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General Paper Essay : Fame is a mixed blessing.

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{INTRO} When Britain lost one of its beloved royals, Princess Diana, in a tragic car accident, it was uncovered that her limousine driver had hit high speed levels in an apparent attempt to flee the single-minded, irrepressible paparazzi. Indeed, on any given day, fame makes manifest both its adoring and vicious sides to celebrities and public figures, albeit in different degrees. There is no doubt that fame is a mixed blessing.

{BP1} On one hand, fame is the key to riches and exclusive opportunities. Fame opens doors to more work. This is the reason why so many people put up material on social networks, blogs or video-sharing sites. Think of top Youtubers with legions following their channels like ‘PewDiePie’, ‘NigaHiga’ or ‘Baba Ali’ who go on to do tours and talks, or gain good advertising income. It is the same reason why tens of thousands audition for reality shows like The Voice, Masterchef or Britain’s Got Talent. Many want their passion or talent to be recognised while those with merely vain ambitions just relish the self-gratification that comes with their time in limelight, no matter how brief.

{BP2} When a person becomes more famous, and more sought after, he or she can also ask for more money for the work that he does. How else can we explain the multi-million dollar contracts that have to be signed for A-list actors such as Leonardo Dicaprio and ‘Iron Man’ Robert Downey Jr to star in a film? Many a sportsman, like top-earning soccer stars David Beckham or Cristiano Ronaldo, now bask in the adulation of their fans because their skills have helped pull them out of their working class backgrounds and thrust them into the big leagues of their game. Celebrities also enjoy the benefits of being product ambassadors to big or luxury brands of anything from appliances to cars and watches, and in Beckham’s case, even Calvin Klein underwear. Famous people get invited to places where the layman is shut out, where they mingle with their own kind, and network, offering each other even more ways to advance their careers. Is there no end to the perks of fame?

{BP3} Yet, despite all the exhilaration of fame, its downsides are disconcerting. Famous people are under pressure to live up to expectations in their competitive fields. As a consequence, some celebrities actually suffer from bouts of depression or low esteem. For instance rapper Eminem has publicly shared the intense self-loathing he experienced when he actually became famous. Another major problem is the higher propensity to fall into bad company because new ‘friends’ offer the newly-famous new experiences namely the destructive hedonistic life of potent alcohol, pretty women and party drugs. Once the partying has ended, their addictions would have ruined them and affected their chances of getting work, which simply perpetuates their low self esteem. Robert Downey Jr, like Eminem and many others, went through this same cycle and hit the doldrums before getting a second chance. Even supposedly wholesome sports personality golfer Tiger Woods destroyed his marriage with his multiple affairs. The grim fact is future stars could fall into the same old traps despite all the precedents set before them.

{BP4} Most famous people seem to tell the same story : Fame happened suddenly, and was hard to handle at the start; then, they have an epiphany of what fame really proffers – influence. They could be the new pied pipers and the people would follow. For example, former United States (US) Vice President Al Gore now pursues his fight against global warming and uses his fame to appeal to corporations and governments; glamorous actress Angelina Jolie championed the rights of children for the United Nations; and Microsoft founder Bill Gates funds an array of initiatives to improve education or combat Aids using his Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Even this year, former US Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice and diva Beyonce have joined hands for Facebook Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg’s Ban Bossy campaign to encourage leadership among women.

{BP5} What then is the cost of such fame and its resultant power? Public figures pay with their right to privacy. The media tends to pry into their lives, claiming that it is what the ever-curious public wants to know. But in reality, media companies are the ones trying to hawk minute details as sensational news. This is stifling and causes great stress, especially if the celebrity is not equipped emotionally or professionally to handle the media. From time to time, we read about superstars getting involved in altercations with reporters or cameramen who overstepped their already-arbitrary boundaries. Famous people are simply not allowed to be themselves and be at ease.

{BP6} To make things worse, when famous people get into trouble, it gets magnified especially via social media where even their fans and haters jostle to give their two tweet’s worth of comment. Celebrities become the perfect scapegoat for everything wrong in society from rising divorce rates and teen pregnancies to superficiality and recklessness in general. This only aggravates the trauma for the famous person and makes the process of recovery even harder. So we find Hollywood’s Lindsay Lohan or Britney Spears taking years to bounce back after notoriously tripping into one scandal after another.

{BP7} On the other hand, only social media-savvy starlets like Miley Cyrus or Rihanna flip the constant intrusion into their lives upside down. They beat the media at their own game, by being the first to share their private lives with the rest of the world through photo-sharing site, Instagram and micro-blogging site, Twitter. They have won over a greater following of admirers or voyeurs, even though their incessant narcissism invites more brickbats too. This all just proves that fame is indeed a double-edged sword.

{RESOLUTION} In the end, fame can be intoxicating and empowering for some. For others, it is an accident, a happy by-product of their great work. Either way, fame can exact its toll on those who cannot wield it masterfully and let it consume them.



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