Art and Entertainment

David Cheskin/AP

Is That 15 Minutes of Reality TV Fame Worth It?

June 02, 2009 06:29 PM
by Cara McDonough
After dealing with unexpected stardom, British singing sensation Susan Boyle has checked into a clinic for exhaustion. She is far from the first reality star to buckle under pressure.

Coping With Instant Fame

After taking second place on “Britain’s Got Talent”—the reality show that launched her into global stardom—reports surfaced that Susan Boyle checked into a London mental health clinic and was being treated for exhaustion.

“Nobody has had to put up with the kind of attention Susan has had. Nobody could have predicted it,” Piers Morgan, one of the show’s judges, told breakfast TV show GMTV, according to the Associated Press. “It has been crazy, she has gone from anonymity to being the most downloaded woman in history.”
Boyle, who was criticized for her frumpy look but then went on to wow judges with her singing voice, was favored to win in the show’s finals. Her first appearance was viewed on YouTube more than 220 million times.

Boyle’s not the only reality star who has been in the headlines lately. On the other side of the Atlantic, Jon and Kate Gosselin, stars of the TLC show “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” have been attracting lots of attention in the tabloids after rumors arose about marital discord and even the possibility of divorce.

In the season premiere of their show, which chronicles their life with twins and sextuplets, the two separately addressed cameras about the situation. When the couple did appear in the same frame, the “atmosphere was frostier than a Zamboni's tires,” according to David Hiltbrand in the Philadelphia Inquirer.

At one point, Jon, who has expressed regret at the attention he now attracts as a reality television star, said that he takes “full blame” for the couple’s problems but "I just didn't think it would escalate into what it's become."

Many seem to want their 15 minutes of fame via the reality television sector these days, but when mental health clinics and faltering relationships dominate stars’ lives, the question becomes: Is it worth it?

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Opinion & Analysis: Who’s to blame?

Celebrity blogger Liz Kelly asks if the public is to blame for Boyle’s breakdown. “So she was damned if she did—or didn't,” Kelly wrote for The Washington Post. “A woman who found herself suddenly in the spotlight was paralyzed by opposing critics. Even her decision to pluck her eyebrows and color her hair made headlines.”

What’s next, Kelly wonders. While many hope Boyle can return to her once quiet life, “a small part of us wonders if this monster of our own creation will cling to the taste of celebrity she's had.” Only time will tell.

As for Jon and Kate, Joanna Weiss of The Boston Globe writes that the couple only has themselves to blame for everything that’s gone wrong. The couple invited the entire world into their everyday life. “And they capitalized on the publicity; as Jon explained last night, they turned their lives into a business, complete with lucrative book deals and speaking engagements,” Weiss writes. “How could the Gosselins have expected otherwise?”

Background: Susan Boyle’s rise to stardom

Susan Boyle, single woman from the village community of West Lothian in Scotland, wowed the “Britain’s Got Talent” judges in April when she sang “I Dreamed A Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables."

Judges clearly weren’t expecting much when 47-year-old Boyle walked onstage in frumpy clothes and little makeup. But after her performance, the rarely complimentary Simon Cowell called it "extraordinary" and Piers Morgan said it was the biggest surprise he’d had in three years of the show.

Later, fans were unsure of how to react when the sudden star debuted a new, more polished look. She appeared with a new wardrobe, her gray hair dyed brown and noticeably thinner eyebrows.

A British publicist told The Associated Press that Boyle was running a risk by becoming more stylish, because her connection to audiences was based on her ordinariness. Others, however, were sympathetic to her desire to change her looks.

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