Prosperity Doesn’t Mean Celebrity

You might think it strange that I’m discussing the dangers of being rich and famous on a website that is centered on how to become prosperous. Although having money and being financially secure is certainly a core element of prosperity, I think there is a clear difference between the comfortable prosperity that comes from working hard and being responsible and seeking after celebrity-type fame and fortune.

Dr Orville Gilbert Brim

These millions of people who are so strongly motivated for fame are obviously different from the rest of the population. And what has happened is the fame motive has come out of the basic human need for acceptance and approval and when this need is not fulfilled because of rejection by parents, or adolescent peer groups, or others, a basic insecurity develops and emerges as the fame motive.

Well, it turns out that fame is not the answer for the need for love and acceptance. The desire is never fulfilled. The search for fame remains, driven by that basic need.

Is It Good to Aspire to Be Rich and Famous?

For the past several years, my daughter (an accomplished young violin and viola player who also likes to sing and dance) has been told repeatedly by people after the watch her, “Oh, you’re going to be just like Lindsey Stirling.” For those who don’t know, Stirling is fellow Latter-day Saint girl who has made it big as a singing, dancing violinist. Her YouTube channel now has over 11 million subscribers, and her videos have been viewed 2.5 billion times.

Estimates of Stirling’s net worth are in the $15M or more range. It seems she has everything, looks, fame, a ready-made fortune, EVERYTHING.

Why wouldn’t a dad like me want his daughter to grow up to be like someone so accomplished, so successful?

There are lots of reasons.

My conversations about that topic with my daughter, whose social, emotional, and physical welfare are some of my top priorities, used to go like this.

Me: “Actually, you don’t want to be like Lindsey Stirling.”

Her: “Why do you say that, Dad?”

Me: “Well, tell me how she’s ever going to have a normal marriage to someone who loves her for who she is rather than for her celebrity. How can she ever have a normal life, time off from worrying about thumbs down votes and negative comments on her YouTube videos? How difficult is it for her to feel satisfied about who she is? How much focus does she have on what should give her ultimate value, her identity as a daughter of good parents and ultimately as a daughter of God?”

Her: “That’s true. I wonder why people tend to make that comparison so often.”

In fact, in the past I’ve talked many times with my daughter about creating a YouTube channel that would allow her to share her own unique talents, even one that she could use to teach others the Suzuki method that’s been used to train her along with other skills she has on the violin. I’ve just not been able to bring myself to do it…yet, and I likely won’t until I can figure out a proven way to help her keep perspective on life while gaining popularity, an audience that could potentially change her motivations.

Obtaining celebrity status usually tends to come at the expense of a person’s ultimate core values, many of which must be sacrificed in favor of what a group of not very discerning people has determined to be the best way to create a shock effect, and political correctness, and an increasingly anti-Christian public opinion. The virtues, morals, and religious convictions, the traditional understanding of family that too frequently must be dropped at the door to Hollywood and other centers of celebrity incubation are the very things that the bulk of the population uses to provide stability. The process of becoming rich and famous, especially when it’s entered into purposefully by someone from a commoner background, naturally undermines the mental and emotional health of that person.

In our media-rich world where certain people’s lives tend to be more interesting than the normal day-to-days experienced among those of us who comprise the general masses of simply regular folks, instant fame and wealth often become the objective of almost anyone who thinks they can look at least halfway attractive (or peculiar anyhow) in a selfie posted to the social media crowd using an Instagram filter. But being rich and famous (especially in that combination, being rich on its own is much more manageable) is not really as much of a worthwhile pursuit as television makes it seem.

Motivations for Celebrities to Become Famous

An interview done by the University of Michigan with Dr. Orville Gilbert Brim, author of a book called Look at Me!: The Fame Motive from Childhood to Death uncovers some of the primary motivations people have for becoming famous. Dr. Brim makes this statement:

These millions of people who are so strongly motivated for fame are obviously different from the rest of the population. And what has happened is the fame motive has come out of the basic human need for acceptance and approval and when this need is not fulfilled because of rejection by parents, or adolescent peer groups, or others, a basic insecurity develops and emerges as the fame motive.

Well, it turns out that fame is not the answer for the need for love and acceptance. The desire is never fulfilled. The search for fame remains, driven by that basic need.

This summary of the motivations most celebrities tend to have for becoming famous suggests that they have an insatiable appetite for being noticed. No matter how many doting fans, no matter how their salary, no matter how many likes, shares, retweets they receive, they can never be satisfied.

This may explain why celebrities tend to be so susceptible to trends and fads.

 

A Different Expectation for Celebrities

Coincidentally, Brad Paisley, himself a country musician celebrity (one of the few celebrity groups that seems to be down to earth despite their fame) wrote a song about celebrities called, fittingly, “Celebrity”. His song’s indictment of the celebrity culture includes these lyrics.

‘Cause when you’re a celebrity
It’s adios reality
You can act just like a fool
People think you’re cool
Just ’cause you’re on TV
I can throw a major fit
When my latte isn’t just how I like it
When they say I’ve gone insane
I’ll blame it on the fame
And the pressures that go with
Being a celebrity

The general population seems to expect celebrities to act like spoiled children, absent the maturity we would expect from leaders for whom respect is demanded as part of their position of trust, including those who have set the standards of respectable culture that makes a society livable. In the past, conduct standards have been demanded of governmental, military, civic, educational, and religious leaders, but the modern celebrity culture that has developed even among segments of those groups.

This lack of social and emotional maturity coupled with narcissism and selfishness often makes it impossible for celebrities to have meaningful marriage relationships. The term “Hollywood marriage” has long been used as a pejorative for short-lived marriages among celebrity couples. A study by the UK based Marriage Foundation found that while the overall divorce rate in the UK over the first 14 years of a marriage is 25%, among A-list celebrities it is twice that amount, 50%.

The Vortex of Popular Culture

The traditional family and religious values that fostered a healthy society on in the early and mid-1900s have taken a beating by the trends of popular culture, especially since the 1960s.

Wikipedia’s list of celebrities who have taken their own lives in this century alone, many of whom appeared to be living enviable lives and even feigned happiness in public settings previous to their suicides, is replete with names of people whose deaths shocked the society that revered them, never anticipating that they were depressed and unhappy enough to give up on life. Society has for too long mistaken fame and fortune with happiness.

In addition to the list of celebrities who have taken their own lives is an even longer list of celebrities who have issues with substance abuse. In her article Are Celebrities More Prone to Addiction?, Kristen McGuiness quotes Dr. Scott Teitelbaum a psychiatrist at the University of Florida who deals with substance abuse. Regarding substance abuse among the famous, Dr. Teitelbaum concludes, “People with addiction and people with narcissism both seek outside sources for inside happiness. And ultimately neither the fame nor the drugs nor the drinking will work.” He points a loss of their sense of humility as being a significant factor.

Anyone who becomes a celebrity, especially in the music, acting, and other entertainment industries, runs the risk of being sucked into what I commonly refer to as the “vortex of popular culture”, which cares nothing about their background and belief system. Instead, the primary motivation of those who control popular culture is to find the next way to push the envelope, to be more sexy, more stimulating, to find the next, more shocking way to attack the world’s sense of propriety.

Losing Their Religion

One of the causes of severe depression among celebrities is a detachment from their religion and the values associated with a spiritual-based moral code. Studies like that done by The American Journal of Psychiatry show that increased religiosity can be a a deterrent from suicide. Other studies have come to similar conclusions.

Celebrities, including in the United States, have tended towards dismissing conservative upbringings in favor of replacing their value systems with liberal, often anti-religious views. Those views most often conflict with traditional standards for family, sexual expression, and habits that have been known to induce overall happiness and well-being.

The celebrity culture over the past 40 years has increasingly focused on doing away with Christian standards of morality and replacing them with pleasure seeking.

Examples of Celebrities Who’ve Sold Out for Fame

There is a long list of well-known people who could fall into the category of people who have put the pursuit of fame at the top of their priority list. In many cases, these people are super talented, and would deserve to be recognized for those talents in one form or another. However, these are a few that I’ve noted recently in discussions with my wife and kids.

Katy Perry: This entertainer grew up a daughter of Pentecostal pastors singing gospel music, but has long since left behind whatever teachings about chastity and Christian morality in favor of becoming an advocate for homosexuality and general sexual permissiveness.

Taylor Swift: My wife and I used to listen to Taylor Swift songs all the time a decade or so ago. Then she went from being an innocent (seeming) country girl to making songs that repeatedly use the Lord’s name in vain and that are full of sexual themes.

Swift’s fall from grace is the subject of an article entitled Taylor Swift’s False Reputation written by Marilette Sanchez of Think Christian magazine.

Dan Reynolds: The lead singer of most recognizable member of Imagine Dragons says that he belongs to my own religion, even having served a mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. However, despite the faithfulness of large family, led by him mom, Reynolds has clearly lost his way. Many of his songs are clearly about how torn he is between the life he grew up living, including developing musical skills as a religious young man.

Dan Reynolds Imagine Dragons LDS Singer Celebrity

The lyrics of his recent popular hit, Bullet in a Gun, captures the essence of this entire article, including in these few lines.

To make a name, you pay the price
You give your life, no other way
The devil’s deal, it comes around
To wear the crown, rise up from the ground

How many voices go unheard?
How many lessons never learned?
How many artists fear the light
Fear the pain, go insane?
Lose the mind, lose the self
(You only care about fame and wealth)
Sellout, sellout, sellout

The lyrics is of this and several of Reynolds’ other songs tell a story of a man who is truly conflicted, not able to figure out how to serve two very different masters.

 

Dolly Parton: Although I’ve always known this woman to be a bit edgy, I remember her as a symbol of Christmas in the country. Coming from a humble family of 12 in the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee, she used to seem like a family-centered woman. Now, in her 70s, she has clearly left behind the values she was raised with and has become an advocate of causes that are clearly anti-family and certainly not Christian.

Who Has Survived Celebrity Status?

On the positive side, there are people who appear to have survived the celebrity culture so far. Two names come to mind immediately, though there are certainly others who have dealt well with the wealth and attention that they’ve received.

Tim Tebow: As a Florida State football fan, it could be hard to like a former Florida Gator quarterback. However, Tebow is a man whose conviction is impressive, a guy who isn’t shy about his commitment to his religious upbringing, even when he is mocked for publicly stating that he’s putting off sex until he’s married.

Bryce Harper: Harper is a committed Latter-day Saint, a member of my own church whose experiences with fame and fortune appear to not have tainted him. He routinely shares things about his religious beliefs on his social media profile, and seems to be living his religion despite pressures in the world he lives to do otherwise.

Hugh Jackman: I couldn’t just list athletes here (although I just realized the good list is made of of only men; feel free to share a female suggestion if you know of one). Hugh Jackman was raised a Christian, and he has apparently maintained his religion, his marriage, his commitment to being genuinely charitable (as opposed to the “charitable giving” marketing ploys common among celebrities), and his down to earth mentality.

Should a Young Musician Aspire to Be Like Lindsey Stirling?

Lindsey Stirling has historically made public commitments to values that include modesty, chastity, and other Christian ideals. But the influence of popularity and those who are waiting on the other side of popularity to guide celebrities to their next levels of success can be difficult to suppress.

I noticed recently that Stirling published at least two videos that depart from her commitment to being family friendly and inspiring, even if they don’t go nearly to the extent that other formerly clean artists turned wild have gone.

In response to some pushback from her fan base who also observed that she’s straying, Stirling wrote this comment:

Just because I look pretty and dare I say, sexy in a video doesn’t mean that I am a “wannabe” “Barbie” “pop star” that has lost her sense of value. I draw the lines that I think are appropriate for me and it is up to you to draw the lines that are appropriate for you.

Those seem like defensive words from someone who has been called out by the part of her fan base that is recognizing that she may very well be following the same path that stars like Katy Perry and Taylor Swift have gone over the past decade. If I had advice for Lindsey Stirling (and I do), I’d say to heed those warnings, even though many of them come across as judgmental and critical of her.

My wife and I actually have on our family bucket list a pipe dream of creating a bluegrass band with our kids and travelling the country (possibly the world) performing for fun. If there comes a time when the band attains any degree of popularity (which is the objective of most performing groups), we plan to have social guard bands in place to prevent any of our kids’ feet from leaving the ground.

For my own daughter specifically, instead of even trying to be like Lindsey Stirling, my recommendation has always been not to seek after accolades that would compromise the values she’s being taught in her home, values that will make her ultimately happy and prosperous.