Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Celebrities and Models – The Mirrors Of Our Dreams And Desires

The idolizing of celebrities is not new. Since the beginning of civilisation people have watched the rich, famous and beautieful with great interest. It helps us sort the "social hierarchy" and find our place in it. In our multi-medial times the obsessions can grow bigger because the exposure has grown bigger. Not only the exposure of celebrities and details about their lives, the criticism and display of the negative following effects has grown as well.

The definition of celebrity and fame have changed strongly. The celebrities of antiquity like Cleopatra reached their status by being born into it. It was out of reach for the ordinary people. In the more recent past celebrities like Mozart obtained their status by devoting their entire life and efford into their careers. Nowadays fame and celebrity are supposedly reachable for everybody. An ordinary girl can be discovered on the street and be made into a supermodel. Those who do not have the benefit of a certain set of genes, talent or luck still have the choice to behave outrageous or date the right people. So what is the value of celebrity when it`s supposedly available for everybody? The commercial value of this collective dream can be measured in billions of dollars who are spent for lifestyle, fashion, beauty and diet products.

A distinction between same-sex idols and other-sex idols is necessary.

Girls study female celebrities and models closely because they seek orientation. According to the “Tabula Rasa” theory we are born as empty sheets and the development of a personality is a process of multiple selective choices, decisions and the experiences that result from them. But how does a young, inexperienced person find orientation in a global world where not only country-borders but also borders of traditional values, religions and other restrictions have fallen?

It`s easy to turn to somebody who is omnipresent. Humans tend to like what they "know" and since we are exposed to celebrities all the time it`s only natural that they are included into learning-processes and choices. The fact that celebrities like Paris Hilton are only displayed because they feed the public`s hunger for sensation and easy stereotypes is ignored. Celebrity has exceeded substance.

It has never been easier to imitate celebrities. They bring out clothing lines, perfumes, fitness videos and everything else which -supposedly- makes us more like them. Imitation is the purest form of admiration, so girls will likely do as their role-models do. Be it practising yoga, Kabbalah or snorting cocaine on parties. The individual choices will not be made uncritically. It will be based upon cultural background, attitudes, level of self-confidence and multiple other aspects.

Humans do not only learn from first-hand experiences but also from what they see. Celebrity and the wealth, acceptance and love that supposedly come with it, are attractive things to aim for.

Paparazzi pictures who show flaws make celebrities seem more “real”, more like all of us. Still, they are not like us, they have “made it”. So a girl who dreams of the same archievment (or only a piece of it) is likely to think that if she`d buy the same jeans or starve to the same size she could reach the same as the celebrity. The problem is that the media claims to tell the whole story but doesn`t. Particles of celebrity-lifes are presented as the full picture but still every fan adds their own attributions, conclusions and individual translations for their own choices in life.

In the recent years another kind of admiration has developed due to the growing market for Mens Fashion; women (and gays) fancying male models. This is a "lust orientated" (meant in psychological, not sexual sense) phenomenon. Looking at pretty and perfect pictures is a good recreation in a difficult world. Male models are perfect canvas for projections and dreams because they have the advantage of not being famous. Their flaws or stupid actions can not be seen in Paparazzi pictures, they always appear as the perfect vision of somebody else. That`s what they`re paid for.

Apart from that, there is the aspect of evolution. The perfect body-measures of male models appeal to the "cavewomen in us". Since the beginning of mankind women have looked for the best genes for their children. It`s proven by science that attractivity is a matter of proportions. Men with a certain proportion between shoulders and hips appear attractive, meaning they`d make good genetic fathers for the next generation. A certain shape of the chin signalises fertility, long slim legs stand for a good runner to escape dangers and hunt down food, muscular arms show strength to fight and flawless skin shows a balanced hormonal level and health.

I picture a few women getting offended now, saying "No, I don`t want his babies, I just like his pictures." I say that underneath our masks of civilisation and learned behavioural codes we are wild animals who instinctively respond to what evolution installed in us.

Models and celebrities appeal to us for a variety of reasons but how much admiration is “too much”? Idolizing a celebrity or model is ok and "healthy" as long as it is just seen as an addition and inspiration to the own life. When real-life social contacts and friendships are maintained, focus on the own life issues (job, school, hobbies etc.) is given and the ability to emotionally commit to real-life persons is intact. Fandom that exceeds this level must be considered escapism or an attempt to fill an emotional void.

In conclusion we should not forget that if one copies "unhealthy" celebrity-behaviour it`s not the fault of the celebrity but a free descision and the only fault is to seek in the acting person`s personality.

And hey, celebrities are probably not that different from us. The only difference between them and us is that WE have made them celebrities.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Male Models - The Unknown, Familiar Faces

Male Models have more media exposure than pop stars. How come they have no PR?

Two male models, both had major campaigns for european designers and are runway regulars since many seasons, arrive at the airport in Milan. Nobody is there to pick them up. They take the public bus into the city. One model`s cell-phone rings with his agent calling. The model asks if he is going to have a driver (to transfer him between the shows, which are located all over the city taking place only one hour apart from each other) during fashion week. The agent sais no. So the model starts explaining he couldn`t walk properly (let`s ignore that he was healthy enough to skateboard before getting on that bus). Apparently this is not what an agent likes to hear from his model during fashion week, so the model backs off a little, explaining he could do runway but couldn`t walk long distances. The phone-call ends with the models getting no driver and excessive swearing about their agency after the phone was hung up.

So this is the treatment you get, even when you reached a status where clients pay hundredhousands of dollars for your face? Taking the bus and running through the streets of Milan in the unbearable summerheat? Not very glamorous.

The male model business is said to be unglamorous because the competition is as big as in the female business with smaller wages but the dream is the same; the success, the money and in the end: being a name, not just a face.

Male models get mass expose. They are more visible than movie stars or pop stars, yet who they are remains unknown. Even though it is said there were no male supermodels, Will Chalker was nominated as "British Model of the year" along with female topmodels like Lily Cole. Award shows and magazine covers determine celebrity and celebrity needs PR.

So, do male models need PR? Or more precise; can they afford to have PR? PR is there to shape the character of a product and make it more desireable but what if your product is "projection space" for other peoples products? Could a wild private lifestyle keep conservative clients away? Could conservative personal views not be hip enough for the latest fashion fragrance? Is the "air of mystery" crucial?

There seem to be different views about this question from different agencies. While some american agencies make sure their, already famous male models get media exposure and make sure there are VH1 camera teams filming them entering exclusive parties during fashion week, creating a glamourous image, some Milan agencies don`t even bother to respond to interview requests for their male models.

Fact is that most male models want PR. Contrary to the common predjudice, not all of them are "laid-back low key" personalities. The majority of them are not farmer-boys from the country, who are willing to go through all obstacles of this ungrateful business and they are not easy to impress. Most of them are aspiring actors or designers who get into this business to not only put their face out there but also their talents and personality.

On the one hand they experience VIP-treatment during fashion week; free entry into clubs and the most exclusive parties, agents paying their drinks and expenses, designers loving their looks but on the other hand they don`t even get a driver.

Male models do not get the same recognition as their female counterparts because they don`t have the same role-model function in a society where men compete with jobs, money & success and women compete with their bodies.

The male modeling business is a coin with two sides but maybe the differences between the glamorous side and the ungrateful side will grow smaller since the market for mens fashion and beauty is growing and therefore the importance and exposure of models grows as well. Hopefully the agencies will some day help their models getting PR by letting them give interviews and by that bringing them closer to their goal; being a name, not just a face.