I was speaking to a young lady the other day who is a singer/songwriter and in passing casually mentioned to me she is hoping someday to become “famous.” It was said with enthusiasm and at the end of our conversation but I still wonder what is it really she wants from it? Is it to have her music played all over the world and be known as an artist? Is it to have a certain lifestyle? Is it the money?
What is the value of becoming famous and is it a worthy goal as an artist?
Could it be that we shame the thought of fame, if we are serious about our art, instead of recognizing its great potential to influence and shape what we see and believe?
It seems to me that we often associate fame and artistic achievement as two things that don’t mix very well together like oil and vinegar. Makes me think of Nora Jones in 03 and how she shunned her stunning 8 Grammy wins because it threatened to turn her music into something “commercial”.
I like how this artistic ethical struggle is captured in the current series Entourage on HBO through the fictional character, actor, Vincent Chase, played by Adrian Grenier.
Throughout the series, Vince talks about how he and his “entourage” are managing fame by “living the life” after growing up with little money. Yet when his agent Ari Gold, played by Jeremy Piven, tells Vince that his acting offers are drying up- a frequent conversation- Vince typical replies “I came from nothing, and as much as I like the toys, I can live without them.” Vince is eager to share the financial and social spoils of his current stardom with his friends regardless, who he thinks of as his family.
While at first glance it seems that his friends are just leeches and he has fallen into the common trap of fame buying his friendships, Vince’s friends prove to be the ones he can depend on through thick and thin.
Yet Vince, like many artists has a great disdain for money. Choosing quality roles over big money, time after time, leaves Vince short on acting roles, which may be why he has only done four movies in five years– not many by Hollywood’s standards. Yet, simultaneous, Vince seems to be against working more than three months a year and prefers golfing to social causes and women to raising money for charity.
It appears that one of our problems, as serious artists, is that we fail to recognize that fame CAN BE a worthwhile pursuit if your goal is to do something positive in the world to make a difference. After all, while fictional character Vincent Chase could be doing more, he is financially taking care of his friends and encouraging them to live their dreams with the financial support he provides. In terms of his ethics, Vince seems to me more evolved than many real life Hollywood professionals.
So does fame corrupt or do we succomb to our own sense of entitlements as our wallets get bigger?
Can you teach someone how to have enough class, taste and good judgement to want to build a great reputation in both their personal and professional artistic pursuits to becoming a doer of good deeds in the public eye?
Take a look at Paris Hilton, born into the Hilton family and heir-apparent to the vast Hilton hotel and real estate dynasty. Her childhood was spent in palatial dwellings in the priciest neighborhoods on both coasts and featured a brief flirtation briefly attended the Canterbury School, a boarding school in Connecticut, during her junior year. She then transfered to the Dwight School in New York City before dropping out a few months later and getting a GED only to move on to greater things like a porn flick with her boyfriend Rick Salomon and more recently getting arrested and serving three weeks in jail.
Having never attended much high school, let alone college, it is really a surprise why she is the way she is? Or is her family deserving of all the blame? What about Paris herself? While appearing in commercials for Burger King and a bunch of bad television, including her own reality show The Simple Life, has elevated her as a public image, frankly, I think Paris is sadly as empty as a hollow tube inside, and I am sure you will agree.
We need to fill ourselves up with positive images of what the future can be to become a future of bright, talented and famous change agents for the world. Fame can buy a lot of good deeds, it can bring a lot of recognition to a cause, a need, or, to you alone.
The choice of seeking fame and what you do with it belongs single handedly to you. It is inherently neither a good or bad decision to try and become famous, as I see it, but instead a choice that will only further illuminate the essence of who you truly are.