Fans are able to connect with celebrities who seem relatable

March 25, 2020 — by Anna Novoselov
Public figures who break the stereotype of perfection associated with celebrities skyrocket in popularity.

When actress Jennifer Lawrence tripped over her Dior gown while walking up the steps to accept an Oscar in 2013, the internet exploded with tweets and memes about Lawrence’s relatability to the “average” person. Quickly, in alignment with the trend to make famous figures more relatable, she became Hollywood’s girl next door: the celebrity sweetheart people couldn’t get enough of.

“While Jennifer Lawrence was falling onstage, America was falling deeper in love with her!” tweeted American comedian Rob Delaney after the Oscars.

While seemingly ordinary, Lawrence’s fall helped her fans connect to her, as it contrasted the glamour and sophistication often associated with celebrities. The actresses’ quirky humor and forthright comments about “unglamorous” topics such as junk food, football and even barfing established her laid-back personality and helped fans see her as a real person.

“I realized my stylist had told me, ‘Kick, walk, kick, walk,’” Lawrence said in an interview with W magazine. “You are supposed to kick the dress out while you walk, and I totally forgot because I was thinking about cake! And that’s why I fell.”

Average people often idolize public figures in the media as a result of their own subconscious desires for fame, power and privilege, according to Success Conscious. Photoshopped images, lavish riches and elite events lead many to associate  celebrities with a perfect lifestyle; however, this fascination and mischaracterization ignores the fact that celebrities are also human.

Consequently, the media overemphasizes celebrities who exhibit down-to-Earth characteristics or have an embarrassing experience in order to make them relatable to the general public. More than ever before, public figures who don’t display the traditional stereotypes associated with fame are appealing to fans who just want to see celebrities as people who struggle with routine affairs, are not always as put-together as portrayed on the red carpet and who have difficulties just like them.

In July, The Atlantic published an article titled “Emma Chamberlain Is the Most Important YouTuber Today” that praised Chamberlain for her authentic videos and personality. It contrasted her with YouTubers like Bethany Mota and Lele Pons, who post scripted, polished content.

Currently, Chamberlain has 8.6 million followers and almost 1 billion total video views. Despite being only 18, Chamberlain has a net worth of almost $3 million and was named one of the 25 most influential people on the internet by Time Magazine. 

According to the feature, Chamberlain became an “overnight success” because her fans were able to relate their own mundane lives and habits with Chamberlain, who frequently skips makeup and posts unedited photos. In fact, the video that led to her popularity was a low-production quality Dollar Store haul that featured her buying Frozen-themed Q-tips and fur-covered pens while making weird comments, such as “there is no better way [to impress a crush] than to whip out this bad boy [the furry pen] and just start writing.”

The trend toward more the more casual “I’m not even trying” look has perpetuated the media in recent years, perhaps because many Gen Z’ers have become tired of the posed content emphasized on social media: the photoshopped selfies, “perfect” routines and seemingly effortless lives. They want to follow famous figures who seem ordinary, like them.

Because of this, the popularity of relatable influencers, like Chamberlain and YouTuber Joana Ceddia, has skyrocketed. According to a study by DEFY media, 48 percent of survey respondents said that they would try a product recommended by a celebrity while 63 percent would try one recommended by an influencer; this discrepancy is likely because fans see influencers as more trustworthy and similar to themselves than most mainstream celebrities.

This shift in preference has been largely driven by the rise of social media, which has allowed celebrities to share the normal parts of their lives such as struggling to work out or obsessing over T.V. shows. However, traditional media figures like singers and big-screen actors still remain disconnected from their fans because of the immense wealth and power that follows them and consequently conceals every ounce of mediocrity.

“It’s so hard for regular people to connect with celebrities because they seem perfect and their lives can seem so different from our own,” senior Ananya Krishnan said.

Yet some celebrities break the expectation of idealism that is often expected of them, such as Lawrence.

Another example is pop sensation Billie Eilish, who has been applauded for her sincerity and openness about her habits and topics such as mental health.

“When I wake up, I put on ‘The Office.’ If I’m making a burrito, I turn on ‘The Office,’” Eilish said in a March interview with  Elle. In another Elle article, this one published in September, she said, “I felt like nothing mattered; every single thing was pointless. I was fully clinically depressed.”

Because being able to empathize with famous figures appeals to fans, the media has shifted some of its focus to documenting celebrities’ regular lives rather than simply the exclusive glamour.

“The media tries to make celebrities relatable to keep the industry alive,” Krishnan said. “When the celebrities seem relatable, it’s easier to support buying their products or watching their movies because we want to feel more personal with them.”

While celebrities are in some ways similar to their fans, they will never be truly relatable because of the pressures and elite experiences that fame brings. Due to the scrutiny they face, their image tends to be filtered and somewhat insincere. Yet, they are still people with human experiences, habits and insecurities.

“It’s almost comforting to know a celebrity faces relatable problems compared to yours and that they’re human too, just trying to live life,” Krishnan said.

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