We watch them on TV; we read about them in magazines; we know every intricate detail about their lives, family, friends, likes, dislikes, toothpaste, and haircare product preferences. They are celebrities. These people are followed by paparazzi, have strangers ask for their autographs, and often make money just by attending or promoting an event. While living in LA for 4 years during my undergrad at the University of Southern California, I witnessed first-hand the celebrity obsession. Sometimes even I got a bit of a thrill from swing dancing with Billy Nye the science guy, sitting behind Tom Hanks at the LA Opera, and passing Julia Louis-Dreyfus on the sidewalk. But, what we fail to realize is that these celebrities are just people…. like anyone else.
While celebrities in the operatic world never quite reach the celebrity-obsession level of movie stars, that word, used in conjunction with the terms “diva,” “divo,” and “prima donna,” still holds a great deal of importance, prestige, and “star-power.” I went to school with Carin Gilfry, daughter of Rodney Gilfry– the veritable Brad Pitt of the operatic world. At Carin’s Jr. recital, Rod was passing out lemonade at the reception. You see, he’s just a dad. Like anyone else. Sure, he’s sought the world over for his warm baritone voice and his boyish charm. Sure, his autographed photos are sold on Ebay. Sure, he has sung at all the major opera houses in the US and Europe. However, that is just his job… his career. He still goes home, cleans the bathroom, feeds the dog, makes dinner, and passes out lemonade at his daughter’s recital. He’s just a person.
This week I am being interviewed for a feature article in Journal-Plus, a Central Coast, CA magazine. When I notified my mailing list of this exciting, upcoming article, I received many responses along the lines of: “Will you remember me when you’re famous?” “You’re a celebrity! Let me touch you.” and “Can I have your autograph?”
Celebrity? Me? A local celebrity within the small arts community here, perhaps. But, does that change who I am as a person, just because strangers may know who I am? True, stardom does often change people… usually for the worst. But, again, celebrities are just people too! So, no matter how many people know me or consider themselves my “fans,” I will always be the girl from a small town, raised by a village, who grew up at a flower shop, and belted out songs on the sidewalk. So, the answers to your questions are: “Of course I’ll remember you when I’m famous!” “Thanks! I’ll take a hug any day!” and “Of course you can have my autograph, as long as you’re not having me sign a check.” 🙂
Celebrity? Sure. I’ll take it.