Celebrity culture; the good, the bad, the ugly, and the beautiful; a symbiotic relationship between the viewer and viewed. It is an ever-present part of the human experience. I’m sure that somewhere thousands of years ago there was a caveman known for being particularly strong, and everyone in the cave cheered for Oorg of the Large Biceps and His Mandible-Crushing Hands. The pharaohs of ancient Egypt were revered as literal gods and the Miss United States pageant has been around since 1952. People have always loved people—or at least the idea of them.
The internet has made this love crackle with a newfound intensity. While constantly under the magnifying glass of the whole world, you can become viral at any time. Why not try your luck? The glitzy American dream that anyone with a ring light can get a brand deal with Squarespace is almost dystopian. My 72 year old grandma may one day be sponsored by Nord VPN.
Take a step back with me for a moment. Travel to a land before double unskippable ads on a single Youtube video, when One Direction was still a touring band and not just a footnote on Harry Styles’ Wikipedia page. Do you remember Alex from Target? In the wake of his rise to fame, he created a Youtube channel and went on tour with a bunch of Viners back when “Viner” was a socially acceptable job title. He deleted all of his social media in 2017, returned a year later looking extremely buff, and then deleted his accounts again. In an article by Chart Attack, it was revealed that Alex was studying to be an emergency medical technician.
He was only sixteen when the world mobbed him, unearthed his personal relationships, and made him a worldwide fad in a matter of weeks. However, Alex is one of the lucky ones. He made it out relatively unscathed with the kind of anecdotal fame that made its way into internet history books, yet didn’t define the rest of his life. Nobody has any idea what he’s doing right now, and I would wager that is exactly how he wants it to be.
Not so, for the rest of the world! Everyone likes to point fingers at the Kardashians, but the pointing just makes them more famous. Then there are, of course, mommy-bloggers, travel influencers, spiritual gurus, and basically every single person who has ever been featured on Dr. Phil. Youtubers, Tiktokers, and other “ers” repeat the same canned sponsorship agreements and watch their engagement rise and fall like politicians tracking votes. “You must like and subscribe, like and subscribe now! Do it now! Please!” The bloodlust for fame has reached a fever pitch and burrowed its way into the minds of the masses. We can’t breathe without self-commodification, crafting our lives around what joy looks like instead of how it feels.
But nevermind all that, we have to set the stage for your performance. Today, the costume is a clean girl—a bronzed goddess that wears silk sleeping sets and uses jade rollers. Or perhaps you’ve decided to be a goth, a cottagecore faerie, a dark academia lover, an NYC sophisticate, or a West Coast skater.
You don’t even realize it when it happens, but suddenly, constantly, you are facetuning pictures for the onlookers that file in for your brunches, Wednesday routines, and 6am workouts. You must make them cheer. They cannot be indifferent. They must adore you.
Maybe your brand is golden jewelry and middle parts. Maybe instead it’s red sunglasses, cherries, and polka dot dresses. Maybe the world has commodified itself so much that you water down your personality into buzzwords and ways of doing your hair that have come to signify increasingly microstic online personality traits because you are a complex human being with many different interests but it’s so much easier to find an identity that twenty-somethings on Tiktok invent every three weeks and shape yourself into it for the sake of having a tribe because everything is so untethered and the Arctic is melting and robots are taking over the world and you just want to BELONG SOMEWHERE.
You are clean girl.
You have a beautiful, clean house and a beautiful, aesthetically pleasing coffee-maker that you use to make clean coffee. You use your fancy, clean sunscreen every day on your clean face. You have a clean boyfriend, who you make dress in neutral colors and post from the chin down in all your photos. Soon, you will have clean children who wear matching burnt umber playsuits and never cry when you feed them artichoke pasta with wooden spoons. You are the proud zookeeper of 3,201 hard-earned, blood-won followers. You’ve recently been approached to become a micro-influencer for a new line of Target candles.
The world is your oyster, isn’t it? This is wonderful, isn’t it?
You might carve wood, or bee-keep, or paint or write or talk or dream.
You are not a wood-carver, a bee-keeper, a painter, or a writer. Not anymore.
You are a creator of content.
Consume the content. Purchase the content. Become the content.
You are the world’s celebrity now, little girl. Go post a Reel.