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For the 1998 movie, see Celebrity (1998 movie).

A celebrity is a person who is widely recognized in a society. Fame is prerequisite for celebrity status, but not always sufficient. For example, high-profile criminals are famous, but not always celebrities. Traditionally, politicians are rarely described as celebrities, but in the era of television, some have had to become de facto celebrities. Today's celebrities are largely figures from television and movies.


Defining celebrity

Defining the concept of "celebrity" is difficult. Fame, usually connected to an accomplishment or wealth, is generally considered to be a prerequisite. Sociologically, celebrity is synonymous with "highly visible upper class", though an upper-level income is not strictly necessary for celebrity.

Celebrity is not unique to modern societies; royal families, the nobility, popular preachers, and other religious leaders were the celebrities of pre-industrial societies. Additionally, mythical or literary figures such as Perseus, Roland, and Hamlet played the roles of the celebrity.

Rise of celebrity culture

The modern mass media has increased the exposure and power of celebrity. Often, celebrity carries with it immense social capital that is highly sought-after by some individuals. High-paying jobs and other social perks unavailable to most people are readily available to celebrities, even for work not connected to the talents or accomplishments that made them famous. For example, a retired athlete might receive high "speaking fee s", or compensation for public appearances, despite his talent having been sports, not oratory.

While some envy celebrities, and many aspire to celebrity, some who have attained it are ambivalent about their status. Often, celebrities cannot escape the public eye, and risk being stalked by fans or paparazzi. As well, child celebrities are notorious for having poor emotional health in adulthood, and often turn to drug and alcohol abuse when their celebrity (as it usually does) fades.

Some participants in reality television shows have admitted that they appeared on these programs with the goal in mind of attaining celebrity. Most often, they achieve only "fleeting celebrity" with no social or economic value.

Celebrity culture, once restricted to royalty and mythical figures, has pervaded many sectors of society including business, publishing, and even academia (the scilebrities).

Only a small proportion of individuals in any profession can achieve celebrity. For those who do, the benefits can be substantial-- in the form of speaking fees, book advances, and high-paying "consulting" jobs from firms seeking access. There are disdavantages as well, however, academics and business leaders who become well known often lose credibility with the it coleagues.

In many fields, such as the arts and publishing, a moderate measure of celebrity (being "established") is necessary before individuals are able to "get respect". Most non-famous individuals in these sectors are poorly-compensated, though they may be as talented or moreso than well-compensated, famous people in the same field.

Celebrity structure

Each nation has its own independent celebrity system, and individuals who are extremely well known in India, might be unknown in Britain, for instance. Some subnational entities also have their own celebrity system, such as Quebec. There is also a class of global celebrities, most often drawn from Hollywood, Association football, and pop music.

Celebrity resentment

Because celebrities have fame comparable to that of royalty or gods in the past, some people exhibit curiosity about their private affairs. Due to the high visibility of celebrities' personal lives, their failures are often made public. Therefore, "celebrities" are viewed as exhibiting worse personal behavior and having worse moral values than most people. Whether this is true or not is unclear, because the exact meaning of the word "celebrity" is difficult to define.

Some have argued that the notion of celebrity is self-reinforcing and ultimately vacuous: celebrities are not famous for their accomplishments, but merely famous for their fame and presumed fortune. For example, Paris Hilton would not be a public figure without her wealth, but her family's prominence has created and reinforces her fame.

Professions that can confer celebrity

Some professions, by the nature of being high-paid and difficult to get into, automatically confer celebrity. For example, movie stars and television actors are almost invariantly celebrities. High-ranking politicians and major-league athletes are also celebrities.

Some film and theatre directors, producers, artists, musicians, authors, lawyers and journalists are celebrities, but the vast majority are not. Some people in these professions strive to avoid celebrity, while others seek it. Any person who is able to get his or her television show will usually become a celebrity: this includes chefs, gardeners, and interior decorators on shows like Trading Spaces and While You Were Out.

Celebrity families

Individuals can achieve celebrity, but American society also has celebrity families, such as the Bushes, Clintons , and Kennedys.


High Visibility, by Irving J. Rein, Philip Kotler, and Martin Stoller, studies the phenomenon of celebrity. To them, celebrity requires not only fame, but fame with an evident monetary value.

External link

  • Thousands of Celebrities' Addresses, DVDs, Books, Videos, Posters, Photographs and more.
  • Who's Alive and Who's Dead Comprehensive list of living and dead celebrities

Last updated: 02-07-2005 02:46:00
Last updated: 02-24-2005 14:47:11