Art and Entertainment

anoop desai
Jim R. Bounds/AP
Anoop Desai, a former "American Idol"
contestant, sings the national anthem
before the start of an NCAA college
basketball game between North
Carolina and Virginia Tech in Chapel
Hill, N.C., Sunday, Jan. 10, 2010.

The Downside of Reality TV Fame

April 08, 2010 05:00 PM
by Colleen Brondou
When the cameras stop rolling, sometimes fame can evaporate quickly, or leave a person with more problems than they had before.

Is Fame Really Worth It?

When British singing sensation Susan Boyle made her debut on “Britain’s Got Talent,” her performance took YouTube by storm. But after taking second place on the show, and dealing with unexpected stardom, reports surfaced that Boyle had 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 isn’t the only reality star to have her personal problems paraded in the headlines. Jon and Kate Gosselin, stars of the TLC show “Jon & Kate Plus 8,” saw their marriage unravel in front of the cameras, resulting in a very public divorce—and eight children with a broken home. A single Kate now appears on another reality show, “Dancing With the Stars,” which ex-husband Jon argues makes her “an absentee mom,” according to Carly Okyle for YourTango. Now Jon wants to reopen the couple’s divorce settlement and sue Kate for custody of their eight children.

With fame comes an enormous amount of attention and enormous amounts of stress to live up to what people expect you to be on camera. Although mental health clinics and faltering relationships may seem like adult problems, young people are not immune to the downside of fame.

The Price of Fame

Sometimes just trying to get a chance to be famous can leave a person feeling robbed. In an article titled “Kids beware: Dark side of Hollywood dreams,” Boston Herald writer Jessica Fargen warns that shady talent companies are making money off of unsuspecting kids and their parents.

“The fringe industry makes its money by holding events at local hotels, where hundreds of kids audition for scouts and some are urged to sign up for expensive acting classes and competitions,” Fargen writes. These companies thrive on building up kids’ hopes and dreams of stardom, then charging them lots of hidden fees.

According to Fargen, casting agents say parents shouldn’t have to pay for auditions, and that auditions are typically held for a specific part, not for a scout or agent.

With Attention Comes Negative Attention, Too

Most people who crave fame really crave the attention that comes with fame. But what happens when the attention received is negative?

Avery Timm, a 12-year-old girl in Ontario, Canada, has become a viral hit with her karaoke-style videos on YouTube. She tells her classmates that she’s “famous” and her parents believe the videos have helped the girl, who has a rare form of dwarfism, with her self-esteem.

“[B]ut what about the hate mail?” Zosia Bielski asks in The Globe and Mail. “[S]ome viewers have left such vicious responses the Timms have had to disable comments.”

“It hurt her at first, of course, but we talked to her and made her realize, just ignore it,” Avery’s grandfather, Gerry Timm, told Bielski. “She realizes that if she wants to do this, it’s one of those things you have to put up with.”

Diane Levin, author of “So Sexy So Soon” and a professor of education at Boston’s Wheelock College, questions the judgment of parents who put a webcam in a child’s bedroom. “This culture is undermining kids’ ability to learn how to be caring, and it’s nurturing mean-spiritedness, bullying, a lack of relationship and objectification,” she told Bielski.

After “American Idol”

As Fabio Periera points out in The Huffington Post, when “American Idol” ends each season, “there are more losers than winners.” What were household names during the season often slip out of memory by the next season. For the many who don’t win on the show, adjusting to normal life again can be disappointing.

Periera spoke with Anoop Desai, a 23-year-old singer who placed sixth in the eighth season of “American Idol,” about what life is like after the show. Desai described living “in such a bubble” during the show, being driven around with security at all times. “The challenge is when you come back to LA, to try and make a career out of it,” he told Periera. “You’re not being driven around anymore, I’m driving around in my Camry. And you don’t have security because you don’t need it.”

American Idol was “an amazing experience but it doesn’t really prepare you for life after because you assume that that’s how it is and you get out here and no one cares,” Desai continued. “The challenge is always to get back to where you were.”

Sometimes even “American Idol” winners have a hard time adjusting to life after the show. Carrie Underwood, who rose to fame as the winner of the fourth season of “American Idol,” seems to have it all: a successful career as a country-music star along with a Grammy award and multi-platinum selling records. Even so, the singer admits that there is a downside to fame.

“I’m horrible in crowds,” she told RTTNews. “I just get so nervous. This happened to me when I was in high school, before all of this. I would start having panic attacks in Wal-Mart. I do not like shopping in close quarters and stuff like that; I just can’t do that.”


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