It all began with Paris Hilton. With her inception into the Celebutante Hall of Fame in the early 2000s, Paris and her fellow socialites opened a door, spawning a sort of movement among the celebrity-wannabes of the world: if Paris and those chicks from The Hills can do it, so can you. These days, Andy Warhol’s predicttion that “in the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes” rings truer than ever; the very concept of fame itself has these days become a relatively viable career option, with everything from tabloids, the Internet and the reality TV machine rallying behind it.
The concept of being “famous for being famous” is not one American society has really ever been estranged from — in the 1940s, Zsa Zsa Gabor married actor George Saunders, using “fame by association” to leverage herself into a film career and a stardom that far outlasted her husband’s. These days, the “Zsa Zsa Factor” has become more prevalent than ever, with people like Kim Kardashian, the Gosselins and pretty much anyone who’s ever appeared on an MTV reality show invading the consciousness of every news outlet from CNN to Perez Hilton. com. Making the rounds most recently is the story of White House party crashers Michaele and Tereq Salahi, a married couple quite obviously vying for their own personal fulfillment of Warhol’s “15 minutes of fame.” The Salahis, who have been known to be fishing for their own spot in the reality television lineup, schmoozed/conned their way into the state dinner thrown in honor of India’s prime minister on Nov. 24, thus claiming their spot in the talk show lineups for the next week. After making appearances on The Today Show, as well as being mentioned in tabloids and smeared across the gossip blogs for the ensuing weeks, it became plenty clear that the Salahis’ plan was working out just as they had always wanted it to — they’re famous.
The “famous for being famous” are not without talent, although it may not lie within the music/film/television sphere that many celebrities have shoved themselves into. No, their talents lie in their ability to keep the world talking about them, speculating and waiting for the next shoe to drop on whatever scandal they have surrounded themselves with this week. The game is clear: Keep yourself in the limelight long enough, and the offers will come flooding in. There’s a reason Kim Kardashian has a fragrance, and Heidi Montag was offered a record deal. Even Nicole Richie, who has no acting experience whatsoever, was offered the chance to star in a sitcom for ABC.
One obvious entity to blame for the recent insurgence of the celebutante is the Internet. As celebrity gossip blogs like TMZ and Perez Hilton blossomed and flourished over the past decade, the need for content to fill a daily posting quota took over the need to focus on actual talent. And so, the definition of what one had to be to be a celebrity became increasingly nebulous, and we were introduced to the likes of Spencer Pratt.
Daily Show guest star/crasher Jim Gaffigan said it best in his review of the Salahi party-crashing story: “These nimrods, armed only with the confidence born of shamelessness, have achieved their goal. And the media, even by chastising them, awards them. It seems now the only accomplishment is merely the documentation of your own presence.”