My life can be told through celebrity headlines. Well, some of it. I can tell you about how during my first semesters in college I’d be concerned about whatever was happening on the Celeb blogs or which actor had left the sweet singer-songwriter so heartbroken she’d write an entire album of teary, cracked voice ballads.
Though now most of my celeb news is “at least a week late,” as I’ve been reminded by a friend, I can still remember moments when I felt as emotional as whoever was on the front page of the magazines found by the supermarket cashier.
It’s not just about who’s flirting with the nanny or who tried to sneak into rehab without the world finding out; celebrity culture is not about aspiring to be like that girl who looks inhumanly gorgeous on the red carpet, stumbling out of a club, or walking her miniature maltipoo.
There’s something about it that resembles the way ancient Greeks would go about their day telling stories of the gods that lived in Olympus. We turn these characters into archetypes and place our lives on the balance to compare ourselves, striving to be that way, while also searching for some sort of flaw.
In the public eye there’s something so devilish about the delight we get when someone falls on their face, whether metaphorically or literary. We praise celebrities when they’re doing well; we feel sorry for them when they have a mishap, and then we can’t wait to make fun of them when they’re found lacking.
But celeb culture is not just about the voyeuristic experience of seeing someone’s life through the paparazzi’s lens. It’s also about finding commandments on how to become a “successful” citizen of the world: what to wear, what kind of partner to look for, which paths to take, and who we want to be.
We’re constantly told the kind of shoes people who’ve "made it" in life would buy. The same applies to the rest of our outfit, the restaurants we dine in, the drinks we order, and even the friends we make. It’s not so much that we’re implicitly influenced; we actually take all this information in a willing manner. Why have a shrink when you have a living example on getting to where you want to be from the lady on the billboard, the man from the news, or even the cute kid in the commercial?
We’re addicted to beautifully tailored things. We want our lives to have a slight taste for the expensive, the unattainable, and whatever causes envy around us. So it ends up being not only about the material things, but also the persona, the air of exuberance, the feeling of having it all, and the ultimate insatiability towards what we actually have.
When we watch reality TV, there’s a bizarre quality of familiarity. We believe we’re looking at an actual moment behind the scenes of these glamorous people. We don’t think of it as other shows where we know the faces on the screen are character masks the actors wear. When we watch the lives of reality stars, our suspension for disbelief is perhaps even greater than when we see a superhero movie, because we buy all of it.
In the back of our minds we know what we’re seeing cannot be true. Yet we selectively dismiss these thoughts. We’d rather believe the fairy tale than consider that nobody has a magical perfect day every day.
Angelica Hicks is a British illustrator that presents the world as filtered through the love of celebrities, fashion, and media. During an interview with Tory Burch's blog, Tory Daily, she explained that “(…) This emphasis on the visual from an early age, coupled with a photographic memory, has proven invaluable to my illustrations as I cross-reference popular culture with fashion.”
By mixing art, fashion, and pop culture references in a humorous way, Hicks is able to draw modern society’s fictionally inclined psyche. She provides a way for us to laugh at ourselves while also questioning why we require these modern deities. It’s possible that through parody we can start analyzing why our insecurities exist if our role models are confident beings that seem to not care about the world.
Whatever the case, Angelica Hicks’ work reminds us not to take ourselves or the world around us too seriously, take life with a grain of salt, and know that everyone looks up to someone else, even those who fill the pages of the magazines by the checkout counter.