Celebrity culture: Sorting the real reality from hyper reality

  • Age: 11-16 yrs
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Celebrity culture: Sorting the real reality from hyper reality

Girls today are surrounded by a hyper-reality celebrity culture that’s hard to compete with and could be damaging to their self-image. Celebrity influence is everywhere, from obsessions with celebrity style to following celebrities on Twitter, and we live in a world of “reality” TV, airbrushed images and photo-sharing social media sites. How is your daughter coping?

Girls have never had so much access to celebrities and their private lives and as a result, the fine line between celebrity culture and our own real lives is getting ever finer. The rich and famous, and everyone in between, seem comfortable sharing their innermost thoughts, lavish lifestyles and wildest tantrums in the public domain – so it’s no wonder our kids think this is the norm.

“Exposure to celebrity drama and the implicit acceptance that this type of behavior is normal can have a real impact on the way girls behave and interact with each other in their own lives,” says Jennifer Siebel Newsom, documentary filmmaker and women’s advocate. “It’s important that girls learn to recognize what’s real and what’s manipulated to attract eyeballs and viewers.”

The appeal of celebrity culture

When we asked 11-year-old Becky what she wanted to be when she grows up, she responded instantly: “Famous!” When asked what she wanted to be famous for, she had a little more trouble deciding.

Nowadays, it seems the norm for girls to aspire to “celebrity” with no real consideration for where that fame may come from. In her book, Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World , author Lisa Bloom reveals the sad statistic that 25% of young American women would rather win America’s Next Top Model than the Nobel Peace Prize.

A recent study by Girlguiding also revealed that 54% of girls say that the pressure to look like a celebrity is a cause of stress. So how can you take away some of the gloss and reveal a more true “reality”?

Talking to your daughter is the key

“We discuss the fact that celebrities have chefs and personal trainers and how far removed that is from our reality,” says Martine, mom to 12-year-old Lucy. “This keeps Lucy grounded about what is achievable.”

Discussing the realities of those people’s lives and showing your daughter what goes on behind the cameras is a great way to start her thinking about how much effort goes into celebrities’ appearances and those “real” images we see on screen and in magazines.

Real reality versus hyper reality

Does your daughter know that celebrities often outsource the management of their social media profiles and online activities to external companies? What she’s reading as her idols’ innermost thoughts and feelings may very well be written by a complete stranger to the celebrity themselves.

Your daughter is bound to be influenced by her favorite celebrities and seek to imitate their behavior while she’s working out her sense of self. By helping her to break down the individual elements that make up a “celebrity”, she’ll gradually become more discerning and confident in the way she chooses to express herself.

To protect privacy we’ve changed the names of the people whose stories we tell on these pages. But the stories they tell are absolutely genuine.

Action checklist:
Things to talk to your daughter about

Appearances can be deceptive: Talk about what celebrities look like when they get up in the morning, and how they make the transformation into the polished people we see online, on TV and in magazines.

Looking good is a full-time job: Make a list of all the products, people and trends involved in celebrities’ lives. You could even try to work out how much time and money they spend on it all and question whether it’s worth it.

Look again: Take a look at some celebrities on Twitter and other social media sites. Talk to your daughter about which posts might be real and which someone else could have written?

Talent is worth much more than good looks: Try to help her recognize the real talents some of these celebrities have, like a great voice or a sporting talent. Refocus her attention deeper than just the veneer of looks and sensational lifestyles.

What next: Action steps to help

  • Share the Dove Evolution film with your daughter and show her that the “real images” she sees in magazines aren’t real at all.
  • Discuss the topic of real reality with your daughter while she’s watching her favorite reality TV shows – help her understand how much goes into that “natural” look so that she understands how unobtainable it is.
  • Play the Retouch Roulette game with her and see how good you both are at spotting the real images versus the airbrushed images.

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