I wanna be famous…REALLY???

i really wanna be famous

by Kenneth Justice

~Whenever young people are asked, “Would you rather be given a million dollars or be famous?” the majority of young people in the Western World answer unequivocally “I wanna be famous!”

I happen to live in a metropolitan area that has been granting Hollywood Film Studios money and other incentives to film their movies in our cities. Thus, over the past number of years the coffee shops I hang out at have been the stomping grounds of all the A-List actresses and actors that fill the big screen and those that are apart of many people’s weekly television viewing habits; the celebrities are everywhere.

Some of my coffee house acquaintances are obsessed with racking up lists of all the actors and actresses they have shaken hands with or had coffee next to; some of these acquaintances have become so tiresome with their celebrity obsession that I find myself making a B-line out the door of the café if I see them sitting down.

A couple weeks ago a particular celebrity ordered coffee and sat down at my table to read the newspaper early one morning. He and I had chitchatted a few times in the past but I reserve the morning time for writing my articles so I have only ever politely responded to him, not wanting to get caught up in a deep conversation.

While I sat there typing away at my laptop and he sat there reading the newspaper…..unfortunately the word got out that “he” was sitting in the café so that within fifteen minutes, a quiet morning drinking coffee and writing a couple articles became a massive annoyance as a bloody conga line of customers kept coming over to our table to ask if they could ‘shake his hand’, congratulate him on his work, or to get his autograph……neither he nor I could take it anymore and finally we both left together.

Obviously, celebrity worship is nothing new in the Western World. From Tinsel Town’s golden years, and every era in between, men, women and children in the Western World love celebrities. Musicians, actors, athletes, fill-in-the-blank; celebrities have become so beloved in our culture that while we will complain about the supposed injustice of a big business CEO earning 3 million a year…..we don’t say a word about an actor who makes 40 million dollars a year making films where things blow up and the dialogue leaves a lot to be desired.

Young people wanna be famous. Like small pox or the bubonic plague; celebrity worship and “I-wanna-be-famous-itus’ is one of the most contagious epidemics our culture is experiencing. But is there a cure? Should there be a cure? Perhaps there is nothing wrong with the out-of-whack obsession people have in worshiping celebrities?

An Evangelical pastor friend-of-mine recently retired and over a cup of coffee I asked him what he wanted to do with his life now. “Well Kenneth, I’ve been working on a couple book ideas and what I really want to do is to get a book published and spend the rest of my life touring the United States speaking at Evangelical conferences”. It took me a moment to realize he was being serious; publishing the book I understood….but what the hell was his true motivation for being a full-time conference speaker? Was it to truly help people…..or merely to be a famous Christian Speaker? I won’t pretend to know his heart…..but I had never heard someone who was so much older than me so openly admit to wanting to be ‘seen and heard‘.

Being ‘seen and heard’ is not something that interests me nor does it sound like it would be very fun. As we’ve seen with many celebrities in recent years; all of your flaws become front page news…..so why someone would aspire to being famous is something I haven’t figured out.

One of the great ironies in life is that once a person becomes famous; they spend the rest of their life hiding from the public and trying to live a quiet life away from the eyes of their fans.

Many psychologists believe our culture’s celebrity obsession is rooted in the idea that many people do not like their life. Worshipping a celebrity then, becomes an opportunity to live vicariously through the life of someone rich and famous; and so celebrity magazines and rags tell us where the celebrity went to shop today, where they partied on Friday night, and every other little tad bit of gossip to do with their inane life. And this is what concerns me to no end;

—) What is wrong with Western Culture that so many people are unsatisfied with their lives?

—) What is wrong with society that people feel compelled to spend so much of their time thinking about celebrities who are generally irrelevant to our lives?

—) What is wrong with our culture that so many people, both young and old, are obsessed with being famous?

To say that celebrities are not one of my fascinations would be an understatement. I can’t really tell you why they don’t interest me. Perhaps it is because I already feel a bit overwhelmed keeping up with all my friends, acquaintances, and clients as it is. I simply don’t have time to follow the monotonous daily exploits of someone whom I have never met or who I hardly know.

Thankfully the café is quiet this morning, I think I will enjoy another cup of coffee,







Categories: Culture & Society

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58 replies

  1. Another wonderful, helpful post for me, Kenneth. I think a lot about celebrity, also, including the fascination that holds for me. Maybe I’ll write a blog post about THAT, before the end of the year. In any case, thank you so much for writing and sharing this today.

    • Ann,

      so many people (especially young people) only seem to see the glamorous side to being famous and “being seen”….but if we look at the whole picture I suspect that being famous isn’t what many of us think ‘its cracked up to be’……

      take for instance the world of blogging; I wonder how many people start blogging and think to themselves “I want to gain a massive audience….I want to be a famous blogger” but don’t really realize what that completely entails…..

      I see a lot of bloggers out there who know how to market themselves, and who are able to drive a lot of traffic to their blog….but then when I look at their product (what they write) I’m VERY unimpressed…..it says a lot about their character that they spend more time trying to get people to read what they write….and so little time becoming a good writer.

      sorry for the long response….just a lot of thoughts I have this morning 🙂

    • No need to apologize, Kenneth. I always appreciate your thoughts.

  2. “Celebrity obsession is rooted in the idea that many people do not like their life”

    Change “like” with “live”…

  3. Hear! Hear!

    Reality shows, created because they were cheap to produce have become the bread and butter of networks. Now, anyone can be seen…or heard. Now, even the national news is becoming a source of tabloid gossip and five minutes of fame sponsorship.

    Sadly, the desire to be famous moves beyond wanting to be like an actor or singer. People are doing stupid, harmful and even immoral activities just to get their five minutes of fame. The dwindling spiral of our moral culture has become a vortex.

    • Mrs P.

      “People are doing stupid, harmful and even immoral activities just to get their five minutes of fame”

      As people should know by now…i’m one of the SLOWEST people when it comes to judging someone else or the decisions they make…but I recently read an article about a d-list comedian (who i had never heard of before)…she filmed a porno with some famous porno dude….obviously the motivation behind her decision was to better her comic career. And i’m not throwing any moral judgments at her for her decision…..but as I was reading the article (which the comedian herself wrote) I couldn’t help but wonder; if she wasn’t motivated by furthering her comedic career would she have filmed the porno?

    • Yes…she has always seemed to prefer the shock and awe effect…either misguided in terms of what humor is or has some serious self esteem issues.

  4. I’m just about ready for my cup of coffee and methinks you must drink it all day long :P. But I ever so much enjoying reading what that cup brews in that head of yours! I fully agree with you, so fully agree with you–I think my own irritation, and irritation it is, unfortunately, is the glorification that is attached to it. I think that people are just people, and they deserve the opportunity to be so, on the celebrity end–and those who aspire to become what they feel is great in their lives, are feeding the self alone. I serve God–that’s all I will say. Thank you for so eloquently putting into words the thoughts of many. Peace–and now I’m going to sip my coffee before I head to my volunteer job! 🙂

    • Dana,

      “unfortunately, is the glorification that is attached to it. I think that people are just people, and they deserve the opportunity to be so”

      excellent point.

      I actually wrote this article a month ago and waited to publish it because I really didn’t want people to think that I was criticizing those who pursued celebrity-type-jobs..(actors, musicians, etc)…

      I don’t have an axe to grind if someone aspires to be an actor or any of those type of careers….but hopefully we each look at our own heart and consider what is motivating us behind whatever we are pursuing in life. Even if we are pursuing something that is not high-profile….should we each ask; ‘why am I pursuing this?’

    • Indeed, that is one of life’s questions–(or should be)!

  5. I could use the money for my purposes.. I really don’t like getting exposed…

  6. Thanks for stopping by my place this morning while enjoying your coffee. I downed two double-espressos while composing.

  7. Maybe . . . notice me! . . . is so prevalent because we work so hard not too notice ourselves . . .

  8. When my kid showed me Honey Boo Boo, I think I snapped. This is just like freak shows. People must feel better that they aren’t that trashy, shallow, fill in the________. Or maybe it’s a little of yeah, it is so bad, but everybody loves it so I can too. The celebrities that are very talented and deserve applause for their hard work are just doing their jobs well. I see no reason to idolize them. Tell me you weren’t having coffee with Johnny Depp. Oh,Oh, if he comes in again KP, please get me an autograph!

    • Biochicklet,

      I’ve never seen the honey boo boo show but I’ve heard it’s pretty bad…..

      Obviously I intentionally left out the name of the celebrity….but no, it wasnt Depp, though he did come in a couple years ago but I don’t think he ended up shooting the film cuz I’ve never seen him since

  9. I’ll take the million dollars over fame any day lol.

  10. Great post, as per usual.
    This topic reminds me of a conversation I had with a young co-worker recently. She said she was planning to audition for MTV reality shows. Ever one to make people think, I said, ‘fame destroys people’s lives, you know. On those shows, they will bring out your worst traits just to keep it interesting, then you’ll have to live in a fishbowl under harsh spotlight.’ I’m not sure if she auditioned or not, but she said it made her think. I said I wasn’t telling her what to do, I just wanted her to make an informed decision. That said, I’d be lying if a said I didn’t have celeb obsessions. My rationale is that some people touch me deeply with their art, and it makes me feel connected. Famous for being rich/famous is something I totally do not get.

    • Hessia,

      Don’t get me wrong, I love movies, music, art, and more……I just live with the awareness that the people who produce the art aren’t always th people we believe them to believe.

      When I was 18 I had the opportunity to meet with an extremely famous author who has published tons of books and who many of my readers are probably familiar with. He was speaking at a conference, and after the engagement he was hanging out listening to some music at a concert near the same venue and we started talking….he was very nice and congenial…and he didn’t blow me off at all, infact he totally engaged me in conversation….BUT he was so damn boring to talk to in real life that after a little bit I found myself so exhausted trying to stay interested in the conversation with him that I politely told him I had to leave………go figure 🙂

  11. Parades. Titles. Dynasties. Gladiators. Crucifixions. Public floggings. Concerts. Plays. Executions. Soap operas. Reality Shows. Being Famous. Seems to me it has always been around in one way or another. We have a natural tendency to gawk. To look on. To envy. Some people read books to escape, others watch celebrities, others find god(s), and others blog. Although I have no celebrity addiction of my own, I have plenty of others to keep me occupied. What about finding a different coffee shop? 🙂

  12. Celebrity or not they are still people like you and me. And al I can think of is to treat them as such, a human. They sit in the same coffee corner. They just make tons of money with a film or music.
    We the western culture and pretty much world wide are always wanting more. Greedy. It takes loads before we are satisfied. ANd being famous means getting attention, being centre of attention. Now with internet and we are less amongst people we want it even more. Have lots of people around us.
    So how dumb are we that we live on the internet wanting to be the centre of attention so we can be around people. Long live a coffee house. cheers.

  13. Kenneth, I don’t get it either. LOL.

  14. Perhaps they are confused with famous versus happiness. Happiness is best achieved by trying to do the task that makes you happiest, and then the challenge of spending the rest of your life trying to achieve it!

  15. It’s probably because, unlike many people, you recognize celebrities or athletes, are still JUST people. I’m not sure I would use the words obsessed or worship for this, but certainly fascinated/fascination with celebrity. There are a few who are obsessed and that’s when we hear about celebrities needing to get restraining orders on those few folks. For most though, I think it’s because they do live SUCH different lives, we become a bit fixated on daydreaming of what that life must be like. I’m not even sure it’s always that we’re so unhappy with our own lives as it is that it’s just so different that many people get a little more than just curious. Granted – I’m sure there are plenty of people who are unhappy and compare their lives yes, I’m just saying for the masses I don’t think it’s quite that extreme. I think because of the fame part, that contributes to forgetting that celebrities and athletes are just people because we don’t normally see them in our everyday lives and that’s because they can’t get anything done otherwise. Seeing someone famous suddenly becomes a special treat so again, fueling the fascination. I agree, it’s not healthy. It’s not good to compare lives and I certainly don’t understand wanting to be famous either. I love my privacy and I couldn’t stand feeling invaded by so-called photographers (paparazzi) all the damned time. It would suck. I would hate to see rumors of my life being spilled onto pages and for all the world to judge me without really knowing me. I think people often forget about that element and only think of the glitz and lights and getting to know other famous people, getting to eat at fancy restaurants, drive fancy cars, own huge homes that they really don’t need, etc. People forget that the grass is always greener on the other side type of deal. The one thing about fame is that it could be used for good, such as possibly with that pastor friend of yours. Being well-known could be used for a positive influence. It just depends on how that fame is used if you ask me.

    • Jen,

      I’m not sure they live lives that are all that different from us….a couple celebrities live a block away from one of the coffee shops I hang out at all time and I see these two people quite regularly….yes they are very weathy, the one is probably worth around 50 million….but their lives r pretty damn similar to mine,…..thy come in and get coffee, read the paper, travel occasionally, and whatnot…….they just have more money than the average person

    • Well, it varies but from what I understand, so many spend ridiculous amounts of money on extravagant items and going places on things we just can’t nor ever likely to in our lifetime. It’s also possible that on a day to day basis it seems pretty regular, but look at the things they are able to wear or cars they drive. etc. Just out of curiosity I was checking something about fall fashion for shoes and they cost anywhere from $300 to almost $1000 for one pair of shoes. No one I know will ever spend that kind of money one one pair of shoes. There’s no way. Trust me, many, maybe not all, do live pretty different lives – that said, they’re still just people. It doesn’t warrant needing to be all that fascinated or fixated on it because really they’re just people who happen to be well-known and make a lot of money.

  16. A nice post and wide subject. Two points, first about actors (and musicians etc) that makes loads of money that other people won’t see in a lifetime. I have been discussing it with down to earth friends musicians and actors and still there are claims that they deserve every penny they might make, but I guess they don’t imagine a stratospheric career of millions, rather a better and steadier income.
    The second is not much a point, rather a joke that I was reminded of with the question that starts your post. It goes like this: The head of the church, archbishop, is sitting in a conference room with all the other local heads, and all of a sudden they hear a great voice from above. “I hear you are in great trouble and even though I am not supposed to intervene and change balances, thus reducing humans’ freedom, I have decided to offer you, a great one time gift in order to help in these difficult times. What would you like, infinite wisdom or endless money?” The archbishop lowers his eyes, thinks for a while and then he speaks “I’ll take wisdom”. A loud bang is heard (you know for FX) and then the archbishop raises his full of wisdom eyes and speaks to the congregation: “I have been a fool. I should have taken the money”

    • Vassilis,

      I’ve never understood why musicians feel they should have the ownership rights to their music forever….I understand allowing someone a couple years to own the copyrights to a song…but at a certain point; shouldn’t art become public domain?

      as to the joke…very funny :0)

  17. Great post! I really agree with what you’ve said here about fame and celebrity. So many people basically seem to want a shortcut to fame and seem to see it as aspirational rather than becoming a successful author, actor or sportsperson.

  18. The reason a vast majority want fame is because they are spiritually lonely and their families are broken.

  19. I’ve never been to the US, but from what I see on tv and in the movies it seems to me the majority of americans are shallow people. I’m gonna follow your blog, Kenneth, and maybe it will help me to get rid of that prejudice. I’m reading your articles and I feel they are – how shall I put it – refreshing. Thanks.

    • Rudd,

      well obviously life in the U.S. isn’t exactly like it is on TV…but sadly, I do believe movies and tv portray a good view into the mindset of many americans.

  20. One way to answer your questions is the critique of capitalism. In Guy Debord’s book Society of the Spectacle, he writes that ” Stardom is a diversification in the semblance of life — the object of an identification with mere appearance which is intended to compensate for the crumbling of directly experienced diversifications of productive activity” (60). That is, in a world where working life is increasingly mechanized and banal, the varied lifestyles and appearances of celebrities offer an ideal, albeit inaccessible, goal of labor. The celebrity is seen as the person who has the “power to decide and the leisure to consume,” the two goals idealized under capitalism. Just offering a left-wing perspective. The topic is certainly an important one to look closely at. -Tim

    • “the varied lifestyles and appearances of celebrities offer an ideal, albeit inaccessible, goal of labor. The celebrity is seen as the person who has the “power to decide and the leisure to consume,”

      Tim, that is an awesome perspective.

  21. See, I don’t necessarily equate “wanting to be famous” with being addicted to or fascinated with celebrities. There may be some overlap, but I’m not sure that people are trying to meet celebrities because they think one of those magic handshakes will cause the planets to align and suddenly they will be inside the inner circle of fame and fortune. Movie stars have fans in the same way that bands, or writers, or artists do. Whether that is bad or not is probably a different question than whether it can be annoying, but maybe this part has more to do with people wanting to supplant someone else’s lifestyle for their own.

    When it comes to being famous, I actually think a lot of people align with your pastor. Plenty of folks just want to be remembered, and I’m not sure that’s a bad thing. Maybe that gets pulled into the umbrella of “famous” now and again, but this pastor may just want to connect with as many people as he can–which could be a very noble pursuit. It can be less about the glitz and more about the connections with other people. In such cases, I think the people that want to achieve that rather than pocket a cool million might be on the right track.

    • T. Caine,

      you make a lot of good points…..

      What stands out to me about our culture is that there is definitely a focus by many people on ‘being seen and heard’…that to me is an interesting issue because I don’t believe the average person realizes everything that goes with ‘being seen and heard’.

  22. Very good and insightful. Thank you. The idolization of celebrities, whether they be actors, sports figures, politicians, or whatever, by a wide swath of Christians has long been one of my pet peeves, particularly when these same people never have an issue finding the money to go to movies, or professional sports games, or whatever, but never have enough to give to their church or to someone in need. We Christians have our priorities way out of whack.

  23. I think there is a missing option in the first question, or at least there is for me: “Have the opportunity to leave a lasting legacy and contribute positively to … [insert city, country, society]”. JFK in his most famous of speeches asked the question “…what you can do for your country?” Give me the opportunity to earn a decent living working on building a clean energy power plant, or designing a new airport, or the future transportation network, or a hand in developing the future schooling system.

    And then leave me to my anonymity and solace in my friends and family, so when I get old I can tell my children and (hopefully) grandchildren, “I was proud to spend part of my life working on that and other people benefited from it”

  24. We humans always seem to seek what is not within our reach and later become dissatisfied once we obtain it!

  25. I dabbled a bit in the theater arts in grade school. I remember two incidents in particular.

    I had the lead role in a musical in 3rd grade. Now, this was in a small rural town, so I think much of the community saw it. I got recognized a lot, and I found it bewildering. Many years later, I took a theater arts class in high school for an English credit. I found myself getting along much better with the tech students than the actor/director students. And although I had a strong supporting role in one of the productions, I was much more satisfied to see my name credited for the set work, than for my acting role.

    When I met my wife and she was studying as a theater tech major, I thought back to my experiences (while observing hers) and decided if I was ever to work in the industry, I’d much rather (and gladly) work behind the scenes than in front of a camera.

    I’d take the million in a heartbeat. I don’t want fame.

  26. I definitely agree with you here! I live in England, and here we have stuff like The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea and Geordie Shore, where a group of people get followed around in their lives and then it’s put on TV. These people are often nobodys, who literally have probably never read a book in their life, where the men are all big and muscly and the women all wear a ton of make-up. They all go out and just get drunk a lot and sleep with a lot of people.

    The bad thing is a lot of people are looking up to these people, and they are all famous and some even aspire to be like them! I guess this fits in with what you’re saying about people wanting to be famous. Personally I’m quite introverted and like to be left alone, and I don’t understand why people look up to these nobodys when people could look up to people that have done something decent with their lives, not just going out living the celebrity lifestyle.

  27. Personally, I would HATE to be famous. 🙂


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