Chanel’s new video series explores the cult of celebrity

·4-min read
Photo credit: Courtesy
Photo credit: Courtesy

Many fragrances are described as iconic, but there’s really only one famous enough to be recognised by the mere outline of its bottle. Chanel No5 has truly transcended trends, remaining as popular now, in its 100th year, as it was when Gabrielle Chanel first created it in 1921.

To mark the major birthday, Chanel has launched a video series that unpicks the nature of celebrity, shining the spotlight on six prominent figures with very different experiences surrounding fame.

Celebrity By brings together actor and face of No5 Marion Cotillard, jookin dancer Lil Buck, professor of psychology Dr. Laurie Santos, media icon Hung Huang, ballet dancer and choreographer Marie-Agnès Gillot, and former Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter to explore the modern facets of celebrity, from its influence on psychology to its relationship with creativity.

As an expert of human cognition, Dr. Laurie Santos is fascinated by the way in which modern technology has changed the way we view celebrity status. In her short film, she dissects today's obsession with celebrities, fuelled by the ‘overnight fame’ social media makes possible, and questions what really motivates us to 'follow' another so loyally.

Here, she speaks exclusively to Bazaar to further unpick our fascination with fame.

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As the line between celebrity and non-celebrity continues to blur, where do you think we’ll go from here? Might there be a backlash, either from the oversharing celebrities, or the overexposed fans?

"I think it's a really open question about where it's going to go. On the one hand, it does feel like celebrity is changing in interesting ways. Are we going to feel the same way about the TikTok celebrity of the moment as we do Marilyn Monroe? I doubt it. The flip side is we know that interest in celebrity is built into our DNA, so our obsession with celebrities is probably not going to go anywhere, although it might evolve."

Celebrity status should be subjective, so how do we all end up idolising the same people?

"There's definitely evidence that we tend to copy the preferences of other people. There's lots of examples of how we copy other people’s behaviour, and we tend to pay attention to what other people pay attention to. Think of a really simple experiment – the kind of thing a social psychologist would do in the 1950s. If you walk down the street and see a whole bunch of people looking up at the sky, you’ll probably stop and look at whatever they’re looking at. I think celebrity works in a lot of the same ways. If a lot of those around us are talking about a particular celebrity, paying attention to them and watching their videos, we might be tempted to do the same thing. We want to keep up the with Joneses in terms of our influences and the things we pay attention to. There’s a lot of peer influence at play in who we pay attention to and the celebrities we really care about."

Our inclination to obsess over celebrities, combined with the constant exposure available to use via social media platforms, can be a dangerous combination. Are you concerned that our idolisation of celebrities is feeding a generation of discontent?

"My sense is that the discontent comes not from the celebrity part, but in many ways from the technology and the social media. If we’re obsessed with reading news about celebrities and watching celebrity Instagram feeds and TikTok videos, we could be missing out on the connections we have in real life. I do worry that the availability of this stuff makes it even more tempting to spend more time worrying about celebrities, being on social media watching them, and this can lead to feelings of disconnection in real life.

"I talk to my students about maintaining a balance in the amount of things they pay attention to online vs real life, and that includes the extent to which we follow celebrities. The key is, when you're done reading the celebrity gossip for the day, to take a moment to notice if you’re feeling better and more energised, or more depleted and apathetic. If your interest isn't making you feel good, it might be time to be more mindful with how you’re spending your time."

How can we use this new exposure to our favourite celebrities to help, not hinder our happiness?

"Pay a little bit of attention to how you feel after reading a bunch of celebrity news – do you feel good? Lonelier or less lonely? Try to build in the kind of activities that feel fun. It might be that copying a celebrity's make-up tutorial gives you a little bit of flow and makes you feel like you’ve learned something. The key is to be mindful about how these interactions make you feel, and to try to build in more of the positive activities: the ones that make you feel good, rather than the ones that don't."

See the full Celebrity By series at Chanel.com now.

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