With the help of unrelenting paparazzi and the fame appetite of any Kardashian, media has turned celebrity into an obsession. For most unhealthy obsessions, there is a treatment plan. A 12- step program or support group, at the very least a hotline, but when it comes to the unexplainable desperate need to know about a celebrity’s life, there is no treatment, only outlet after outlet to help someone get the quick fix they need.
Our culture has reached an all time low, stooping to levels that lack any dignity, leave no trace of respect and seemingly a serious disconnect from the reality that there are real people’s lives that are being affected by this perilous level of intrigue. The truth is that while a celebrity’s secrets, their shame and their sins may go for a higher price now than ever before- this fascination of fame is nothing new.
In 1932, American aviator, Charles Lindbergh’s baby was kidnapped and murdered This was clearly a time of struggle and despair for his family, yet, on the courthouse steps hundreds of strangers gathered not to show their support or their contempt for such a monstrous crime but instead to exploit. The scene appeared to be an absolute madhouse; beverages and snacks were carted through the streets. Miniature replicas of the ladder the kidnapper had used to enter the home, along with copies of the ransom note that was left were for sale only yards away from where devastated parents grieved and sought justice for the murder of their baby. Understandably, when I read that recently a paparazzo died trying to get a photo of a pop star in his Ferrari, I was barely moved, knowing that history has seen much worse devastation and our society will continue in that direction. As long as there has been fame, there are those desperate to make a dollar off of the lives and vulnerability of the famous.
There is no longer a clear line of what is acceptable and intolerable when it comes to being the first to get a story, to have the inside scoop. Fences will be climbed, trust will be broken and all boundaries will be crossed.
The closest I had ever come to fame was at the age of 7, a local news team was showcasing the city’s new pool and I was in the frame, behind the reporter, wearing a blue bathing suit. That was my three seconds of fame and it didn’t impress me enough to crave more. I have spent most of my life out of any kind of spotlight, avoiding unnecessary attention and writing under a pseudonym because the idea of people knowing me or knowing about me- it seemed uncomfortably disturbing.
Fast-forward twenty years and I find myself in a cab, on my way to meet my now husband for a date. His blue eyes and dusty blonde hair come across the screen on my taxi TV. There he was, staring out at me, saying words in the same rough voice that was making me forget all of my Christian virtues and all I could do was stare back, speechless. Though I obviously knew who he was, it wasn’t until that very moment that I realized, if this date and the next and the next went well - in time people would likely know who I was too.
Over the next weeks and months my edgy nerves were calmed by the way I saw him carry his status, his celebrity, his fame. While no, it wasn’t the daily chaos that swarms the Brad Pitts of the world (all one of them); it was a daily if not hourly reminder that his life, my life, our life - was somehow interesting to others. Since he had always maintained privacy and demanded respect for the things he held valuable, I felt safe knowing that his protection would cover me as well. I genuinely believed that what we shared would remain solely ours. But that reality was shattered rather quickly.
When we were engaged, rumors had already started to brew and weeklies came calling for a comment. Rather than bat away inaccurate gossip, he decided to announce it in his own words, in his own way. An engagement, a declaration of love, a cause for celebration was received enthusiastically by our close few and negatively by the rest. I had trapped him. I was marrying for money. I wasn’t good-looking enough for him or him for me. I was nothing but a young body and nice eyes - our marriage wouldn’t last a year. Though I have maintained my rule of never ever reading the comments, the naysayers always find a way to be heard.
The day before our wedding, an event that we had been so careful to keep special, TMZ shared the details with the world. It was embarrassing to have the most cherished day of our relationship pinned alongside ‘breaking news’: Lindsay Lohan gets coffee and Kim Kardashian wearing leather pants. How insulting and demeaning could someone be without seeming to realize it? With 350 words they stole the sacred intimacy that we so desperately needed, when we made our guest list of 20 people.
It was that moment that I realized this part of our society has no boundaries when it comes to even the slightest celebrity, there is an unrealistic and unfair demand to be informed, to be included.
I was adamant about not releasing a photo of our son when he was born. Knowing that the media would be so busy with the Blue Ivy Carters of the world and Tori Spelling’s growing spawn, I rested easy on my delivery day. Within hours, absolute fury came over me when a nurse at our hospital alerted paparazzi and People Magazine soon after we checked into the maternity ward. That breach of privacy, the capitalizing on our vulnerability seemed so dishonest. Though it took my husband and I out of our moment, out of our experience, I knew that it was and would remain a part of my new life, the readers and editors and commenters would always be the big elephant in the room.
This might be hard to imagine as US weekly’s fly off shelves everywhere and Jersey Shore’s drunken cast are made into heroes but there are some of us who value intimacy and the privacy of our families, our loves and our struggles.
Seven days after I returned home from bringing my son into this world, I was contacted for a comment on the story “Jessica Henriquez is dying of Cancer” from the Huffington Post. My breath was gone. A sickness I had kept so silent, so safe, was now being made into a story, a hero, a villain and a happy ending - a mere 1,000 words to entertain the next celeb vulture, thirsty for fresh blood. Would nothing in my life ever be sacred again? Would I wake up every morning, paying the price of notoriety without actually having made the decision to catapult myself into a career that demanded it, all because of the man I chose to love?
The funny thing about celebrity is that it is defined as being well known when the reality is that celebrities are rarely known well. With the endless inaccuracies, misquotes and false identities created for them on paper, that person is something that was created out of the monster of media imagination and sub-par story telling. There is a real human being behind that persona, behind that screen and that magazine cover- a human being who wants to do what they love or love who they choose without millions of eyes critiquing their every move and waiting to pounce at any sign of weakness. Poor little rich girl, stop complaining they’ll say. You’re not even really famous some will type, but fortunately for me – I don’t read the comments.