"Celeb" and "Television personalities" redirect here. For the comic strip, see Private Eye § Cartoons. For the English band, see Television Personalities. For other uses, see Celebrity (disambiguation).
English former footballer David Beckham is famous not just for his sporting achievements, but his fashion, product endorsements, and his marriage to singer turned fashion designer Victoria Beckham
American socialite Paris Hilton was one of the first celebrities to be described as 'famous for being famous', she has since expanded her brand into a multibillion-dollar empire
Peter Robinson felt that Madonna invented contemporary pop fame and her fame has generated multiple material academics[1][2]

Celebrity refers to the fame and public attention accorded by the media to individuals or groups or, occasionally, animals, but is usually applied to the persons or groups of people (celebrity couples, families, etc.) themselves who receive such a status of fame and attention. Celebrity status is often associated with wealth (commonly referred to as fame and fortune), while fame often provides opportunities to make money.

'Celebrity is a complicated cultural construct. In the popular sense, celebrity is a noun meaning ‘a famous person’. This is a binary, personal quality: you are either a celebrity, or you’re not'.[3]

Although the term "celebrity" is often intended to refer to famous individuals, it is also commonly used to refer to anyone who has had any moderate public attention in media, regardless of how well-known they are beyond their niche.

Successful careers in sports and entertainment are commonly associated with celebrity status;[4][5] while political leaders often become celebrities. People may also become celebrities due to media attention on their lifestyle, wealth, or controversial actions, or for their connection to a famous person.


Throughout recorded history there are accounts of people who attracted the trappings of celebrity which would be recognized today.[6]

Athletes in Ancient Greece were welcomed home as heroes, had songs and poems written in their honor, and received free food and gifts from those seeking celebrity endorsement.[7] Ancient Rome similarly lauded actors and notorious gladiators, and Julius Caesar appeared on a coin in his own lifetime (a departure from the usual depiction of battles and divine lineage).[6]

In the 12th century, Thomas Becket became famous following his murder. He was promoted by the Christian Church as a martyr and images of him and scenes from his life became widespread in just a few years. In a pattern often repeated, what started out as an explosion of popularity (often referred to with the suffix 'mania') turned into a long-lasting fame: pilgrimages to Canterbury Cathedral where he was killed became instantly fashionable and the fascination with his life and death have inspired plays and films.

The cult of personality (particularly in the west) can be traced back to the Romantics in the 18th Century,[8] whose livelihood as artists and poets depended on the currency of their reputation. The establishment of cultural hot-spots became an important factor in the process of generating fame: for example, London and Paris in the 18th and 19th Centuries. Newspapers started including gossip columns [9] and certain clubs and events became places to be seen in order to receive publicity.

The movie industry spread around the globe in the first half of the 20th Century and with it the now familiar concept of the instantly recognizable faces of its superstars. Yet, celebrity wasn't always tied to actors in films, especially when cinema was starting out as a medium. As Paul McDonald states in The Star System: Hollywood's Production of Popular Identities, "in the first decade of the twentieth century, American film production companies withheld the names of film performers, despite requests from audiences, fearing that public recognition would drive performers to demand higher salaries."[10] Public fascination went well beyond the on-screen exploits of movie stars and their private lives became headline news: for example, in Hollywood the marriages of Elizabeth Taylor and in Bollywood the affairs of Raj Kapoor in the 1950s.

The second half of the century saw television and popular music bring new forms of celebrity, such as the rock star and the pop group, epitomised by Elvis Presley and The Beatles, respectively. John Lennon's highly controversial 1966 quote: "We're more popular than Jesus now,"[11] which he later insisted was not a boast, and that he was not in any way comparing himself with Christ,[12] gives an insight into both the adulation and notoriety that fame can bring. Unlike movies, television created celebrities who were not primarily actors; for example, presenters, talk show hosts and news readers. However, most of these are only famous within the regions reached by their particular broadcaster, and only a few such as Oprah Winfrey, Jerry Springer, or David Frost could be said to have broken through into a wider stardom.

Regional and cultural implications

Many people around the world know the name and face of the current U.S. president, Barack Obama.

Cultures and regions with a significant population may have their own independent celebrity systems, with distinct hierarchies. For example, the Canadian province of Quebec, which is French-speaking, has its own system of French-speaking television, movie and music celebrities. A person who garners a degree of fame in one culture may be considered less famous or obscure in another. Some nationwide celebrities might command some attention outside their own nation; for example, the singer Lara Fabian is widely known in the French-speaking world, but only had a couple of Billboard hits in the U.S., whereas the francophone Canadian singer Celine Dion is well known in both the French-speaking world and in the United States.

Regions within a country, or cultural communities (linguistic, ethnic, religious) can also have their own celebrity systems, especially in linguistically or culturally distinct regions such as Quebec or Wales. Regional radio personalities, newscasters, politicians or community leaders may be local or regional celebrities.

The Indian actor Rajesh Khanna starred in 15 consecutive solo hit films.[13]

English-speaking media commentators and journalists will sometimes refer to celebrities as belonging to the A-List or state that a certain actor belongs to the B-List, the latter being a disparaging context. These informal rankings indicate a placing within a hierarchy. However, due to differing levels of celebrity in different regions, it is difficult to place people within one bracket. A Brazilian actor might be a B-list action film actor in the U.S., but an A-list star in Portugal.

Some elements are associated with fame, such as appearing on the cover of Time, being spoofed in Mad, having a wax statue in Madame Tussauds, or receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Certain people are known even to people unfamiliar with the area in which they excelled. If one has to name a famous boxer, they are more likely to name Muhammad Ali or Mike Tyson, since their fame expanded beyond the sport itself. Pablo Picasso's style and name are known even to people who are not interested in art; likewise many know that Harry Houdini was an illusionist, Tiger Woods a golfer, Richard Branson, Bill Gates and Donald Trump as entrepreneurs, Albert Einstein a scientist; Mozart and Beethoven classical composers; Luciano Pavarotti an opera singer.

Fictional implications

The same phenomenon is true for fictional characters. Superman, Spider-Man, The Hulk, Wonderwoman and Batman represent super heroes to a far wider audience than that of the comics and graphic novels in which they appear. Disney have themeparks around the world which rely on the fame of its creations headed by Mickey Mouse. Sherlock Holmes and James Bond continue to be portrayed in film, television and literature decades after the original stories were published. Some characters from video and computer games have developed a celebrity life beyond these media, such as Lara Croft, Pikachu and Mario.

Becoming a celebrity in the U.S.

Professional athletes such as Kobe Bryant (above) who play for various sports teams are one of the most sought after careers in the world.

People may become celebrities in a wide range of ways; from their professions, following appearances in the media, committing a mass murder,[14] or by complete accident. The term "instant celebrity" describes someone who becomes a celebrity in a very short period of time. Someone who achieves a small amount of transient fame (through, say, hype or mass media) may become labeled a "B-grade celebrity". Often, the generalization extends to someone who falls short of mainstream or persistent fame but who seeks to extend or exploit it.


There are no guarantees of success for an individual to become a celebrity. Though celebrities come from many different working fields, most celebrities are typically associated with the fields of sports and entertainment or a person may be a public figure who is commonly recognizable in mass media.

Though glamour and wealth certainly play a role for only famous celebrities, most people in the sports and entertainments spheres, be it music, film, television, radio, modelling, comedy, literature etc. live in obscurity and only a small percentage achieve fame and fortune.[15][16][17][18]


David Letterman, late night talk show host and comedian.

A large number of athletes who are unable to turn professional take a second job or even sometimes abandon their athletic aspirations in order to make ends meet. A small percentage of entertainers and athletes are able to make a decent living but a vast majority will spend their careers toiling from hard work, determination, rejection and frequent unemployment. For minor league to amateur athletes, earnings are usually on the lower end of the pay-scale. Many of them take second jobs on the side or even venture into other occupations within the field of sports such as coaching, general management, refereeing or recruiting and scouting up-and-coming athletes.[19]

The Screen Actors Guild, a union representing actors and actresses throughout Hollywood reports that the average television and film actor earns less than US$5000 annually; the median hourly wage for actors was $18.80 in May 2015.[20][21][22] Actors sometimes alternate between theater, television and film or even branch into other occupations within the entertainment industry such as becoming a singer, comedian, producer, or a television host in order to be monetarily diversified, as doing one gig pays comparatively very little. For instance, David Letterman is well known for branching into late night television as a talk show host while honing his skills as a stand-up comedian, Barbra Streisand ventured into acting while operating as a singer, or Clint Eastwood, who achieved even greater fame in Hollywood for being a film director and a producer than for his acting credentials.

According to American entertainment magnate Master P, entertainers and professional athletes make up less than 1% of all millionaires in the entire world.[23] Less than 1% of all runway models are known to make more than US$1000 for every fashion showcase. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the median wage for commercial and print models was only $11.22 per hour in 2006 and was also listed one of the top ten worst jobs in the United States.[24] Most models only draw in around US$500 every showcase and only famous models that are high in demand such as Miranda Kerr or Gisele Bündchen earn multimillion-dollar salaries. Freelance writers and authors who aspire to be the next Stephen King and Dan Brown are known to submit manuscripts of their latest literary creations hoping for their big break are only to be bombarded with numerous rejection letters from major publishing houses. Many aspiring comedians who dream of becoming the next Louis C.K. and Jerry Seinfeld never see the inside of a movie or television studio, but rather spend most of their careers doing stand-up in comedy clubs and other small venues, hoping to be discovered. Because gigs can be infrequent, it can be very difficult to make a living as a freelance entertainer. As a result, many supplement their income by holding down other jobs on the side.


Forbes Celebrity 100

Forbes Magazine releases an annual Forbes Celebrity 100 list of the highest paid celebrities in the world. The total earnings for all top celebrity 100 earners totaled $4.5 billion over the course of 2010 alone.

For instance, Forbes ranked media mogul and talk show host, Oprah Winfrey as the top earner "Forbes magazine’s annual ranking of the most powerful celebrities", with earnings of $290 million in the past year. Forbes cites that Lady Gaga reportedly earned over $90 million in 2010.[25] In 2010, golfer Tiger Woods was one of highest-earning celebrity athletes, with an income of $75 million and is consistently ranked one of the highest paid athletes in the world.[25] In 2013, Madonna was ranked as the fifth most powerful and the highest earning celebrity of the year with earnings of $125 million. She has consistently been among the most powerful and highest earning celebrities in the world, occupying the third place in Forbes Celebrity 100 2009 with $110 million of earnings, and getting the tenth place in the 2010 edition of the list with annual earnings equal to $58 million.[26]

Entrepreneurship and endorsements

Celebrity endorsements have proven very successful around the world where, due to increasing consumerism, an individual is considered to own a status symbol when they purchase a celebrity-endorsed product. Although it has become commonplace for celebrities to place their name with endorsements onto products just for quick money, some celebrities have gone beyond merely using their names and have put their entrepreneurial spirit to work by becoming entrepreneurs by attaching themselves in the business aspects of entertainment and building their own business brand beyond their traditional salaried activities. Along with investing their salaried wages into growing business endeavors, a number of celebrities have become innovative business leaders in their respective industries, gaining the admiration of their peers and contributing to the country’s economy.

Numerous celebrities have ventured into becoming business moguls and established themselves as entrepreneurs, idolizing many well known American business leaders such as Bill Gates, Warren Buffett, and Donald Trump. For instance, basketball legend Michael Jordan became an active entrepreneur involved with many sports related ventures including investing a minority stake in the Charlotte Bobcats, Paul Newman started his own salad dressing business after leaving behind a distinguished acting career, and rap musician Birdman started his own record label, clothing line, and an oil business while maintaining a career as a rap artist. Other celebrities such as Tyler Perry, George Lucas, and Steven Spielberg have become successful entrepreneurs through starting their own film production companies and running their own movie studios beyond their traditional activities of screenwriting, directing, animating, producing, and acting.[29]

Various examples of celebrity turned entrepreneurs included in the table below are:

Celebrity Net worth (2013–14) US$ Sources of wealth
Oprah Winfrey IncreaseUS$2.9 billion[30]Main sources are television, radio, and film. Additional business holdings in Harpo Productions and the Oprah Winfrey Network with interests in film, television, magazines, books, motivational speaking, and publishing.[31][32]
Madonna IncreaseUS$1 billion[33][34]

Main sources of wealth include royalties and proceeds from music, fashion, music touring, film-making, and record production. She founded her own record label, Maverick Records established in the 1990s. Guinness World Records name her as the Best-selling female recording artist of all time selling over 300 million albums in her career. Total record sales of 500,000,000 (over 300,000,000 albums and 200,000,000 singles) also add to her net worth along with her Sticky and Sweet Tour which is the highest grossing solo tour of all time achieving a gross of $408,000,000. The MDNA Tour which is the second highest grossing tour by any female artist behind Madonna's own Sticky and Sweet tour attracted more than 2.2 million fans and grossed $305 million in ticket sales and an additional $75 million in merchandise sales, adding a lot to her net worth. In the year 2012, she also earned $10 million in TV and DVD rights, $60 million from her perfume line Truth or Dare and made $11 million from the $2 million investment in Vita Coco.

50 Cent IncreaseUS$140 million[35]Main sources include music, film, and television. Various external ventures include sports endorsements with Reebok and his clothing company, the G-Unit Clothing Company video games, record labels: G-Unit Records and G-Note Records. Additional holdings in consumer electronics such as SMS Audio headphones, dietary supplements, condoms and Pure 50 RGX Body Spray as a joint venture with Right Guard, beverages that include his Vitamin water drink venture with Glacéau and Street King energy drink beverages, fragrances and cosmetics, fashion designing and clothing, video games that 50 Cent: Bulletproof, books, radio, music publishing, television and film production (Cheetah Vision, talent management that includes boxing promotion, real estate, and other investments.[36]
Jay-Z IncreaseUS$520 million[37] Main sources mainly stakes in Roc Nation, Carol's Daughter, the Brooklyn Nets, and more significantly, the Barclays Center itself—while adding new partnerships with the likes of Duracell, Budweiser and Bacardi’s D’ussé Cognac.bars and nightclubs, books, clothing line Rocawear, real estate development which includes the Barclay's Center, to which sold his 1.5 million stake in September 2013,[38] music touring, music publishing, casinos, advertising, other investments within his conglomerate (Gain Global Investments LLC).
Sean Combs IncreaseUS$700 million[39] Main sources mainly in television, film, and music. Other holdings include the record label Bad Boy Records, fashion designing and the Sean John Clothing Line, namely his deal with Diageo’s Ciroc, restaurants, vodka, television production, business education, and fragrances. Combs also has a major equity stake in Revolt TV, a newly launched television network.[40]
Martha Stewart IncreaseUS$970 million[41] Main sources mainly in radio, television, film, and her conglomerate Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia, which includes interests in television production, magazines, cookbooks, and household cooking products. Other products include cookbooks, books and instructional manuals for the home decorator. Remaining sources include internet related ventures, satellite radio show, blogging, publishing, books, and retail merchandising.[42]
Magic Johnson IncreaseUS$700 million[43][44]Main sources primarily in television and sports. Other holdings include the promotion and theater chain Magic Johnson Theatres, movie studios, food services, coffee shops, sports teams (minority stake in the LA Lakers), and motivational speaking. As chairman and CEO of Magic Johnson Enterprises, Johnson owns movie theaters, restaurants, and gyms. Johnson also owns a stake in the Los Angeles Dodgers along with several partnerships with companies Starbucks, 24 Hour Fitness, T.G.I. Fridays, AMC Theatres, invested in urban real estate and financial service companies catering to America’s underserved markets via his Canyon-Johnson and Yucaipa-Johnson funds. Other ventures involve investments in poor neighborhoods, including a national chain of “Magic Johnson Theatres” (now wholly owned by AMC Theatres), a promotions company, and The Magic Johnson Entertainment movie studio. Until 2010, he held a $10 million stake in the Lakers and served as the team’s vice president.[45][46][47][48][49] Another major project is with Chicago-based Aon Corp., an insurance services company is designed to promote minority businesses.[50]
Arnold Schwarzenegger IncreaseUS$100–$800 million[51][52][53] Main sources include films and bodybuilding. Minor holdings in various global businesses, restaurants, real estate, Planet Hollywood, and other investments.

Tabloid magazines and talk TV shows bestow a great deal of attention on celebrities. To stay in the public eye and build wealth in addition to their salaried labor, numerous celebrities have participating and branching into various business ventures and endorsements. Many celebrities have participated in many different endorsement opportunities that include: animation, publishing, fashion designing, cosmetics, consumer electronics, household items and appliances, cigarettes, soft drinks and alcoholic beverages, hair care, hairdressing, jewelry design, fast food, credit cards, video games, writing, and toys.[54]

In addition to various endorsements, a number of celebrities have been involved with some business and investment related ventures also include: and toddler related items, sports team ownership, fashion retailing, establishments such as restaurants, cafes, hotels, and casinos, movie theaters, advertising and event planning, management related ventures such as sports management, financial services, model management, and talent management, record labels, film production, television production, publishing such as book and music publishing, massage therapy, salons, health and fitness, and real estate.[54]

Although some celebrities have achieved additional financial success from various business ventures, the vast majority of celebrities are not successful businesspeople and still rely on salaried labored wages in order to earn a living. Most businesses and investments are well known to have a 90 to 95 percent failure rate within the first five years of operation. Not all celebrities eventually succeed with their own businesses and other related side ventures. Some celebrities either went broke or filed for bankruptcy as result of dabbling with such side businesses or endorsements. Though some might question such a validity since celebrities themselves are already well known, have mass appeal, and are well exposed to the general public. The average entrepreneur who is not well known and reputable to general public doesn't the same marketing flexibility and status-quo as most celebrities allow and have. Therefore, compared to the average person who starts a business, celebrities already have all the cards and odds stacked in their favor. This means they can have an unfair advantage to expose their business ventures and endorsements and can easily capture a more significant amount of market share than the average entrepreneur.[55]

As a mass media phenomenon

Kim Kardashian, reality TV star.

Celebrities often have fame comparable to royalty. As a result, there is a strong public curiosity about their private affairs. The release of Kim Kardashian's sex tape with rapper Ray J in 2003 brought her to a new level of fame, leading to magazine covers, book deals, and reality TV series.[56][57]

Celebrities may be resented for their accolades, and the public may have a love/hate relationship with celebrities. Due to the high visibility of celebrities' private lives, their successes and shortcomings are often made very public. Celebrities are alternately portrayed as glowing examples of perfection, when they garner awards, or as decadent or immoral if they become associated with a scandal. When seen in a positive light, celebrities are frequently portrayed as possessing skills and abilities beyond average people; for example, celebrity actors are routinely celebrated for acquiring new skills necessary for filming a role within a very brief time, and to a level that amazes the professionals who train them. Similarly, some celebrities with very little formal education can sometimes be portrayed as experts on complicated issues. Some celebrities have been very vocal with their political views. For example, Matt Damon expressed his displeasure with 2008 US vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin, as well as with the 2011 United States debt-ceiling crisis.[58][59]

Famous for being famous

Famous for being famous, in popular culture terminology, refers to someone who attains celebrity status for no particular identifiable reason, or who achieves fame through association with a celebrity.[60] The term is a pejorative, suggesting that the individual has no particular talents or abilities.[61] Even when their fame arises from a particular talent or action on their part, the term will sometimes still apply if their fame is perceived as disproportionate to what they earned through their own talent or work.

The coinages "famesque" and "celebutante" are of similar pejorative gist.


Another example of celebrity is a family that has notable ancestors or is known for its wealth. In some cases, a well-known family is associated with a particular field. For example, the Kennedy family is associated with US politics; The House of Windsor with royalty; The Trump, Hilton, and Rothschild families with business; the Jackson family with popular music; and the Osbourne, Chaplin, Kardashian, and Baldwin families with television.

Restricted access

Access to celebrities is strictly controlled by their entourage of staff which includes managers, publicists, agents, personal assistants, and bodyguards. Even journalists find it difficult to access celebrities for interviews. An interview with writer and actor Michael Musto cites:

You have to go through many hoops just to talk to a major celebrity. You have to get past three different sets of publicists: the publicist for the event, the publicist for the movie, and then the celebrity's personal publicist. They all have to approve you.

Celebrities often hire one or more bodyguards (or close protection officer) to protect themselves and their families from threats ranging from the mundane (intrusive paparazzi photographers or autograph-seeking fans) to serious (assault, kidnapping, assassination, or stalking). The bodyguard travels with the celebrity during professional activities (movie shoots or concerts) and personal activities such as recreation and errands.

Celebrities also typically have security staff at their home, to protect them from similar threats.[63][64]

Cult of celebrity

15 minutes of fame

See also: 15 minutes of fame, One-hit wonder

Andy Warhol coined the phrase "15 minutes of fame".

Andy Warhol famously coined the phrase "15 minutes of fame" in reference to a short-lived publicity. Certain "15 minutes of fame" celebrities can be average people seen with an A-list celebrity, who are sometimes noticed on entertainment news channels such as E! News. These persons are ordinary people becoming celebrities, often based on the ridiculous things they do. "In fact, many reality show contestants fall into this category: the only thing that qualifies them to be on TV is that they're real."[65]

Certain people are only remembered today because of a movie portrayal, certain story or urban legend surrounding their life and less for their accomplishments. Antonio Salieri was a famous and well-known 18th-century composer, but his fictional portrayal as an antagonist (for example, in the musical and film Amadeus) has been more famous than his music since the end of the 20th century. Roscoe "Fatty" Arbuckle and O. J. Simpson are more notorious for their association with murder trials than for their respective movie and sports careers. Centuries after his death, Andrea Mantegna is now better known as the mentor of Leonardo da Vinci than for his own paintings.

Social networking

Celebrities have been flocking to social networking and photo or video hosting platforms such as YouTube, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat.[66] Social networking sites allow celebrities to communicate directly with their fans, removing the middle-man known as traditional media. Social media humanizes celebrities in a way that arouses public fascination as evident by the success of magazines such as Us Weekly and People Weekly. Celebrity blogging have also spawned stars such as Perez Hilton who is well known for not only blogging, but also outing celebrities.[67]

Social media sites have also contributed to the fame of some celebrities, such as Tila Tequila who became known through MySpace.[68]

Health implications

John Cleese said being famous offers some advantages such as financial wealth and easier access to things that are more difficult for non-famous people to access, such as the ability to more easily meet other famous or powerful people, but that being famous also often comes with the disadvantage of creating the conditions in which the celebrity finds themselves acting, at least temporarily (although sometimes over extended periods of time), in a superficial, inauthentic fashion.[69]

Common threats such as stalking have spawned celebrity worship syndrome where a person becomes overly involved with the details of a celebrity's personal life.[70] Psychologists have indicated that though many people obsess over glamorous film, television, sport and music stars, the disparity in salaries in society seems to value professional athletes and entertainment industry based professionals.[71][72] One study found that singers, musicians, actors and athletes die younger on average than writers, composers, academics, politicians and businesspeople, with a greater incidence of cancer and especially lung cancer. However, it was remarked that the reasons for this remained unclear, with theories including innate tendencies towards risk-taking as well as the pressure or opportunities of particular types of fame.[73]

Furthermore, some have said fame might have negative psychological effects, and may lead to increasingly selfish tendencies and psychopathy.

Recently, there has been more attention toward the impact celebrities have on health decisions of the population at large.[74] It is believed that the public will follow celebrities' health advice to some extent.[75] This can have positive impacts when the celebrities give solid, evidence informed health advice, however it can also have detrimental affects if the health advice is not accurate enough.

See also



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External links

  • Quotations related to Fame at Wikiquote
  • Media related to Celebrities at Wikimedia Commons

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