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Baby, you’re a big star: A Reflection on the Idolisation of Celebrities

Join Jasmine Oke as she reflects on our admiration of stars and artists, winding through a map of trendy idolisation and authentic love for our heroes.

What a beautiful thing it is to feel seen and heard by someone you’ve never even met. Celebrity idolisation is far from a new concept, but the phenomenon has certainly reached new heights throughout the twenty-first century. It’s something often done blindly and without much careful consideration, but it’s imperative that we reflect on how this is impacting not only us but also those we’re projecting such worship onto. When someone’s life’s work speaks to and enlightens you, it’s natural to want to know more about them. Hell, I’m not here trying to deny falling prey to what was once often deemed

One Direction infection as a young teen or even still dabbling in the odd indulgence (just between you and me, I attended Harry Styles’ Love on Tour 13 times across multiple cities) but, there are certainly ways that we can healthily explore this. Singer/songwriter Lorde – otherwise known as Ella Yelich-O’Connor – shares in one of her Solar Power tracks: “Baby, you’re a big star . . . Wanna take your picture / ‘Til I die”.[1] Though the song is not about stardom – at least to her – it demonstrates the pure fascination and adoration we often attribute to it. We want to follow and observe these people until we meet our end, but what if they meet theirs first?

The roaring twenties: a term that is associated with the early twentieth century yet still rings true today. This decade has proven to be as tumultuous and revolutionary as the one hosted by Gatsby, but right now – at almost 23 – I can tell you that it is also the age range that resonates with that sentiment. You could say that what follows is a discussion of both the lost and found celebrities of my most formative years thus far – my late teens and early twenties. But it’s also an exploration of this aforementioned idolisation and how we can collectively overcome any potential toxicity associated with it. 

The Lost

Joan Didion, Eve Babitz, bell hooks, Vivienne Westwood, Jane Birkin and Christine McVie – just to name a few of my heroes who have passed in the last three years. Whether these names are familiar to you due to our similar interests, news headlines, or merely their cult status amongst those subscribing to the ultimate ‘cool girl’ (or ‘hot girl’) aesthetic, it’s undeniable that they hold traction. Much more than a trend, these women each have had a profound effect on me and countless others due to the passion and vigour they put into their work until the very end. They are the names that shook me to my very core when I saw them flash up on my iPhone screen, gracing the Instagram stories of celebrities, friends, and foes alike. White dove emojis, canonical quotes, and e-eulogies… oh boy. It’s not all bad, I suppose. In times like these, you’re able to learn which of your more contemporary idols were inspired by the minds of such greats. I remember the day, in late 2021, that Didion passed rather vividly, with the likes of Maggie Rogers, Phoebe Bridgers, and Harry Styles sharing tributes. Truly monumental.

Didion, Babitz, and hooks were each creative and intellectual whirlwinds in their own right. Their words lap over you like salty waves, settling into every dimple and groove of your skin until you can’t remember what it was like to live without them. I’m not quite sure what I’ll do when I have none left to consume. Though not wordsmiths or scholarly feminist revolutionaries, Westwood and Birkin offered more than just snazzy outfits and sweeping bangs that were the envy of the town. Without either, I’m not sure I would have the confidence or appreciation for self-expression that I do today. And finally, McVie. Not a creative spirit that I found on my own but rather through my Nana’s insatiable love of Fleetwood Mac while I was growing up. One of my most vivid memories of my early childhood is sitting in your typical 2000s living room, the television lit up with the 1997 MTV Special, Fleetwood Mac: The Dance. “This is my favourite song! Christine is incredible,” she had exclaimed from another corner of the room as the opening notes of “Songbird” filtered through the old speakers. She was right, Christine was incredible. I never looked back.

The Found

While thinking about all of this, I’ve opened up trusty ol’ Spotify and perused my September playlist (titled “Servetember”, obviously) and began to take some inspiration from my current contemporary musical heroes. To no one’s surprise, they have a lot to say on the matter at hand.

“From you the flowers grow / And do you understand with every seed you sow / You make this cold world beautiful?”.[2]

In this line, and in fact the entire song, Florence Welch croons over her own idol – writer and musician Patti Smith. In a way, she expresses how Smith allows her to flourish by providing her with the inspiration and hope necessary to fulfil her own desires and achieve her own goals. Indeed, one of the most beautiful aspects of the arts is the distinct sense of collaboration and community that’s not afforded to other sectors of the human experience, at least not in the same way. By consuming the work of others, we not only are able to have them inform our own thoughts and ideas but we are also invigorated by their passion. As was once said by nineteenth-century writer Mark Twain, “There is no such thing as an original idea.”[3] Too real MT.

“All of our heroes fading / Now I can’t stand to be alone”.[4]

Loss. It’s something we’ve started becoming acquainted with by our twenties, some of us more so than others, but whether it be the loss of a family member, friend, pet, or idol, we’ve become acquainted nonetheless. But where do we learn how to deal with it? In this line, Lorde vocalises the loss of a hero figure as a distinct feeling of loneliness as, whether they know it or not, these people often end up feeling like our closest confidantes. This is a thought that Taylor Swift echoes in her Lover single “The Archer”, where she pleads “And all of my heroes die all alone / Help me hold on to you”.[5] Here, Swift recognises that our heroes likely feel this sense of loneliness too. The remedy? Hold on to those close to you – as well as yourself – and don’t let go.

“What if I told you / I feel like I know you / But we never met / It’s for the best”.[6]

Here, Phoebe Bridgers encapsulates the harsh truth regarding encountering these figures in real life; as they say, never meet your heroes. There’s no telling how these interactions will go on either person’s end. We often hold these individuals to such an impossibly high esteem that it is then unlikely that they will match the image we have conjured up in our little heads. Even if they come close, who’s to say they won’t be put off by our intensity? This would surely be a humiliation and disappointment that there would be no coming back from.

“I can’t love you how you want me to”.[7]

Boygenius are open and honest about their connection to fans and worshippers alike, abstaining from giving in to the dangerous ‘people pleaser’ title that other celebrities fall into that consequently jeopardises their autonomy. “Maybe I’m afraid of you”,[8] they all chant together in the bridge, setting an eerie tone for the remainder of the track. Seeking reciprocation from our heroes seems like a pretty nonsensical thing to do, but is it something owed to us? And when they don’t even know as little as our name, is it even something we can expect?

“Now if you’re looking for a saviour, well, that’s not me / You need someone to take your pain for you? / Well, that’s not me”.[9]

This particular Solar Power track goes on to explain “‘Cause we are all broken and sad / Where are the dreams that we had? / Can’t find the dreams that we had”.[10] By likening herself to the general public, Ella (rather than performer ‘Lorde’) rejects her ‘leader’ status and speaks to the need for one to be able to rely on oneself. 

All in all, it’s healthy to look up to those we admire. But for both parties to truly flourish, boundaries need to be respected, and we must ensure that we are viewing these artists as mere humans and mortals just like us rather than some deities to be placed on a pedestal. So until next year, Grapey readers, Christine and I will leave you with one final sentiment: I wish you all the love in the world. But most of all, I [hope you] wish it for yourself.[11]

[8] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

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