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Uncommon Celebrities: The Changing Face of Fame in Social Media
By: Melody Weister
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It used to be, if you wanted to be famous, you needed a sizeable chunk of money, a home in either New York City or L.A., and preferably one or more well-connected relatives. Now, it seems, with the ever-changing face of social media, all you need is a good point and enough listeners to make it heard. While there’s still no formula on how to get famous, either “Internet famous” or “Hollywood famous,” the developments in social media have allowed for a new form of celebrity to come through the ranks: a celebrity chosen by the people, rather than chosen for them by Hollywood producers or New York directors.

We’ve seen it happen a few times throughout the past few decades — out of nowhere, an “unknown” actor is cast in a film, or an “unknown” musician is discovered singing karaoke in a bar, and does so well that his or her success is almost inevitable. Think Zac Efron post-High School Musical; after he took a hiatus from the industry, presumably to allow for puberty, he returned looking fabulous and suddenly he’s in everything. These incidents, however, are rare enough in occurrence to dissuade the rest of us from dreaming that someone will suddenly notice one of us going about our everyday business. Fame has always been an untouchable thing for the majority of the population. However, lately, with the increasing popularity of social networks like Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google Plus, and Blogger, we’re seeing a rise in celebrities whose fame stems from the people, not from some invisible Hollywood deity who grants fame to rich, pretty faces regardless of whether they have substance or not (Yes, Paris Hiltons and Kim Kardashians of the world, I’m looking at you).

My attention was drawn to this matter by an occurrence I noticed on Twitter the other week. One minute my Twitter feed was filled with the usual business, the next I noticed a very strange topic seemed to be trending: #simonpeggholdingtwine. What on earth had prompted this, I found myself wondering aloud, and had to track the trend to its source, a young woman named Jenny Lawson, known fondly to the Internet as “The Bloggess.” Her request for a photo of Simon Pegg holding some twine was the follow-up, apparently, to a prior incident in which she had requested a photo of Wil Wheaton collating papers. See the full explanation of her story, and resulting photograph, on her blog here.

This woman wasn’t some wealthy Hollywood debutante whose PR agent had asked her to pull this stunt for publicity purposes; this was just a regular writer of a few columns for various sources who’d happened to assemble a large enough following that, as she later on declared via Twitter, “I managed to find enough bad-ass [sic] people to make #simonpeggholdingtwine a worldwide trend for 4 minutes.” This was before she awoke the next morning to find that Simon had in fact noticed her request and provided a photo of himself holding some twine he rustled up from somewhere. She's a regular person with enough witty and interesting things to say that she's turned doing what she loves into a source of income. She even has a book coming out in April.

This uncommon celebrity and others like her have pulled my interest lately; here are role models with whom we can identify, people who stumbled into fame because they had something to say. Because of social media, they had their names tossed around enough times in the right places to garner a new type of fame. It’s a welcome change, and quite refreshing. So, keep blogging, keep tweeting, and keep fighting the good fight. You never know what’s around the corner.


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About the Author
Melody Weister is a technology aficionado, unashamed smartphone geek, and casual gamer from Montclair, NJ, where she works as a Social Media Coordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @msmelodyrose.
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