A STAR System of Your Own

I have been considering star power lately and this may be a purely subjective question, but why is it that some celebrities and well-known personas lose their allure in person?  What is it about certain platforms like talk shows that elevates a personality?  Let’s get into this and then I will explain how this type of information is applicable to us as creatives promoting our own work.

I’m based in Canada, where the pool of celebrities is significantly smaller than for our U.S. counterparts.  If someone wants to get to the next level in their career, then they need to move to the U.S.  The industry simply isn’t large and self-sustaining in Canada, across any of the arts.  I think the lack of a star system is why Canadians tend to look less favourably upon their own homegrown heroes until they cross the border.

Hollywood first invented the star system when studios kept actors on contract and every aspect of an actor’s persona was written into a contract, which included the publicity they were expected to perform to promote a film.  A whole industry has bloomed under these premises, from gossip magazines, to talk show circuits.  A star system helps define and reinforce who is an A-lister.  This is typically why when you meet a well-known person in real-life, they often come across as less iconic.  There’s no star system to act as a filter, so you see them for more or less what they are: less god, more flawed human.

The star system is a filter in terms of curating images and personalities, regardless of whether it does so favourably or not.  The very fact that someone is featured within the system gives them an allure they would otherwise lack.  Particularly if they are featured alongside someone of more prestige.

So if the rest of the us are mere mortals, without access to the star system, how do we use this information not elevate our own work?  Here are some of my freewheeling thoughts:

  • Create your own ecosystem for promotion.  This effectively means you are establishing an indie label/studio/production company.  Decide amongst your networks that you will promote and feature only each others’ works.  Keep in mind that there should be a common thread connecting you together.  The collaboration should make sense.

  • Look for the industries that can intersect and feed into your own; who are the tabloids to your studio system?  Once you determine what those industries are, learn to work closely with them and provide them with content.  For example, consider the supporting role that university radio stations can play for emerging artists.

  • Use the above networks and industries as the primary means to promote your work and yourself.  Limit sharing through other means.  This creates a sense of exclusivity for your audience.

  • Be thoughtful about your physical appearance when you do appear in selected media: wardrobe, hair, make-up, etc. do matter and express something, regardless of what you say aloud.

Consider it less about making a “star system” of your own and more like determining your ecosystem.  When you promote yourself, it can’t be done in isolation.  As the Hollywood star system reveals, celebrity status is dependent on a multitude of factors and not the innate greatness of one person.