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The New Role of the Celebrity


Covid-19 versus celebrities worldwide, was the takedown few saw coming. Our fixation with famous people is so great that we’ve formed an entire culture dedicated to them. Celebrities used to be from a different solar system. But in 2020 – that all changed. 

2002 marked the first of US Weekly’s “Stars – They’re Just Like Us” feature, that would go on to define celebrity coverage of the last two decades. Suddenly we were served photos of A-listers pumping petrol and buying coffee. They walked the dog and went to the supermarket – just like us. 

And so “always on” celebrity coverage was born. Part of the thrill lay in that we were glimpsing their unguarded, unscripted moments. It felt, in a small way, equalising. But nowadays celebrities don’t need to be outed behaving like normal people. Social media lets them share their everyday lives on their own terms. And just like that, they became unattainable once more. 

Through their own private lenses, we’ve been shown the material possessions and physical traits that reinforce the narrative that celebrities aren’t just like us, they’re much better than us. But finally, under quarantine, the mask is slipping. The idiom “knocked off their pedestal” means “to show people that someone is not as perfect as they seem to be.” And it’s starting to feel rather apt.

From Gal Gadot to Arielle Charnas; the people said to be so superior to us, have been getting it so wrong. And it’s our fault. We’ve told them that they don’t just speak, they have a voice – that they don’t have followers, they have a platform. We expect them to amplify activism to the masses. But we’ve been using mega-stars as megaphones and forgotten that most of them don’t have anything of their own to say. The people most associated with putting on a show, now seem the smallest.

From a flower filled milk bath, Madonna observed that Covid-19 is “a great equaliser.” But really it’s just made our inequalities more difficult to stomach. Bare-faced attempts at being just like us amidst marble kitchens don’t go down quite as easy as they used to. Nor do the everyday diagnoses of celebrities without symptoms, when a test is beyond the imagination of so many.

It seems the aspirational function of celebrity, that we’d so eagerly bought into, has begun to fall apart. Instead we’ve been applauding nurses, doctors, delivery drivers and supermarket workers – the people actually better than us, and not because of their bank balances. Grazia’s April 6th edition scrapped celebrity cover stars for NHS doctors, nurses and paramedics combatting Covid-19 from the frontline. We want hard facts and real heroes. 

The celebrities that don’t entertain us, no longer have a place. It’s likely the face of fame will look very different when this is all over. People we consider famous now, won’t be by the end. As movies, reality shows and tours grind to a halt, stars become a whole lot less relevant. Without scripts and PR spin, we’re seeing celebrities as they really are. Pretty f*cking boring.