Celebrities find it hard to avoid the spotlight

LaBeouf famously wears a paper bag over his head.
LaBeouf famously wears a paper bag over his head.

By Alyssa Sanford

It used to be that, for someone to become famous, they had to go through the right channels — auditioning, hiring an agent and a publicist, slowly and steadily gaining notoriety.

Now, all someone has to do to reach celebrity status is create their own YouTube channel.

The proliferation of social media has made fame — or rather, infamy — more accessible to the general public. Look at “Alex from Target,” for example. Before a teenage customer snapped a photo of the cashier and uploaded it to Twitter, he was just an average, 16-year-old Texas teenager. Within a week of his photo going viral online, he was fielding interviews from major news outlets like the New York Times and appearing on “Ellen.”

It’s easier than ever for someone to find the spotlight, through media platforms like YouTube, Twitter and Vine. Conversely, it’s harder than ever for celebrities to avoid the spotlight for the same reasons.

There are infinite examples of celebrities trying to shirk their fame, or at least hide from public scrutiny. Sia, the “Chandelier” singer who performs with her back facing the audience; Shia LaBeouf, who once donned a paper bag over his head bearing the message “#I AM NOT FAMOUS ANYMORE”; Demi Lovato, whose struggles with an eating disorder and self-harm forced herself to step back into the shadows for a period of rehabilitation; the list goes on and on. And yet their efforts to keep a low profile often backfire.

Celebrities are nothing new. But the idea of instant fame, or the way of someone’s private life being completely eclipsed by the demands of the public, is. And it’s extremely dangerous.

We live in a world where private information is freely accessible, where hackers can seize intimate photos from Jennifer Lawrence’s iPhone and post them online for everyone to scrutinize, where breaking news of Lovato’s eating disorder becomes a public forum and allows people to make cruel comments about her appearance.

“Just because I’m a public figure, just because I’m an actress, does not mean that I asked for this,” Lawrence said in a November 2014 interview with Vanity Fair. “It does not mean that it comes with the territory.”

No wonder Sia wants to shield herself from the public eye.

While celebrities are public figures and subject to a lot of media attention, there is a fine line between free expression and an invasion of privacy.

Alex Lee, better known as “Alex from Target,” didn’t ask for attention. Fame was thrust upon him when his photo hit the internet and began wildly circulating.

“I’m kind of scared to go in public,” Lee told the New York Times in November. His sudden fame was overwhelming, unexpected  and, quite simply, not always desirable. He would sometimes receive “death threats” via Twitter, and his family’s personal information, “including Social Security numbers, bank accounts and phone records,” were leaked online as well.

It’s natural for the public to latch onto a celebrity and to have a vested interest in both their public and private lives. But fame, while fleeting, is often cruel and unfairly revealing. The obsession with fame often leads to a breach of privacy and a breach of ethical conduct.