Talking to a reporter at the premiére of one of her films, the late actress Farrah Fawcett-Majors had this to say on how fame affected her life: “I’ve lost all my freedom. I didn’t realize the price I would have to pay for fame. I need a guard living with me at all times now and that in itself is a great strain.” Farrah felt particularly insecure after a kidnap attempt in Mexico which resulted in the killing of one of her security team. Friendships were another issue for this beautiful star: “I can count my true friends on two hands and most of them are from before I became well-known.”
More recently, LaLa Anthony had trouble just being a Mum while walking through New York with her son, Kiyan, trying to dodge cameras that were trained on her at every moment. Publicity has its uses, of course, but it’s a bit much when you can’t even discipline your child in case people assume you’re ‘abusing’ him!
These are just two examples of many talented people who suffer because of their celebrity. Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson, Amy Winehouse, Curt Cobain and other singers all hit the heights before succumbing to drugs, alcohol and failed relationships. Actors such as River Phoenix, Heath Ledger, Marilyn Monroe, died from unnatural causes while still in their prime, while countless others struggle daily with the pressures of fame – pressures with which the average human was never equipped to deal.
Yet, every year, audition queues still form for talent show like the X-Factor - thousands of people desperate for a smattering of stardust and their moment in the sun. And no wonder, when the rich and famous are photographed arriving at achingly chic parties in designer clothes, escorted by unbelievably gorgeous dates. Or cavorting on glamorous beaches, their lithe (sometimes surgically enhanced) bodies immaculately tanned and toned. Admired by most, adored by some, envied by many.
And there’s the rub. For envy can be manifest in several ways, from persistent stalking to outright threats, ridicule and hateful comments. Just like an Aunt Sally, those on whom the gods of fortune seem to smile are there to be thwacked by the ungenerous and bitter – if not by a coconut, then at the very least a vicious verbal brick.
So, if you’ve ever imagined easing your bejewelled self from a chauffeur-driven limo and gliding down a red carpet in couture Versace, then think about the downside.
The problem with fame is the unwelcome attention it can bring. Paparazzi and stalkers go with the territory, of course, and anyone in the public eye is a potential target for kidnappers and assassins. (The attempted kidnapping of singer Joss Stone is a case in point.) If this weren’t worrying enough, there’s a need to protect family members too, and while 24-hour security can be reassuring, it can also be restricting.
Loss of freedom
Once a person becomes known, he or she is public property. The usual activities most people take for granted, such as walking the dog, nipping to the supermarket, or going to the movies suddenly become military-style manoeuvres. Alternatively, the celebrity may simply opt for a life of seclusion, spending their days behind locked iron gates with less freedom than a Carmelite nun!
Loss of privacy
Many A-Listers no doubt bewail the lack of privacy. Nowadays, they can rarely enjoy a meal or a quiet cup of coffee without being approached by curious fans.
And just imagine the discipline it would take never to be caught in a less than flattering pose. Whereas most people can afford the occasional sly scratch or burp, and may be forgiven for absent-mindedly picking their noses, any similar lapse by a celebrity could well make front-page news.
Lies, gossip, rumours and slander
If fame brings admiration, it also invites site, jealousy and exploitation. All it takes is a chance remark from someone pretending to be in the know and your reputation could be in tatters.
‘Kiss and Tell’ stories by publicity-hungry wannabes, faint praise by unscrupulous colleagues or negative comments from anyone with a grudge are all fodder to voracious media who delight in smashing the very idols they help to create. Rumours abound.
Change of personality
There are famous people who keep their feet on the ground, usually respected professionals for whom fame is merely a by-product of their career rather than an end in itself.
Sadly though, even serious artists, sports personalities and performers can succumb to fame’s not-so-subtle snares. When star-struck fans queue for hours to get a glimpse of you, when sycophants agree with every word you say, when everything you wear meets with acclaim and applause and your looks, style and attitude are slavishly copied, it takes superhuman effort not to listen to the hype, especially if you’ve been hearing it throughout your adolescence.
Young celebrities are particularly vulnerable; the more their egos are massaged and inflated, the more adulation they crave and the more unreasonable their behaviour becomes until that nice boy next door or kind-hearted girl who loves her mum are totally unrecognisable. A diva is created.
Conversely, no matter how great the ego, the smaller the self-esteem and the more a celebrity may lose sight of the person they really are. They may feel vulnerable and even paranoid, which causes them to retreat even further behind their carefully crafted image. And the more famous they become, the less satisfied they are.
Loneliness and strained relationships
For all their millions of fans, superstars are often lonely people, cut off from reality, stifled by their monstrous self-regard and unable to form lasting friendships. Good advice is often viewed as criticism. Genuine friends tend to distance themselves as the superficial takes precedence in the celebrity’s life.
Marriages are particularly vulnerable. A charismatic, good-looking actor or artist of any genre will be targeted by scalp hunters and gold diggers. By the very nature of their craft, they’ll be working with other beautiful, talented performers and, when temptations inevitably arise, loyalty to a mate may often go out of the window, resulting in marriage breakdowns or, at the very least, a serious lack of trust.
Certain professions are notorious for attracting all sorts of unsavoury influences. Where there’s money and glamour there will inevitably be drugs, drink and promiscuity in abundance. Just think how many wonderful, talented people have been destroyed by such practices, no doubt introduced at an early age by people pretending to be their friends.
Of course, there are survivors. Not every star turns to alcohol, mind-altering substances or a series of unsuitable affairs. But even celebrities with iron-cast self-control and all the Botox in the world can’t stop the march of time. Eventually, youth begins to fade and despite the miracles of cosmetic surgery can’t alter the audience’s perception.
This is when stars begin to ‘reinvent’ themselves – again – becoming more outrageous in a desperate attempt to gain attention, which is food and drink to seasoned entertainers.
But in a field where youth is everything and fame is fickle, a fading star may find the only avenues left open are reality shows.