Andy Warhol’s famous prediction that we’ll all be world-famous for 15 minutes couldn’t have been more true. Since his time, however, being famous—and indeed fame itself—have undergone major changes. One no longer has to get lucky or wait for the limelight to shine on them to attain the honour of being a celebrity (not to mention actually have to be the first, the best or the last). After all, back then all it took was getting your name and face out there, and today, we’ve got YouTube, Instagram and all of social media for that. So, what does it take to outshine the rest of the would-be stars on your block? Unfortunately, getting famous hasn’t gotten any easier. In fact, it’s gotten harder as you now have to compete with a million other special little snowflakes who are just as interesting, noteworthy and enviable. But if you’re not content being just another face in the crowd, here are a few ways to make it to the top, and the keys to each approach.
Defining characteristics: Engagement, taste
Example: Perez Hilton
Arguably the newest kind of celebrity given the social media revolution, the internet celebrity has a very low barrier of entry as long as you’ve got access to the web. The successful internet celebrity makes use of social media and blogs to curate content, ideas or conceits that ring true with a certain legion of social media users, which are then depended on to expand his reach—metrics such as Klout score or blog hits are therefore good indicators of success. Interestingly, the internet celebrity isn’t necessarily famous for creating anything; they’re more famous for being a tastemaker and influencer, creating a cult of personality around them by consistently posting content their subscribers, followers or fans want. This creates the illusion that they’re an expert in their field, a tactic blogger Perez Hilton benefited from. After curating much of his content, Hilton started breaking gossip and eventually became the go-to for celebrity news, appearing on television shows and in magazines when he garnered a certain level of fame (or infamy, as the case may be).
Defining characteristics: Replicability, creativity
Example: Psy, Harlem Shake
Nothing gets people talking about you more than a conversation that can potentially include them. Closely related to the internet celebrity due to the medium involved, the viral sensation taps into the human need to be a part of something. Unlike the internet celebrity, however, you must create something of your own, and it also has to be catchy, relevant and easily mimicked, such as Psy’s horse dance in “Gangnam Style” or the “Harlem Shake” video craze. The good news is you don’t need to have that wide a social media reach on your own: if it’s good enough, people will not only take it upon themselves to share it to the wide corners of the earth, they will make parodies, tributes and alternate versions of whatever you decide to do (think Jimmy Kimmel’s experiment in viral content, which was never shared until people found it). One of the recurring themes is comedy, so try something funny or offbeat that will capture people’s imaginations, and soon you’ll be basking in talk show invites.
Defining characteristics: Controlling perception, consistency
Example: Neil Strauss
This type of fame involves the relentless marketing of your individual talents, interests and creativity—whether you possess those attributes or not—so that others put you on a pedestal. The key to this is defining who you want others to perceive you as, and surrounding yourself with this image until you are that guy. Choose some defining characteristics, whether you want to be famous for being a hot-shot in your line of work, a style guru, or even a musician, and publicize that persona. You can easily change your public image using any number of social media, but also by how you dress, act and who you make friends with. The hardest part about this approach is that the image people have come to expect from you has to stay consistent with how you actually act. Paying lip service to being an expert on fashion, for example, won’t last long unless you study up. A lesson can be learned from Neil Strauss, the legendary pick-up artist who started out as a nerdy journalist. He created the persona he named Style—a confident lady-killer—and adopted it as his own, despite not being that kind of guy. Through his actions, good marketing and the right friends, he convinced others to believe in his self-appointed identity (and fake reputation) until his persona became a reality (and his reputation was thus solidified). Your fame is only limited by the extent to which others believe you are famous, so use that to your advantage.
Famous for being famous
Defining characteristics: Forming associations
Example: The Kardashians
While a personal brander may create their own persona and convince others it’s true, anybody that is famous for being famous lets other people do the talking for them instead. The key to this is surrounding yourself with the right people, letting their strengths become your own. Unfortunately, not all of us have celebrity parents, so this means hanging out with people who have already made it, most often celebrities and other talented types. The Kardashian sisters, for example, got hitched with NBA players Lamar Odom and Kris Humphries. The other part of this is having people talk about you, which is never that hard if you take advantage of every opportunity to be seen with the right folks.
Defining characteristics: Any publicity is good publicity
Example: James Dean, James Deen, Miley Cyrus
Being bad can be good. Although you can get famous by hanging out with the right people, you can also benefit from simply having people talk about you for not following the rules. A great way to become infamous is by doing something that riles people up, and pulling it off with grace. For example, attention-grabbing trainwrecks that make us wince (but unfortunately won’t allow us to turn away) such as Miley Cyrus’ 2013 VMA Awards performance may be looked down upon by society, but their execution garners them widespread notoriety in the long run (trust us, Miley’s new album is doing very well). And that’s a good thing. The key is being tactfully unapologetic. Society is funny: at first, people will put you down, but transgressions are quickly forgotten as others rush to your defence. At heart, people secretly wish they could break the rules, too, which is why James Dean had such an appeal in Rebel Without a Cause and why James Deen, a different kind of actor entirely, was recently was featured in GQ. If you stick to your guns, people will put you on a pedestal for being a bad boy, a lady killer, or maybe even just for being an attention-grabber. Either way, they will label you strong, independent, subversive, unconventional, or ahead of your time—trademarks of the celebrity rebel you might want to become.
The best of the best
Defining characteristics: Hard work
Example: Michael Jordan
Maybe it’s a sign of the times, but the talented celebrity is dying out. It used to be that all actors, musicians and others working in high-profile positions had to earn their keep by putting in long hours and fine-tuning what makes them great as a person. Now, regardless of how much you practice at your skills, the internet has saturated the talent market so much that even the best of the best need a gimmick. Or so you’d think. Despite all odds, things haven’t changed all that much and the tried-and-true formula still works. The most talented player still gets all the fame; gimmicks are often distractions from imperfection, much like auto-tuning is for musicians. Plus, if you work hard to earn your place in society, it’s that much more satisfying when you can finally say you’re famous.