
As inviting as the fast track to stardom may seem, though, one might do well to question whether such an approach has any permanence. Too often, those who rise to the top quickly also fall into complete obscurity just as quickly. I can’t help but think of the line from the 1954 movie, On The Waterfront where a washed-up boxer confronts his reality:
You don’t understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let’s face it.
Consider self-made supermodel Kate Upton, who was a mainstay in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition from 2012-2014. She’s been completely absent from those pages the past two years, however, and unless she does something particularly outrageous, no one seems especially inclined to notice. Her stardom is not yet gone, but it has faded significantly.
Consider all those winners of American Idol, America’s Got Talent, The Voice, and even Project Runway. Where are they now? Only American Idol’s season 1 winner Kelly Clarkson has been able to keep hold of the fame given her in that fast track to stardom. The remainder still struggle to get noticed, with their reality show wins sometimes even working to their detriment.
Almost every field that yields celebrity is littered with names that were on everyone’s lips for a moment but are completely unknown to us now. Taking the fast-track to stardom is, more often than not, a roller coaster ride that often leaves one in a worse place than from where they started. At the very best, those who do manage to keep some level of shine find that they have to work even harder to keep from falling into complete obscurity.
Taking the fast track to stardom is tempting and there are so very many talented young people who seem poised to make that leap. Perhaps you are one of them. Just remember that, ultimately, no one makes a long-term career out of luck. Hard work has to happen if anyone is going to make the most of their skill and talent. Choose your path carefully. As arduous as it may seem, slow and steady still wins the race.