In light of Amy Winehouse’s death, I got to thinking about fame and what a trap it can be for some people.
Recent studies have found that an alarming number of kids think being famous is a career goal. They don’t want to achieve anything, they don’t want to work for it. They only want to be discovered. Entitlement, anyone?
Fame changes things. When you become famous, everything you do is put under a microscope. That may sound great to you when you’re singing into a hairbrush in front of the bathroom mirror, but is it? Do you really want people all over the world knowing and judging everything you do? When you need privacy, how happy will you be knowing you can’t get it anymore unless you become a virtual hermit?
As the meme says, haters gonna hate, but you can mitigate some of the damage with the following suggestions.
Have a goal besides being famous
You’re much less likely to implode when you become famous if the fame itself is not the desire. Actors, musicians, writers and artists who are truly dedicated to their work will do it regardless of the attention. Yes, these endeavors require an audience to be fully appreciated, but it doesn’t have to be a worldwide one. If your fame ebbs, you can still go on doing what you’re doing.
Stay off the junk
Famous and creative people seem to use a lot of drugs, don’t they? They drink, they party and they die. How embarrassing.
Stephen King once said being a writer didn’t make him drink. Being a drunk made him drink. Addictive personalities may be drawn to fame because of the positive reinforcement they get. But as we’ve seen in the past, public opinion can turn faster than an ice skater who’s about to slam into the boards.
Do you want to be famous like this?
Or like this?
If you want attention, fine. But some people think that any attention is better than nothing. So you get the bad boys, the crazy girls, the shows like Bridezilla (I must confess, until I had to downgrade my satellite TV, this was a guilty pleasure).
While substance abuse can make people act like they’re nuts—and so can being nuts—many celebrities behave badly because they feel entitled. Naomi Campbell used to be famous for being a supermodel. Then she became known for things like throwing phones at people, which ultimately got her arrested and convicted of assault.
Even if you’re richer than God, have some respect for others’ property and feelings. If you don’t, please don’t ask me to feel sorry for you or even care.
If you’re in over your head, get some damn help
I’m sure when Matilda Ledger gets a little older, her main question regarding the accidental overdose death of her father, Heath Ledger, will be “Why, Daddy?” Breaks your heart.
Mel Gibson, Britney Spears…the list goes on. Some of them have gotten a bit of support from family or friends, but many more are no longer with us because they sunk so low. You can blame the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll machine for part of it, but not all. No one can help you until you are ready for it. If you are, just do it. Thanks to the late Betty Ford, rehab is no shame anymore.
Fame brings a lot of pressure with it. You must produce and you must stay in the public eye to sell your work. To an extent, you’re a commodity, not an artist. Ledger allegedly had trouble with that concept. Again, the goal should not be the fame. Even if it’s not, it’s a hard thing to wrap your head around.
Keep your mouth shut
Anything you put on the Internet stays there forever. If you’re famous, it’s like plutonium. It will never go away. So don’t tell anything you wouldn’t want your grandmother to know.
Yes, you can be misquoted and yes, magazines like the Enquirer sold tons of copies by making stuff up. Remember, it’s like high school. If a headline blasts that you’re pregnant by your co-star, you can laugh and say “Yeah? Well we’ll see in nine months if that’s true or not,” (If you are, you better come clean.)
As for a lack of privacy, it does come with the territory. But it’s attainable. Keep personal things to yourself, so they remain yours
Unless you’re a horrible attention-whore fame monkey, you’ll probably want to keep your kids and your family out of the public eye as much as you can. Kids are great for grounding you because nothing makes you feel like less of an Oscar-winning A-lister than getting puked on at three in the morning. Skip the live-in nanny if you can, and do most of it yourself.
The people who knew you before you were famous can do the same. Just try to stay away from the freeloaders, and remember why you were friends with your peeps in the first place. It’s hard because your schedule will suck, but make the effort.
If all else fails, get a dog.
Plan for the day it all will end
Not many flash-in-the-pan celebrities from twenty or thirty years ago are remembered now. Some of them go on reality shows to make a little money and keep the thing going. Guess what? It’s not that important.
Think of it this way: your star has faded, and now you have a chance to reinvent yourself. If you’ve been careful with your money, you can do anything you want now. Pressure’s off.
Do it right, like Mayim Bialik, and you can have your Ph.D in neuroscience, a family and maybe even another go.