Categories
celebrity film plasticsurgery

Hollywood’s Unattainable Beauty: The Help of a Knife

At this point, it is far from controversial to say that plastic surgery is a large part of Hollywood culture. The days of the images of plastic surgery being only of those who are so-called surgery addicts are long gone and have been replaced with natural appearing beautiful faces, and the once taboo topic has now become an elite party theme where you can get botox as you mingle. Even though cosmetic surgery has not always been a comfortable topic of conversation, it has been a part of Hollywood culture since the very beginning. Hollywood culture begets surgery culture.

Ever since the concept of the star was created, people became fascinated by them. People became so fascinated with Florence Lawrence and beyond that whole movies could be marketed off of them and entire movie studios were created with the idea of them (Paramount’s selling point of having more stars than in the sky, hence the iconic logo). With that fascination came a fascination with their beauty as well as how they got it, to the point that fan magazines dedicated to the very topic emerged. While many of these stars were naturally gorgeous (or at least they claimed to be), it became known that some went the more “extreme” route and went the way of plastic surgery to secure their place on the silver screen.

Plastic surgery came into the public eye around the same time Hollywood was finding its footing. The practice started to resemble the cosmetic surgery we know today around 1910 when techniques were developed to help soldiers from World War I with various types of disfigurement they may have suffered. Hollywood quickly picked up the technique for its own use. As the studio system started signing actors to their various studios their contracts would include stipulations like a “facial and physical disfigurement clause,” that was in the contract of Molly O’Day, who was known as the “little flapper of the studios.” This clause allowed the studio to stop working with her if her appearance changed drastically enough that it “detract[ed] from her appearance on screen.” While in a way the clause prevented her from getting drastic plastic surgery, when she gained a significant amount of weight in 1927, enough that she was unable to lose it fast enough through diet and exercise alone, she had no other choice than to turn to the knife to be able to work.

By 1929 a popular fame magazine noted that the town was being filled with “beauty farms, rejuvenation palaces and plastic surgery emporiums that have sprung up around the movie center like mushrooms in a shady glen.” Stars began getting cosmetic surgery to stay in the business, hopefuls got it to get into the business, and studios encouraged some of their contracted actors to get it to turn them into stars. This included stars like Rita Hayworth who had her hairline raised and her hair dyed in order to get rid of the more “ethnic” look she had, her heritage being from Spain, in favor of something a bit more Anglo-Saxon. As Hollywood sets the beauty standards and Hollywood was and arguably still is exceedingly white.

While the studio system may no longer exist in the way the fifties once knew it, the ways that Hollywood and casting work are still largely similar. How you look determines what parts you can get, if you can get a part at all. Typecasting is a major part of Hollywood. If you look like the girl next door you will always be cast as the girl next door. This is can due to a couple of reasons. Perhaps you are just really good at being the girl next door so you are getting called for roles that are exactly that. Perhaps after seeing you as the girl next door especially after you have done multiple movies as one, the audiences might have a hard time accepting you as the sultry female lead and the horrific villain, but in acting the whole point of the profession is to be able to embody a multitude of different kinds of people.

What it really boils down to is how you look. If you look like a girl next door casting directors may have a hard time seeing you as anything but, and certainly, if your face looks villainous or far from the conventional idea of attractive you will be stuck as a villain or a character actor until the end of your career. You may never see your day as the handsome hero or beautiful heroin. Back in the studio times once you signed that contract as that character actor there was nothing you could do about it.

Louis R. Wolheim was a villainous-looking character actor that got stuck doing only roles that fit that bill. After a while, he became sick of getting cast in evil roles and people attributing his success to the non-beautiful nature of his face rather than his talent as an actor. So, he decided he wanted to change in and sought out a nose job. Problem was, at the time he had a contract similar to that of O’Day and the nose job would drastically change his appearance and therefore breach his studio contract. The studio wanted him only as that “type” so he was denied his ability to alter his face. While the idea of typecasting is still alive and well today actors have a lot more liberty over their bodies as they are not owned by studios so they are free to alter their appearances in hopes of going from monstrous villains to leading men, so they do.

Typecasting points to a much deeper problem in the industry: beauty standards. For both genders, it is seen that in order to work in this town you have to be among the most beautiful creatures to walk this Earth and if you do not fit the bill you have to change it or you have to go home. Girls who thought they were the prettiest girls in their hometowns come to Hollywood, realize they are small fish in a big pond, get insecure and get surgery, people who are conventionally attractive and don’t necessarily need to get surgery, some even feel pressured by their LA peers. Even men who back in the day feared appearing feminine for perusing their appearance, get plastic surgery at a similar rate as women maybe in ways that are less obvious than the plumping of lips but rather removing fat from unwanted areas to achieve a “manly” physique. Being in the town that sets the standard for the rest of the country means that you must fit the standard in order to be accepted into the community.

In the same vein, the beauty standards that the industry has set speak to our culture’s number one fear: our mortality. While beauty standards can still be a bit ambiguous and are constantly changing one this is for certain, aging is something to be avoided. There is an understanding in the industry that it is in some ways a young man’s game. While there are still plenty of actors working into their 50s and beyond not many are ranked among the A-list and they had to really establish themselves in their earlier years. This in-proportionately affects women over men as they are seen more often as silver foxes rather than old witches, but overall if you have not made it in Hollywood by your mid-30s then your chances of making it on to the silver screen certainly decrease as your body takes on the strains of 30+ years of life.  However, there is still hope for those Hollywood hopefuls! A nip here, a tuck there, a touch of botox, and suddenly they have shed decades off their look and are ready for their closeup. Some plastic surgeons even refer to what they do as “pushing back their sell-by date.”

The nature of Hollywood with its inhuman beauty of the elite A-list and through that its ingrained ageism made cosmetic surgery the obvious answer to the town of extremes. Even in 2020, despite the COVID-19 pandemic $9 billion was spent on aesthetic procedures. Some of the top procedures were facial fillers, liposuction, and breast augmentation. The procedures point directly to wanting to flatten out wrinkles, to lessen aging, and losing fat, and gaining larger breasts to fit (specifically female) beauty standards.

Hollywood from the very beginning has thrived off of creating artifice and what better way than altering the faces of their stars to be unattainably perfect, well, unattainable without the help of a knife or a needle.

Categories
celebrity influencers

The Dark Side of the Influencer Lifestyle

At first glance, the life of an influencer may be one to aspire to. They have money, notoriety, get into all the best parties, and get a lot of likes on their social media posts. However, there is another side of the coin to being an influencer, one that cannot be seen from the posts put out onto the internet. Everyone is always putting out into the world (via social media) the best version of themselves, and that is no different from famous people. But what exactly is an “influencer?” What makes an internet personality different from someone famous who also has a large internet presence?

An internet influencer has “created a personal brand on social media that has the potential to influence an audience” (Leban 225). An influencer is a type of microcelebrity, which is defined as “a state of being famous to a niche group of people and involves the curation of a persona that feels authentic to readers” (Edstrom 153). There are different types of influencers, but one of the most popular is the “high-net-worth (HNW) individuals… such as the billionaire Kylie Jenner” (Leban 225).

Being an influencer is not reserved for just anyone. In order to become one you need to have something that everyone e;se wants. For these HNW influencers, that happens to be money. The public is fascinated with the life of the rich, so much so they’ll do anything they can just to get a glimpse of their lives. That’s what makes the internet such an amazing place. For the first time in… well forever, people have immediate access to anyone they could possibly imagine, all it takes to talk to them is a simple @ or maybe a personal DM. Every part of an influencer’s life is on display for the consumer, which can end up harming the influencer much more than they may initially realize. You see, there’s a much darker side to the influencer lifestyle. This side of the lifestyle involves an inherent hypocrisy to how they live, a lack of laws in place to protect an influencer, or wanna-be influencer, from harm, as well as a heightened amount of scandals, which may or may not be accounted for because influencers have standards placed on them, which comes with the territory of having all eyes on you. This paper will work to show that darker side of influencer life, one that is hidden behind all the lavish social media posts and exclusive brand deals, in hopes to show that being an influencer as we know it today cannot continue without major improvements.

The entire way of life for an influencer is a moral hypocrisy. Being an influencer is entirely based on taste. As stated before, one cannot simply “become an influencer” if they want to. They need to have something everybody wants. An important piece of this puzzle to bring up is that “what brings high-status (e.g. what is preferred or valued) in one taste regime may differ from what brings high-status in another taste regime” (Leban 230). One thing that high net-worth influencers have that most people do not is access to a lot of money. While this may not mean much in one taste regime, it means everything when one is an influencer.

In today’s society, it has become a symbol of high-status to be ethical, or “woke.” Woke is a term described as “having or marked by an active awareness of systemic injustices and prejudices, especially those related to civil and human rights” (Woke). Some influencers have figured out a way to appear as though they are woke, while not actually taking any steps to help further the world. Influencers end up with all this money, but do not use it in helpful ways. “As with moral hypocrisy, the end goal is the self-serving motive to appear ethical in the eyes of the public, but also to feel ‘better’ in the private sphere” (Leban 232).

While this doesn’t have to be the case for every influencer, it stands to reason that it is most of them. An influencer’s main goal is credibility. “Credibility is important for the Influencers both for the growth of their own media brands and for their effectiveness as commercial product brand endorsers” (Edstrom 154). The question becomes, how can an influencer lead such a lavish and expensive lifestyle while still being woke? The answer is: they cannot. Some influencers may choose to give back to a community, donating large sums of money to charities, however, these influencers are few and far between. An influencer may seem to be leading a woke cause, but if they’re not putting their money where their mouth is, they’re not really doing anything at all to help.

Something notable to point out is how fast influencers are becoming more and more mainstream every year. For example, when The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon had Charli D’Amelio as a guest, the YouTube clip with her in it garnered over 18 million views. To put that into perspective, the most recent Oscars only made half of that viewership. There is a big market for influencers out there, and as the years go on that market just seems to increase, With increasing markets means increasing money, which makes every influencer just that much more of a hypocrite. As well with an increase in money flowing in, it means more and more people will try and become an influencer, which can and has proven to be dangerous.

Fourteen-year-old AJ Mitchell moved in with Jake Paul at the Team 10 House in Los Angeles. He was trying to make it as a musician and gaining subscribers at a good pace when Paul found him on the internet. Jake Paul decided he needed him working under him in his Team 10 House. The Team 10 House describes itself as “The first ever social media label for the talent, by the talent. Team 10 is a unique incubator for aspiring social influencers. Whereas other business models take the talent and solely push them out in the hopes of marginalized profit and publicity, Team 10’s structure creates a home for talent to be developed, nurtured to perfection, and to quickly create content” (Team 10).

Although hesitant at first, AJ’s parents allowed him to move into the Team 10 House after extensive conversations with Jake Paul, his girlfriend at the time Alissa Violet, as well as Jake Paul’s parents. However, when AJ arrived with just a single suitcase to the Team 10 House, it was not at all what he was expecting. “For several weeks he didn’t have a bedroom, so he slept on the leather couch in the living room… [eventually] Mr. Mitchell was given a room to share with Alissa Violet, who was 19 at the time” (Lorenz). On top of this misconduct, AJ was also “never directly paid by Team 10” and had to rely on money his parents sent him to pay for food (Lorenz). Paul thought of his “payment” towards the people in his group was the fact that he would tag them in his videos. “If you were tagged in one of Jake’s YouTube videos, you could get 50,000 followers… Jake used this to manipulate everyone. If anyone didn’t do what Jake wanted, he’d tell everybody in the house not to tag them. Jake had a monopoly, and he decided who got famous” (Lorenz). This may seem gross and illegal to someone in the right headspace, however they would only be half right. “We have all these laws in place that have been around for a century to protect child performers, but they have not been extended to safeguard the health, welfare, and safety of children influencers. Because these young creators make money through a variety of revenue streams… they can be vulnerable to exploitation” (Lorenz). In fact, it’s been hotely contended that today’s child labor laws are “relatively limited in scope” (United States).

And this was happening to a young creator in a very well known house working under a very well known (albeit controversial) influencer, so imagine what’s happening to people trying to be influencers that we do not even know about. Especially with the rise and rapid growth of TikTok, children have become more and more involved in the creation process every year. “Child labor laws fail to keep pace with the rapidly evolving Internet entertainment ecosystem, and this issue requires specific action by the legislature and corporations behind popular social media platforms” (Riggio). Child stars have a reputation for ending up not in the best mental states when they grow older, and these children work under laws that protect them from living on the floor and not having food. Imagine what the next generation of influencers will look like once they’re grown after enduring these exploitative and unsafe practices. One would think, with so many eyes on these influencers, it might be hard to get away with scandals. But this is not the case.

While the scandals I am about to bring up in this paper have been brought to light, it is important to realize this has not been the norm. Influencers may have all eyes on them, yet their fame allows them to get away with more than one might initially think. Just recently, popular creator James Charles was outed as being a child predator. Charles started making beauty content in 2015 and rose to fame very quickly. By the time he was 17 years old, just about two years after the launch of his YouTube channel he was a spokesmodel for Covergirl. In the recent months, “more than 15 people have come forward to accuse him of inappropriate sexual advances and/or grooming, with allegations circulating primarily on Twitter and TikTok” (Vujic). But the public has heard rumors of Charle’s inappropriate relationship with boys ever since May of 2019, when Tati Westbrook attacked James by saying in a video “You tried to trick a straight man into thinking he’s gay, yet again, and somehow you’re the victim” (Vujic). So sketchy behavior has been going on around James Charles since at least 2019, but these allegations are only coming out now.

The scary thing is how long it took for brands to sever their ties with Charles. In a statement, Morphe, a cosmetic company that Charles has worked with since 2018, [and James Charles] tweeted out simultaneous statements announcing that they would “wind down,” although it’s not clear whether or when Morphe will stop selling their popular James Charles palette, which is currently still available. The announcement came after Morphe customers threatened to boycott the brand for continuing their collaboration with Charles” (Vujic). YouTube announced that it would temporarily stop all monetization on Charles’ videos. How long will each of these breaks last? It’s hard to say. Some influencers have faced similar amounts of backlash for problematic behavior in the past, but the brand deals all eventually came back.

Influencers like Jeffree Starr have had scandals in the past, although not seemingly as severe as Charles’, they all seem to go the same way. What truly gives me pause is the way that Morphe and Charles put out a statement together, like it was both of their decisions to stop putting out James Charles’ products. Even just looking back one paragraph, we know that Jake Paul was responsible for not feeding, paying, or giving a room to a minor who he was supposed to be helping. But has Paul faced any repercussions for his actions? Quite the contrary, as his most recent boxing match just went down as one of the all-time pay-per-view boxing matches of all time.

As seen in this paper, the life of an influencer can seem to be one of the best lives to lead. However, the lifestyle itself is a moral hypocrisy, it leaves children in a dangerous position without labor laws, and it comes with a heightened amount of criticism, but criticism that does not seem to be taken too seriously by what is most important to an influencer’s life- brands and money. The influencer lifestyle has quite a dark underbelly that has yet to be exposed to the general population. “If there’s not some entity taking responsibility as an employer, then we’re going to see [all kinds of] exploitative and unsafe practices” (Lorenz). Influencer life is a lot like the Wild West right now, and somehow accountability must be taken to ensure better practices in the future. What that will look like, who knows, but until the public understands the full scope of these problems, and the lifestyle is hit where it hurts the most, in its wallet, then we will continue to see these unsafe practices upheld.


Works Cited

Edström, Maria, Andrew T. Kenyon, Eva-Maria Svensson (eds.). Blurring the Lines Market Driven and Democracy-Driven Freedom of Expression. Nordicom, 2016.

Leban, Marina, et al. “Constructing Personas: How High‐Net‐Worth Social Media Influencers Reconcile Ethicality and Living a Luxury Lifestyle.” Journal of Business Ethics 169: 225–239 (2021).

Lorenz, Taylor. “Jake Paul Promised Them Fame. Was It Worth the Price?The New York Times, 22 Apr. 2021.

Riggio, Amanda G. “The Small-Er Screen: YouTube Vlogging and the Unequipped Child
Entertainment Labor Laws.” Seattle University Law Review, 2021. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edsbas&AN=edsbas.CEB5082A&site
=eds-live.
Team 10, 2015, www.team10official.com/.

United States. Bureau of Labor Standards. Child Labor Laws. [Washington, 1968. EBSCOhost,
search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=edshtl&AN=edshtl.MIU01.011396197
&site=eds-live.

Vujic, Katja. “A Guide to the Many, Many Scandals of James Charles.” The Cut, The Cut, 20
Apr. 2021,
www.thecut.com/article/james-charles-allegations-and-accusations-explained.html.

Categories
celebrity music

East Coast vs. West Coast: What the Rap Feud of the 90’s Did for Music

“Who shot ya?” A lyric that seems innocuous enough when removed from all historical context. But within the greater context of the rap industry, this lyric may just be responsible for the untimely demise of two of rap’s biggest stars. Ultimately the feud that led to those tragic deaths may just have helped rap solidify itself as a true part of mainstream music rather than the outsider-looking-in dynamic it seemed to have before then. But before we get to that, let’s paint a picture of the 1990’s rap scene. Rap came to fruition and synthesized as an art form on the East Coast in the 1970s. It started as a party genre of music for the most part. Being more about having fun and partying. Rap actually first started at block parties in NYC as DJs experimented with telling jokes rhythmically over beats they were playing. As time went on, rap came into its own as a genre of music and people started making rap songs and albums. It left the party entertainment phase and became music in its own right. But still, these songs were for the most part still about having fun and partying. It wasn’t until the 1980s when rap found a way to take the next step towards becoming what we know it as today. 

Inspired by the politically aware and attentive music of the 1970s, a form of rap called “socially conscious hip hop” was created. When it first came about, the form was largely underground and less financially successful than the upbeat fun party raps. But over time it broke into the mainstream paving the way for some of the rappers we have today like Kendrick Lamar or Kanye West. But at what point did this socially conscious form of rap truly become financially viable and successful? Well one of the first songs to reach mainstream success was “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five which came out in the early 80s. But many would argue that the real turning point for socially conscious rap was NWA’s 1988 studio album Straight Outta Compton. This album accomplished a number of things for rap and frankly, the music industry hasn’t been the same since. 

The album ushered in the era and form of “gangsta rap,” a form of music that often overlapped with socially conscious rap. In simple terms, Gangsta rap was a form of music where artists spoke on gang culture and their experience growing up in it. With lyrics like “Fuck tha police coming straight from the underground” and “so police think They have the authority to kill a minority,” it galvanized rap as the most controversial form of music. It became to the 90s what Elvis and his sinful hips were to the 60s. In addition to all that the album sold incredibly well. It solidified both socially conscious and gangsta rap as being financially viable and helped to build up the previously lacking West Coast rap scene. In fact, it was so successful that media attention and record companies were far more interested in working with West Coast rappers than they were with East Coast rappers.

However, this sudden interest in the West Coast is not what started the feud between the coasts. While the West Coast had huge names like NWA, Snoop Dogg, and Tupac Shakur for the first time, the East Coast eventually had rappers that could match the caliber of those names. Most notably the Notorious BIG, also known as Biggie Smalls or Christopher Wallace. The thing that kicked off the feud completely started when Tupac was leaving Quad Studios and shot in the lobby. This was followed up by the Notorious BIG releasing a song titled “Who Shot Ya?” which many took as Biggie mocking Tupac and some even saying that this was Biggie’s way of taking responsibility for the hit and ridiculing Tupac. Although Biggie always said that the song was recorded before the shooting and that it was just a coincidence, the feud had officially start in full. 

There is one other element that should be noted in this feud: the main record labels involved on each coast. On the West there was Death Row Records founded by former NWA member Dr. Dre and Suge Knight. On the East Coast there was Bad Boy Entertainment run by Sean Combs, who would later be known professionally as Puff Daddy or P Diddy. By the time the feud started, Dr. Dre had stepped back from being actively involved with Death Row Records and Suge Knight was more or less running things. 

Much back and forth between the record companies and their artists and their fans followed, including things like Suge Knight calling out Diddy on television for dancing in all of his artist’s videos, The Dogg Pound releasing the song “New York New York” and destroying New York buildings in the music video and getting shot at while shooting the video in New York. After all that controversy and news attention, things finally came to a head when Suge Knight and Tupac were shot at while driving in Las Vegas. Tupac was shot four times and died in the hospital. Six months later the Notorious BIG was driving back to his hotel after presenting an award at the Soul Train Awards when he was shot in a drive-by by an unknown man on a motorcycle. Both murders remain unsolved to this day. There are a number of theories from blaming both on Suge Knight to chalking it up to gang violence and random coincedence. For the most part, the feud ended with their deaths. Both sides are still different and it isn’t uncommon to see someone espousing a favorite side or denouncing the other but it’s more akin to a sports rivalry than a war.

Rap is a complicated genre, it has incredible highs and terrible lows. In their article “Listening to Rap: Cultures of Crime, Cultures of Resistance,” authors Julian Tanner, Mark Asbridge, and Scot Wortley wrote that when compared to rock ‘n’ roll and jazz, two other genres that were heavily reviled in their hey day, it didn’t matter if rap received more or less disdain from mainstream publications, because it can definitely be a problematic contemporary music genre. This point could not be illustrated any better than by Suge Knight. In the East vs. West Feud Suge was found to be escalating things far more than nearly any one else. Outside of the feud he had this almost legacy surrounding him. There were numerous claims and stories about the things he did when he ran Death Row Records. One of the most notable was that he allegedly threatened to throw Vanilla Ice off of a hotel balcony unless he paid.

There was a reason that people thought he may have been involved with the death of Tupac and Biggie; the myth surrounding him made him out to be like a person who was capable and willing to do it. Whether he did or not isn’t really relevant at the moment. What is relevant is that he was seen as a figurehead of rap, he was indicative of rap in the 90s. He and his behavior influenced people who bought records, albums, songs, produced by Death Row. He influenced the way rap was viewed. And while the number of people in the music industry who aren’t problematic in any way shape or form is probably vastly outnumbered by the people who are, rap had a special distinction as noted in the article. “Rap artists are applauded for their importance as role models to inner city black youth” and it goes on to say how rap helped speak to racial inequality and cultural resistance.

Suge Knight first signed Tupac when he was imprisoned for a sexual abuse conviction, the night he died he and Suge assaulted a gang member who allegedly tried to rob one of their associates earlier. Yet his music hasn’t endured because he was this controversial figure who committed crimes, it endured because of the effect he had on the youth, the effect he had on people who found that his songs were speaking to them specifically. Sure Tupac represented the more violent sides of Rap but he also represented the best parts of it as well. His music spoke to people in a way that his actions may not have. 

But to get back to that central question posed at the beginning of this paper, how did this feud solidify rap as an actual part of the mainstream music landscape? In short, the answer is that it changed the ratio of good to bad. The violence became less prominent, some of the people behind the feuds realized the danger in having them. But it was accomplished without lessening the impact that this form of music can have on people. Honestly, the amount of violence referenced in rap actually peaked during the time of the feud. In her article “Changing Images of Violence in Rap Music Lyrics: 1979-1997,” Denise Herd researched just how often violence was referenced or referred to in rap lyrics, and it rose to a staggering 60 percent in the time period of 1994-1997. In fact, the correlation in the rise in songs that not only referenced violence but also presented it in a positive light can be directly tied to the rise of gangsta rap. Though Herd states that the two main points that address this shift are first that it’s a reflection of the social climate these artists grew up in and still have deep ties to. This really ties back to the idea of socially conscious rap, and that it’s speaking truth to lived experiences by the artists. The other more cynical school of thought as Herd writes is the idea that controversy sells, and by bringing up violence and showing it in a positive light the songs become controversial and therefore sell more. It’s essentially as if you were to see a video on YouTube titled “Fuck Tom Hanks, That Human Garbage Bin Should be in Prison” made by a notable creator. You almost certainly wouldn’t agree with the video but most people would watch it out of sheer curiosity to see that controversial video and hot take. 

With all of this being said how does it answer the question? How was this ratio changed? What lowered the violence and increased the reputation of this art form. Essentially it seems as though the biggest culprit was maturity. On the West Coast Dr. Dre and Snoop Dogg had been steadily distancing themselves from Death Row Records as well as Suge Knight for a while. After the two tragic murders many people came to their senses, the violence that had for so long been glorified in the music they made had been a wakeup call. Snoop called together a summit to end the feud. Dr. Dre started his own record company away from the nonsense Suge had turned Death Row Records into. 

Back East, Diddy decided to reinvent the idea of rap. He strove to make the artists he signed to be able to represent themselves in meetings, to loop them into the actual process of business more. Ideally creating a rapper who would be just as comfortable in a board room meeting, as on the red carpet, or in the studio. Making them more cohesive performers. From the debris and wreckage of this feud ultimately came a new era of rap. On the East Coast, Biggie’s good friend Jay-Z rose to prominence, Diddy started making his own music and became a known artist in his own right. Back West Dr. Dre started his own company called Aftermath Records, with no involvement fro mSuge Knight. He signed a little artist named Marshall Mathers, perhaps better known as Eminem, and later went on to sign even more prolific acts like Kendrick Lamar and Anderson Paak. As for Death Row Records, it went bankrupt and Suge Knight eventually wound up in jail for a manslaughter charge, though it wasn’t related to the deaths of Tupac Shakur or Biggie Smalls. Overall the feud came full circle a few years ago when Snoop Dogg posted a video to his instagram story of him dancing and partying. And who should appear dancing in the background of this video? Sean “Diddy” Combs, doing the same thing that Snoop’s former friend Suge had called him out for on live television years before at the very start of the feud. 

Rap is a genre that has had it’s own rough patches without a doubt, but it also provides a voice to people who feel underrepresented. It gives young innercity kids something that they can aspire to. It gives role models to kids who may not have had any if not for them. But tragically it took a lot of horrible things to get the art form to where it is now, but overall maybe it’s possible that the East Coast West Coast feud was more than just a feud, maybe it was more of a crucible. A trial by fire of sorts. Something that helped the people inside rap see some of the inherent problems and helped bring together two different sides of the country. Because overall East Coast rap and West Coast rap have a lot more in common with each other than with any other music genre.

Works Cited

Herd, Denise. “Changing Images of Violence in Rap Music Lyrics: 1979-1997.” Journal of Public Health Policy, vol. 30, no. 4, 2009, pp. 395–406.

Hinton, Anna. “‘And So I Bust Back’: Violence, Race, and Disability in Hip Hop.” CLA Journal, vol. 60, no. 3, 2017, pp. 290–304.

Tanner, Julian, et al. “Listening to Rap: Cultures of Crime, Cultures of Resistance.” Social Forces, vol. 88, no. 2, 2009, pp. 693–722.

Sullivan, Rachel E. “Rap and Race: It’s Got a Nice Beat, but What about the Message?” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 33, no. 5, 2003, pp. 605–622.

Categories
celebrity paparazzi

Paparazzi: Villains? Misunderstood? Hit 2008 Gaga Song?

For as long as I can remember, I have been obsessed with entertainment and celebrities. In lieu of candy or toys, I would ask my mom to buy me the latest copies of tabloid magazines at the store. I could come home and feverishly pour over copies of People, US Weekly, or Star. I would read about the hottest totally untrue gossip or look at the copious photos of celebrities doing stuff just like me: taking out the garbage, eating dinner, or going to the beach! (The biannual issues that showed the worst pictures of female celebrities in swimsuits definitely did not give me a skewed body image.) I was addicted to getting this faux inside look into the lives of the rich and famous: I want to be them, look like them, and one day see my own scandal on the glossy cover.

But, as I grew older, I realized that this obsession was, yes, fed by the allure of the celebrity, but also would not exist without the paparazzi. Sure, they’re seen as money-hungry villains looking to stalk celebrities and monetize their personal lives, but they also give fans an inside look into their worlds that goes deeper than the facade of celebrity. They give an unfiltered and sometimes unwarranted look into fame that is unmatched in Hollywood, a way to connect to our favorite stars. They are just as much of a celebrity as anyone else.

When thinking of celebrities, you think of those flashing lights; the red carpets; the crowds. This is the marker of the paparazzi: those flashing lights, hoards of men in fedoras holding bulky cameras wearing ill-fitting jeans. The paparazzi are so commonplace that we’ve forgotten that there are real people behind the pictures. It’s become universally accepted that celebrities should have every last crumb of their privacy evaded; the world learned their name and, now, the world deserves to know everything else about them. While often overlooked, in many ways, they are the subculture that is the backbone of the celebrity and of Hollywood.

This is why the paparazzi are so incredibly fascinating to me and why I’ve chosen them for my subculture. Sure, most of the time, what they do is a complete violation of privacy and often creepy, but, like the rest of us, have a job that they’re just trying to do. While a seemingly stagnant profession, the paparazzi continues to evolve with the expansion of the world celebrity and the dominance of internet culture. Through exploring the sensationalized celebrity-obsessed culture that created and continues to foster paparazzi, as well as the countless scandals and infamy that casts a dark shadow over the profession, I aim to answer this question: in an age where a celebrity’s privacy has essentially been vanquished by social media, is it hypocritical to still villainize the paparazzi? If not, where do we draw the line between privacy and celebrity, unfiltered and Instagrammable; and what side of the line are the paparazzi on?

The Fame
I’ve separated my findings into three sections based on Stefani Germanotta’s hit 2008 song, “Paparazzi,” and her first three albums: The Fame, The Fame Monster, and The Fame Monster (Deluxe Edition). This section aims to dissect the history of the profession, its evolution, and how the paparazzi came to become so famous (and infamous) in our culture.

The official title ‘paparazzi’ derives from Federico Fellini’s 1960 Italian film La Dolce Vita, about a disenchanted tabloid reporter who skulks around Roman nightlife on the prowl for his next story with his partner in crime, photographer Paparazzo.

Paparazzi have been around since at least the 1950s as celebrities rose to a god-like prominence and tabloid magazines were looking for unstaged celebrity photos to give fans an intimate look at their favorite stars and to stir up a little controversy. Two years earlier marked the first recorded paparazzi photo, taken by Tazio Secchiaroli in Rome, of King Farouk of Egypt with two women that were very much not his wife.

As a self-admitted and prideful history geek, this timeline intrigued me. The emergence of the paparazzi and the rise in public fascination with celebrities came as televisions were ushered into homes all around the world, making the celebrity closer than ever. The first colored television was released in 1953 at the tail-end of the Korean War and nearly a decade after World War II ended. During this decade, the American economy grew by 37%, American households had 30% more purchasing power than they did the decade prior, and unemployment was a record low of 4.5%. Less than two decades out from the Great Depression, America was thriving economically and that meant there was more time to focus on entertainment (and that there were funds to do so.) Plus, with the release of the first polaroid camera in 1948, the paparazzi could bring it to them easier, quicker, and in larger volumes than ever before.

So, with these technological advances, Hollywood had become much more accessible. There were hoards of entertainment to consume and Americans were hungry for it. But, as the 20th Century steamed ahead, the days of Hollywood glamour were fading. The Vietnam War had begun and the anti-war and Civil Rights movements were on the rise. The President was shot, along with countless Civil Rights leaders. The innocence of the 1950s had essentially vanished. When it came to the celebrity, much like everything else in American culture, greed soon set in and people wanted more and more access to the rich and famous. What began as just an extra peek into celebrity life became more intense. It was no longer the red carpets, award shows, and glamorous parties. As the world was technologically advancing at a rapid pace and people were consuming content more than ever, a craving to see a celebrity’s authenticity and the pressure to get the perfect candid photo was also rapidly advancing.

What was also rapidly advancing was the volume of celebrities and how the term continued to evolve. In the 1950s, it was mostly movie stars like Marilyn Monroe or crooners like Frank Sinatra. The 1960s saw the rise of the boyband with the “British Invasion” as rock bands grew rabid fan bases and the “rock star” was born. Child actors were also becoming increasingly popular, with family shows like The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family churning out celebrities that all members of the family across the globe could relate to. There were the soap opera stars, the lovable sitcom casts, the teen heartthrobs, young beautiful starlets, etc. Even the children of politicians and the politicians themselves were becoming less of public servants and more of celebrities after the Watergate scandal of the early ‘70s erased the untouchable superiority of our government officials. Everyone and anyone could be considered a celebrity and the paparazzi were there to capture it all.

Thus, as the 1950s fueled the image and allure of the celebrity, the subsequent decades that had long shed the post-World War II glow fueled the meteoric ascent of the paparazzi. By the dawn of the new millennium, tabloid magazines were more popular than ever, with an average of $10 billion in revenue in the 2000s, hitting a peak in 2005. The paparazzi were more profitable than ever, with a paparazzo receiving anywhere between 20% and 70% of the royalties the picture earns, depending on the photographer and the deal he or she negotiated with the agency. Peter Grossman, former US weekly editor, was quoted as saying he paid “mid-six figures” for a series of photographs of actress Kristen Stewart in a passionate embrace with Rupert Sanders, the married director of her film Snow White and the Huntsman.

As the increasingly lucrative career hit a stride in the 2000s, social media was on the rise with popular sites like Facebook and Myspace. Social media stars emerged and the definition of celebrity began to evolve along with the definition of the paparazzi. The paparazzi began to shift from solely tabloid magazines to, presently, things like Hollywood Fix, a Youtube channel run by a paparazzo who follows around and interviews social media influencers. The channel, created in 2014, has 1.86 million subscribers and their most popular video garnered over 16 million views. On social media, we can access our favorite people at any given moment. We need to constantly know their every move and, with things like Hollywood Fix, we can. The fan/celebrity relationship is more intimate than ever. While celebrities began elusive figures, they are now like our friends (i.e. they post relatable videos in their messy bedrooms). But, like always, where the celebrity stops sharing about their personal lives in the press or online, the paparazzi begin. But when you can know everything about a person from the click of a button, what else is there for the paparazzi to uncover?

Despite the evolution of the celebrity and the uncertain future of the profession, the paparazzi have become a fixture in Hollywood. What would a celebrity be without the paparazzi to heighten their aura of elusivity and glamour or without a crowd of people running after them to get the perfect shot? However, as the demand for paparazzi and revenue increased through the second half of the 20th Century and beginning of the 21st, the paparazzi attained a level of iconicity, along with a slew of controversies, scandals, and damaging notoriety.

The Fame Monster
This section aims to delve into the most notable scandals and controversies surrounding the paparazzi and the potential hypocrisy in the harsh critiques of them by celebrities and fans alike.

In 2003, Ellen von Unwerth did a cover shoot for Q Magazine inspired by the paparazzi in which David Bowie and Kate Moss shielded themselves from the camera, hiding from the lens as though protecting their privacy from the paparazzi. By this time, the paparazzi had become celebrities in their own right but had also become villains. There were lawsuits, accusations of invasions of privacy, questions of morality. They were seen as ruthless enemies of the famous, driven to get the best photo with the highest price point by all means necessary. This photo shoot is the perfect example of the hypocrisy in this argument. The paparazzi were seen as lowly and malicious, but the idea of them had become glamorized by two of Hollywood’s biggest stars. The elite attacked the paparazzi but could use them for inspiration as long as they benefited from it. However, while it is hypocritical, it doesn’t mean that the paparazzi are always angels and it certainly doesn’t mean that the opposing argument doesn’t have its own validity.

It would take pages and pages and days upon days to list every controversial paparazzi tale, so I’ll only list the most famously infamous, beginning with actress Anita Ekberg. Ironically, Ekberg was the star of La Dolce Vita but, a few years after the film’s release, frustrated with the paparazzi camping outside of her home, went on to her front lawn with her bow and arrow and began shooting at the ground. She is my hero. There are also stories like Lindsay Lohan totaling her car in an attempt to speed away from the paparazzi and Kanye West assaulting a group of them and destroying all of their equipment.

There are also numerous paparazzi v. celebrity lawsuits, including, in 2008, when George Clooney sued a paparazzo for trespassing on his private lawn (Clooney won) and Kate Middleton won a number of civil cases against the paparazzi leading up to her wedding. The most famous lawsuit is from the 1970s when the famously private former First Lady Jackie Onassis Kennedy sued a paparazzo for following her around New York City and taking unwarranted pictures of her. Kennedy won and successfully got a restraining order against the man. On the reverse of this, lawsuits filed by the paparazzi have recently been a relevant topic in the media. Multiple celebrities have posted photos taken by the paparazzi at either events or candid photographs on their social media without compensating or crediting the photographer. This was even a hot topic at one of my internships this semester, as one of our clients was being threatened with a copyright lawsuit for a paparazzi photo we posted on Instagram. This is another shining example of hypocrisy when it comes to the treatment of the paparazzi: don’t photograph and make money on my personal life but, if it’s flattering, I can make money on your photograph.

Along with lawsuits, legislative action was taken against the paparazzi. Along with no being able to trespass on private property or falsify the identity of a subject, in 2013, there was a law passed in Los Angeles that made it a misdemeanor to photograph a child without parental permission. This law was lauded by celebrities and residents of Los Angeles. In a Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law review in support of the law, Dayna Berkowitz went as far as to call the paparazzi “Nazis”, adding “My daughter doesn’t want to go to school because she knows ‘the men’ are watching for her. They jump out of the bushes and from behind cars and who knows where else, besieging these children just to get a photo.” While this may be a bit extreme, despite the unspoken rule that, once you become relevant, you consent to all parts of your life on display, the children of the famous are not only are they minors but cannot consent to the fame or to having a stranger use their picture for profit. The child’s exposure to the world should be controlled by the parents and, eventually, themselves. This law did upset members of the paparazzi due to the potential loss of revenue, however, no one should be haunted by unwarranted pictures of you as a toddler at a juice place in Studio City.

With that, it’s also important to note the tragic stories concerning the paparazzi that have brought the issue of morality to the forefront. Two of the most famous are the Britney Spears incident of 2007 and Princess Diana’s death in 1997. The Britney incident has been turned into a joke by the internet and “Britney in 2007” has become a mainstay in American pop culture. However, that incident was instigated and fueled by the paparazzi. They refused to leave her alone after she asked repeatedly; they kept taking photos of her that were mocked in the press and on the internet; they were running every aspect of her life and she hit her breaking point. Now, with the release of the Hulu/New York Times documentary on Britney and her conservatorship, this issue has been brought to light again. Though people began to feel remorse for the way they treated Britney Spears, the paparazzi involved who were featured in the documentary still see themselves as the victim for how it affected their career and how they were treated. It is a horrific example of a person being seen as a dollar sign rather than a human being. Britney Spears was seen as a pawn to both the press and the people close to her. It is a horrifying situation and really calls into question: When someone is at their breaking point, is the money really more important?

Princess Diana’s death is also a tragedy at the hands of the paparazzi. While a lot of details were at play in the cause of her death, the main factor was the paparazzi hounding her, chasing her car as it sped to get away, and tragically crashed before she could escape. After the tragedy, paparazzi across the globe were legally not allowed to pursue subjects in cars. Of course, a human life was not worth the shot or worth the money, but this incident marked a point of no return for the paparazzi. They weren’t just ruthless money-hungry pests; they were murderers. They murdered one of the most famous and prolific women of all time.

Thus, the paparazzi, with their solidified villain status, became the symbol for greed, and for a depraved lack of morality. While I do believe some of it is justified, I also believe that a celebrity’s invasion of privacy is an oxymoron. Unlike you’re someone like Daniel Day Lewis, you chose this lifestyle in part for the recognition, the fame, the idea that everyone in the world could know your name. Like any other job in the world, it may have its downfalls like the constant exposure, but it’s a part of the description. I like to imagine it’s in the contract you sign in when you become a celebrity, filed under “selling your soul to Meryl Streep.”

Despite this, celebrities continue to treat the paparazzi like the devil. As a result, a lot of fans also have this negative connotation about them due to seeing their favorite celebrity say how awful the paparazzi are. But the fact of the matter is that both of these groups need the paparazzi. Fans need it to see what their idol is up to every second of every day and the idol needs it to stay relevant. Because while you have to have a certain amount of relevancy to complain about the paparazzi, the paparazzi is what keeps you relevant. In fact, most celebrities even work with the paparazzi. Nowadays, these is predominantly influencers, who will call the paparazzi to their location so they look important with a hoard of cameras following them, have them take professional-looking photos they can post on the internet, and both parties benefit monetarily. A great example of this is social media influencer Madison Beer. She got negative press back in June for calling paparazzi to take photos of her at a Black Lives Matter protest. The photoshoot stopped traffic and caused a spectacle. After it was over, Madison promptly left the event, went home, and posted the photo to her Instagram proclaiming her support for the movement. Much like most of the criticism of the paparazzi, her activism was performative, artificial, and downright embarrassing.

Truthfully, I didn’t realize until recently how often things like this happen. Fans are kept in the dark about celebrities working with paparazzi, so they really think that their idols are being harassed by the paparazzi and have no moment of peace. In actuality, most photos are manufactured and even the supposed candid authentic ones have some teams of managers with big bank accounts and even bigger connections behind it. But in Hollywood, do you expect any less? Yes, the paparazzi aren’t saints; in fact, their sleazy reputation is justified. When watching videos from the Hollywood Fix, I feel like I need a shower after just hearing the guy’s voice. But I think that celebrities droning on and on about how horrific they are is absurd. It’s like me saying I don’t like Dunkin Donuts. Yes, they take all of my money and, yes, my order is only right one out of ten times, but we both need each other in order to succeed.

It’s also important to note that the performative activism of Madison Beer and countless other influencers and celebrities bleeds into the villainization of the paparazzi. In the article “Performative Wokeness / White Victimhood: The Hypocrisy of Celebrity Villainization,” Vanessa Díaz suggested that it’s an issue with roots in race. Celebrities are routinely hostile towards the paparazzi, who are predominantly Latino men, and the critique of the paparazzi often comes in the form of a narrative of white women’s victimhood from celebrities who express fear of the photographers they frame in stereotypical gendered and racialized terms. Celebrities are notorious for performative activism, for putting on a front of being so welcoming to all people of all backgrounds. Obviously, this isn’t true and, more than anything, celebrities just like to make things about themselves (think: the “Imagine” video.) Celebrities are so out of touch that they couldn’t even begin to grasp that not only is their hypocrisy towards the paparazzi classist, it’s also racist and littered with inherent biases.

The Fame Monster (Deluxe Edition)
So, yes, the paparazzi are a vital fixture in Hollywood. They are utilized by the celebrity for their own personal gain just as much as a paparazzo would do the same. The photographs and videos produced by the paparazzi have taken the form of tabloid fodder, lawsuits, successful social media platforms, tragedy, even entertainment itself. Look at TMZ; it’s an internet tabloid built on gossip, scandals, and candid paparazzi photographs that has aired on Fox since 2007. (Much to my horror in researching this paper, it is still running. This piece of information caused me to audibly gasp.)

That being said, as we have seen the rise of the paparazzi, we are now seen what could be their fatal fall. The rise of social media has been a primary factor in their demise. With apps like Instagram, Twitter, and TikTok, we can see unfiltered photos and videos of our idols in an instant (I say unfiltered with a large grain of salt.) Even better, this content comes straight from the source. We can watch their every move across the internet, read their thoughts on current issues and upcoming projects, and the faux fan/celebrity friendship feels more real than ever. Why do we need the paparazzi to take a photo of Blake Likely at SoulCycle when I saw she posted about it on her story three days ago? We are constantly perceiving and being perceived on social media. There is no real privacy anymore and social media fuels that consumer greed for an incessant flow of content.

Another factor that has contributed to the fall of the paparazzi is the sheer controversy that surrounds them. It’s hard to make a respected living when you’re seen to be the most hated subculture in Hollywood, hated the most by the people in charge of Hollywood. Paparazzi scandals and controversies have led to aforementioned laws and lawsuits that have heavily prohibited where the paparazzi can go, when they can go there, and how long they can be there. They have to choose between the best photograph or potential prison time. They are being policed more than ever before and obtaining six figures for a shot is nearly unheard of anymore. Additionally, the paparazzi have been negatively impacted by the paywall. Subscription services for news publications led to a decrease in sales, which led to a decrease in how much content tabloid magazines were buying, which led to a great loss for the paparazzi. Furthermore, with a lot of these publications with subscriptions feature paparazzi photos, the material may be more expensive, but the paparazzi get no cut of the money made from subscriptions, which is infuriating, unjust, and capitalist greed at its finest.

The fall of the paparazzi predates the pandemic. In fact, it can be traced back to the economic recession of 2008. However, of course, like most work, the paparazzi have also suffered greatly in the past year. The economy has been poor, meaning less funds to purchase photographs, and celebrities just aren’t going out as much. They are not red carpets or fabulous after-parties. The famous are nestled away from the bulb in the Hollywood Hills, away from the fame and away from aiding the bank accounts of struggling paparazzi.

However, despite all of this talk of their demise, do I think the paparazzi will ever truly go away? Absolutely not. For every staged inauthentic paparazzi photo, there is one legendary one that keeps them in business that will continue to fuel the industry (think: the multiple paparazzi photos of Ben Affleck dropping Dunkin coffees, some of my favorite photographs to ever exist.) There are also the legendary and wholesome photos of Emma Stone and Andrew Garfield leaving lunch holding pieces of cardboard over their faces, acknowledging that they’ve seen the paparazzi and would like to take this opportunity to shed a light on a non-profit organization. And that’s what fans want to see. Despite social media vanquishing our privacy, fans still want to see celebrities unfiltered, they still want to see what celebrities are doing outside of their clean-cut Instagram accounts. What do they really look like without FaceTune and a team of people to pose, edit, and upload it? Because of this, while it may never get back to what it was once as social media continues to dominate our culture, fans can never get enough content of their favorite celebrities. Especially content that is so mundane, like taking or the trash or going to dinner. It’s the “I do that!” mentality: paparazzi photos make fans see that their idol is just as human and boring as they are. And relatability never goes out of style.

To address the second half of my research question: Where do we draw the line between privacy and celebrity, unfiltered and Instagrammable; and what side of the line are the paparazzi on?, to be quite honest, I don’t believe there is one right answer. I think that the line between privacy and celebrity was exterminated with social media and it’s nearly impossible to find anything truly unfiltered on Instagram anymore. With the paparazzi themselves taking the stage with TMZ and Hollywood Fix, they’ve established that they can stand on both sides of the line. And, no matter what, there will always be a demand for them. More than anything, Hollywood loves itself and they will never stop having the opportunity for fans and the paparazzi to treat them as the ever-important narcissistic people they are. For the paparazzi, it’s a monetary boost. For the celebrity, it’s a monetary and ego boost. What could possibly go wrong?

Works Cited
Azriel, Joshua. “Photographers Sue Celebrities for Copyright Infringement.” Journal of Internet Law, vol. 24, no. 1, July 2020, pp. 3–8.

Berkowitz, Dayna. “Stop the ‘Nazzi’: Why the United States Needs a Full Ban on Paparazzi Photographs of Children of Celebrities.” Loyola of Los Angeles Entertainment Law Review, vol. 37, no. 2, Apr. 2017, pp. 175–206.

Díaz, Vanessa. “Performative Wokeness / White Victimhood: The Hypocrisy of Celebrity Villainization of Paparazzi.” Women’s Studies in Communication, vol. 43, no. 4, Nov. 2020, pp. 363–368.

American Chemical Society, “Edwin Land and Instant Photography.”

Ganninger, Daniel. “The Origin of the Paparazzi.” Knowledge Stew, 9 Feb. 2019.

Hawlin, Thea. “The History of Paparazzi Photographs, Beginning on the Streets of 50s Rome.” AnOther Magazine, 29 Nov. 2018, .

McGreevy, Patrick, and Melanie Mason. “New Law Restricts Paparazzi Access to Children of Celebrities.” Los Angeles Times, 25 Sept. 2013.

Murray, Ray. “Keeping the Paparazzi an Arm’s Length Away.” Journal of Popular Culture, vol. 46, no. 4, Aug. 2013, p. 868.

Ramzan, Iram. “Ellen Von Unwerth Exhibition: David Bowie’s Helping Hand for Kate Moss.” The Sunday Times, 14 Apr. 2018. .

Schrager, Allison. “The ‘Golden Years’ of Paparazzi Have Mostly Gone.” BBC, 24 Apr. 2019.

Watson, Amy. “Circulation Revenue Estimates for U.S. Magazines 2000-2011.” Statista, 1 Mar. 2012.

What Are the Laws Regarding Paparazzi?” Hg.org.

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cancelculture celebrity influencers

Influencer Culture Takes Over L.A.

There are many hubs around the United States that contribute to both American and worldwide cultures. However, the influence of Los Angeles may just beat out these other cities being the capital of the entertainment industry and a creative center for many different industries as well. Culturally, it is home to a melting pot of communities that all share the vast landscape in California.

Over the past decade, a new digital age has emerged causing a shift in the way we consume media and entertainment. Social media being at the forefront of our daily lives, it has opened doors of opportunity for a new kind of celebrity. The old stars of Hollywood, in their age, were put on an untouchable pedestal for the rest of the people to admire, but the appeal was never that of being relatable or like us in any way. Their elaborate, glamorous lives were special and different than anyone else’s. Thanks to the digital age, celebrity is now accessible to all in the form of being an influencer, granting access to the lifestyle of the people others look up to and aspire to reach. Due to this new accessibility, it has caused an influx of changes and problems as well as opportunity. The rise of social media and the digital age has caused an overtaking of influencer culture in Los Angeles, with the over-saturation of influencers leading to the unfortunate replacement of culture with clout and contributions to gentrification.

In order to understand the complications, first one must explore what an influencer even is. It is likely a term heard and known by many, but the truth of the matter is that there are many forms of influencing and different ways of doing so. The majority of these people can be placed “into the following categories: celebrities, industry experts and thought leaders, bloggers or content creators and micro-influencers” (Zdenka and Holiencinova 92). It really boils down to anyone that has any sort of power or guidance on a significant number of people. This is why the celebrity is so accessible because of the range in which you are able to be an influencer and how “an unprecedented number of fame-seekers use social media as the gateway to self-promotion even if in reality, only a few get the kind of recognition that can be converted to money” (Gomez 10). In the last decade, especially when Instagram was released, that sparked the new influencer economy present today that gave communities and people a platform to share their work and communicate instantly. Platforms such as: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and now TikTok have all been successful in getting users and contributing to the growing influencer scene. With each new app that arises, is born a new set of influencers. At the rate of growth that social media and the digital world has grown, these numbers are not set to slow down anytime soon.

Anyone can aspire to be an influencer because of the nature of the platforms in which you can be successful. In contrast to a more corporate or professional career that stems from formalities and growing experience, influencers are born out of many things, from their relatability and people’s attraction to things they are interested in to viral fame. That is why no influencer has to be a celebrity. They are just people who add value to their social networks and reach a large number of people from their following from their knowledge or expertise in a specific field (Zdenka and Holiencinova 93). Users who are already using these platforms for fun, entertainment, or to stay in touch with friends and family, are already producing content. With that in mind, the attraction to being an influencer for many comes from making money off of something that is already happening. That lifestyle of an influencer then becomes the main goal and motivator for people trying to gain their following in order to live off of their earnings and simply produce content by living how they want.

In order to produce watchable, viral content, the environment and events are everything. Needing an aesthetic backdrop to put behind their lush lifestyle that people will want to follow results in a huge flocking of these influencers to Los Angeles. Being at the creative and cultural hub, the city becomes a place for these influencers to grow their brand and status and try to expand on their connections and opportunity for more success. People come to L.A. not to “break from the hustle of everyday life by relaxing and taking in the sparkle of Tinseltown,” but to earn more likes because those are influencer currency. Likes turn into followers, more followers turns into more fame (Fry). This move makes sense given that Hollywood has always been the home of many celebrities and home to opportunities as well. This is a place to meet like minded people and others in the creative field with similar aspirations.

Collaboration then becomes a major part of the influencer journey especially for young people interested in the party scene and getting together with people their age to create content and have parties. This influx of young aspiring influencers created collaboration houses.These young influencers are banding together to live in luxury, forming groups to live in a mansion together. This is both a financial and creative strategy as they are able to create content and have a luxurious backdrop to do it and also to collaborate and make exclusive events and parties. Some well known houses include The Hype House and The Sway House. Both are fairly new to the game as they are TikTok influencers. Starting in 2019, these mansions are being occupied by the top influencer celebrities and have a following on social media for the content released from the house in the billions.

The impact of this on the other Los Angeles residents, especially in these more upscale locations, are the shenanigans and volume of these houses. It is reported that “neighbors complained to the Times about hearing loud music late at night, trash left out front, the sounds of someone vomiting and the early-morning firing of paintball guns” (Leggate). Having consistent partying going on and loud events creates a less than hospitable environment for other wealthy residents in the area. The disruption and inconsideration of the neighbors comes from the influencer culture that lives on clout chasing and attention grabbing content. In order to hold viewers attention, things often have to be both in your face and loud. Group content especially needs some sort of exciting factor to keep viewers engaged.

This influx of influencers not only affects the residential life of Los Angeles, but the actual landscape as well. As many other subcultures are already outraged by the gentrification taking place in their neighborhoods, driving up the cost of living and erasing history within their culture, influencers are adding onto it. One instance demonstrating this is when “a (kind of) new mural on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles sparked outrage on social media, with people calling it “social media gentrification” and “perfecto capitalism”. (Adrian) The mural was only accessible to people with a certain following criteria and was a promotion for a new influencer oriented company. This is attributed to the exclusivity of influencer culture, like that of celebrity, but more harmful in the way that more and more people are making the effort to become an influencer because of its accessibility in comparison to A-list celebrities in Hollywood.

The connection between gentrification and influencer culture especially draws from the roots of capitalism. Once an influencer grows their following, much of their profits comes from brand deals and influencer marketing. A brand will reach out to an influencer they feel matches their target demographic, and therefore their followers would also be the company’s target as well. Influencer marketing is one of the leading forms of marketing because of its success for brands. Influencers hold so much power due to the relationship between them and their followers. There is a sense of trust between them because someone will only follow another person if they like them and what they are producing. The longer an influencer is online and puts out content, the stronger of a relationship is grown. People feel that they know the influencer, as if they are their friend. That is the power of the relatability aspect and everyday folk feeling that many influencers have. People today are more cautious of brands and other advertising directly from the brand itself because of the idea that they are only in it for the profit. The illusion of the influencer is that they are essentially doing the exact same thing, but instead of someone hearing it from a stranger, it feels as if it is a recommendation from a friend. The dangers of this especially those who are younger influencers, is that once they find success, they will do anything to propel that and upkeep an influencer status. That’s when clout chasing and authenticity come into question because of the fake-ness of social media.

People can project what they want to project. Influencers will go all over Los Angeles into places they are not even aware of the culture and pose with things of significance without appreciation for the history and use it for their aesthetic. Likewise, especially starting out, influencers will take any brand deals they can get in order to get their income started. So, they may praise and try to sell a product to their viewers that they don’t even like or use.

Authenticity is a major concern because of the nature of the market and the desire for an upcoming influencer to gain their income and feel their career blossom can easily outweigh being authentic in their posts. Being accustomed to already scouting locations and editing photos for the best posts online or curating videos they think will get more attention and staging certain events makes it seem like part of the job as an influencer. “People’s claims of digital authenticity sometimes turn out to be superficial attempts to claim certain alternative identities to enhance their egos or the knowing cultivation of personas in the interest of persuading others for the purpose of some form of gain” (Hund 30). Because the digital space is newer, and influencer culture has only sprouted in the last decade, navigating these problems is unique to this industry and time. The collaboration between influencers and companies need to be regulated in order to keep ethics in check. Another major factor with influencer culture is that because they could be any regular person, the rise to fame over a short period of time can have a negative effect on celebrity life, culture within L.A. and the influencer themselves. It can be seen in a lot of young TikTok stars and YouTubers getting constantly canceled or called out for problematic instances because they do not know the societal expectations and responsibilities that come from being a celebrity and having that lifestyle.

The glamorous aspects of being an influencer or celebrity are the normal motivators for influencers, meaning that the other aspects of being in the spotlight are overlooked. In a commercial, capitalist world, it is easy for a young person who has grown up with social media and this culture to aspire to have that as their career. The additions of the negative impact of social media on society and mental health in general due to the facade that can be cultivated online, sparks problems within this industry that are not even addressed because of the newness of it all. The infiltration into Los Angeles not only is harming the cultures present, but the new digital age and influencer culture is removing the authenticity of L.A. and the people that reside there.

Overall, this rising influencer culture has had a lot of impact within the last decade and continues to thrive with new markets being created within digital platforms. Unfortunately, that is causing an influx of influencers to Los Angeles, which is changing the landscape and existing cultures there as they take over mansions in Beverly Hills and other high end areas, and use the existing subculture scenes for their own clout and aesthetics for their online profiles. There is a definite rise of gentrification and with influencers, marketing has soared and capitalism with it as people spend a large portion of their day scrolling on various social media platforms. It is evolving and becoming more relevant in the grand scheme of things as we see these rising influencers infiltrate other creative hubs such as films, music, and television. The desire for more fame, money, and success are driving these new celebrities into other spheres aside from the social media world, indicating that not only are they here to stay, but are paving the way for a new route for other people to follow in order to attain the lifestyle of a celebrity that everyone desires.

The residents of Los Angeles push back against gentrification and many are bothered by the new wave of influencers joining the scene, but the best change that could come from those coming into the city would be to enter it respectful of those who have resided there and be mindful of the culture capital having a significant history. Appreciation of the places they go and not simply using the beautiful aspects of Los Angeles for their own gain and advantage online would be a step in the right direction to correcting the harmful over-saturation of this group. The values of influencers and upholding an authentic, mindful brand is steadily increasing as the more original influencers who were not mindful of that are being called out and canceled. That will hopefully provide enough inspiration for these newer, upcoming influencers to not make the same mistakes and have an authentic, responsible presence online that is mindful of the power that comes with a following and fame.

Works Cited

Fry, Naomi. “‘Fake Famous’ and the Tedium of Influencer Culture.” The New Yorker, February 2021.

Hund, Emily Ann. “The Influencer Industry: Constructing and Commodifying Authenticity on Social Media.” Thesis / Dissertation ETD, ScholarlyCommons, 2019, pp. 28–30.

Kadekova, Zdenka, and Maria Holiencinova. “Influencer Marketing as a Modern Phenomenon Creating a New Frontier of Virtual Opportunities.” Communication Today, 2018.

Leggate, James. “TikTok ‘Content Houses’ Take over Luxurious LA Mansions.” Fox Business, Fox Business, June 2020.

Mecava, Aridan. “LA Influencers Compete Over Exclusive Urban Space.” Pop, 2018.

Ruiz-Gomez, Alexandra. “Digital Fame and Fortune in the Age of Social Media: A Classification of Social Media Influencers.” ADResearch ESIC International Journal of Communication Research, vol. 19, no. 19, 2019, pp. 08–29., doi:10.7263/adresic-019-01.