#Label15 Day Twelve – Fifteen Years of Celebrity

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The cult of celebrity is a very fickle thing. It’s sometimes difficult to understand why certain people are famous. It can be even more difficult to keep track of who the newest batch of celebrity is: especially considering the fragmentation of social groups in our society.

One man’s famous legend is another man’s random name. Fifteen years ago, when Label was first starting, the rich and famous list made a very different viewing to today.

There are some familiar faces, to be sure: Oprah Winfrey is even more popular now than she was in 1998, and Steven Spielberg had already produced the Indiana Jones series, the Back to the Future Series and Saving Private Ryan before 1999 rolled around. The rest of the lists, however, make for different reading. Nobody had even heard of Simon Cowell in 1998 (Pop Idol didn’t happen until 2001), yet now he’s rated in the top 100 most influential people in the world. The Rolling stones were within the top ten most well paid celebrities worldwide, nowadays, less so (though a concert of theirs did recently sell out within an hour of offering tickets).

One of the biggest changes to celebrity in the past fifteen years has been the rise of reality television. In 1998, Big Brother was a planned series for Dutch television, and wouldn’t have a British version till a year later. Simon Cowell hadn’t gotten his claws into the singing contest market, and the nearest we got to the genre was Changing Rooms, the DIY home improvement show. Now we have Singing and talent contest shows, Big Brother and Celebrity Big Brother, and more pseudo- realistic shows than you can shake a stick at (Geordie Shore, The Only Way is Essex, Made in Chelsea, the list goes on).

Obviously, as tastes in music and films have changed, so has our taste in celebrities: Singers such as Beyoncé and Cheryl Cole have replaced Spice Girls and Celine Dion, Harrison Ford is no longer as powerful a sex symbol as he was, and men would rather now have an encounter with Scarlett Johansson than Madonna. There is a bigger split between music fans as to what constitutes “good music”, with a fair amount relishing the progression of Techno and Drum and Bass while others preferring the purer sound of retro rock, pop and so forth.

Popular celebrities are very different now compared to fifteen years ago. It is fair to expect celebrity culture to have changed again in fifteen years time. Whether or not you think Reality Television is dumb, or even that our fixation on celebrity is worrying, it seems impossible to deny their influence on the world as a whole. We must wait and see how celebrity culture changes for 2028: but it’s guaranteed to be different.

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