By Leonie Hyman
With the rise of social media, we have more access than ever into the lives of the rich and famous. Avidly following our favourite celebrities on Twitter, Instagram and even Snapchat, we love to feel like we know them on a personal level. This marks a shift from the celebrity culture of the 90s and early 00s, where we could only adore and revere from a distance. Celebrities like Kate Moss and Paris Hilton held an air of untouchability, living what seemed like glamorously perfect lives.
Today’s youth desire a different kind of celebrity – one who is relatable. We crave proof that even the rich and beautiful are ‘just like us’ and endure the same personal struggles. Model Chrissy Teigen is the ultimate ‘relatable celebrity’ on social media; she talks about her love for junk food, bad skin when she’s on her period, and shares funny couple texts with husband John Legend.
I don't even want the fucking tacos anymore (yes I do) it's now about the principle (WHERE ARE THEY)
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) August 19, 2017
favorite beer to cook sausage in? please do not respond if you don't have a favorite beer to cook sausage in, why do I have to say this
— christine teigen (@chrissyteigen) August 17, 2017
Teigen recently shared her experience with postnatal depression and has become a role model for many young women. Millennials value celebrities whose concerns match theirs and those who engage with current cultural issues, such as Beyoncé and her support for the Black Lives Matter movement. Even the new generation of Royals have exhibited greater openness and ‘relatability’, with Prince William recently talking about his mental health struggles surrounding the death of his mother, Princess Diana.
The effects of social media have also broadened and redefined the word ‘celebrity’. It is not just Hollywood stars, but ‘ordinary’ people – YouTube content creators and reality TV personalities – who are setting trends and stimulating change. These new celebrities are engaging with their fans on a different level, replying to tweets, YouTube and Instagram comments. Their success is testament to their ability to connect with viewers, often through their openness in talking about personal but often taboo topics, such as sex, mental health and LGBT issues. This relatability is key, and millennials feel like YouTube stars such as Zoella or Tyler Oakley understand them more than the traditional celebrity. Zoella may be extremely wealthy, but she still shops in Primark and buys food from Tesco, rather than swanning around in private jets, wearing head-to-toe Prada.
The accessibility of these stars is also part of the appeal, as you can meet your favourite YouTuber at a convention like VidCon or Summer in the City, or get a photo with a Made in Chelsea star at a club appearance in your home town.
This new type of celebrity is important for brands, as they possess a perceived authenticity that traditional celebrities may lack. In a study carried out by Defy Media, 63% of people aged between 13-24 said that they would try a brand or a product recommended by a YouTube content creator, whereas only 48% mentioned the same about a film or TV star. It seems that in general, millennials are increasingly distrusting of celebrity endorsed products. Can we really believe that Blac Chyna attributes her flat stomach to detox tea? Therefore, it is important for brands to consider the relatability of the celebrity they choose to represent their brand, and whether they have a trusting relationship with their followers.
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