The New Celebrity: Homegrown vs. Born

There was a time when celebrities were born.

Think Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman, Jennifer Aniston in Friends, Whitney Houston's debut album. These were all well orchestrated launches of what would become entertainment legends: marketing machines that generated a lot of fanfare and sales. An entire Hollywood industry has flourished around creating and promoting these kinds of celebrities and their brands. It's this mentality that gave birth to cable networks like E! and magazines like People and Us. As a consumer, I've always been in the thick of it and loving it!

I feel like times have changed, though, and the next generation of celebrity watchers view things a lot differently.

It's no longer about big Hollywood glamour, huge box office success, triple platinum albums, or a top primetime television show. While that may still be around, I don't feel like that's what's driving the new celebrity, nor what we are collectively paying attention to in pop culture.

Today's celebrities feel much more homegrown.

They are organic derivations of our own lives, put out there for us to consume and embrace. Today's celebrities are people not that different than us, looking to make their way in the world but doing it publicly. We respond by following, liking, and pinning... and slowly a celebrity starts to emerge.

Take a look at The Real Housewives franchise on Bravo.

Andy Cohen has turned these women into "Bravo-lebrities," each with their own version of fame and sometimes fortune, played out on television and social media... generally in marathon sessions or on demand (with some live appearances thrown in). These women, some of them anyway, have been able to reach celebrity status in their own right, with legions of fans following their every move. These celebrities are home grown by Bravo, and adopted by women and men who can relate to their lives. Or aspire to them. Or form a love-to-hate relationship with them.

Do you think Teresa Giudice could ever have been an old-school celebrity? Not a chance. But she's got a huge following along with a series of brand extensions. It seems that Lisa Vanderpump is more successful now than when at the height of her other career, with packed out restaurants to prove it. I know, I went to one a few weeks ago while they were filming for her two television reality shows.

The celebrity chefs of The Food Network are more examples. Homegrown cooks who had a concept and developed a fan base, thanks to a network platform, books, and live appearances that slowly gave them a name. No Hollywood starlets here, just grass roots celebrities making connections with their audiences. One dish at a time.

Thanks to my 20-year-old daughter, I recently caught wind of Nev Schulman. His show Catfish is the number one show on MTV. On it he highlights real life examples of people who have been fooled by others online... people whose real identity looks nothing like what they've portrayed in social media. He calls them to the carpet, and helps people in the process. It's social television at its best, with a new celebrity in the making. We are just beginning to get to know Nev; he's getting home grown.

I also came across a "new" musical group called Johnnyswim. I put "new" in quotes because they're not so new. Sure, the lead singer is the daughter of music legend Donna Summer, who herself was born as a distinctive brand. But this duo is doing it the new way, with an indie record label and appearances that are expanding their fan base. They just got picked up by VH1 as an "Artist You Oughta Know Plus," which means their exposure will skyrocket. But this isn't American Idol or A Star Is Born... it's the new school working the streets to build their career and brand.

Nev and Johnnyswim are the new celebrity.

The truth is that any of us can be the new celebrity, which quite honestly is the emotional benefit of social media. Through Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter we can publish our life and get noticed. We can attract fans and followers and ultimately establish some thought leadership in our area of expertise. Be it fashion, music, home décor, or cooking, growing a brand along the way.

The new celebrity is home grown, and it can be any of us. A new twist that I'm sure none of the Hollywood studios would have predicted or would have preferred.