Celebrity is power

The history and psychology of celebrity

The rich get richer, the famous get even more famous. The history of celebrity is longer than we think, and celebrity is much more embedded into our institutions and psychology than we care to admit. From early childhood we mirror and mimic our caregivers, in adulthood we mirror and mimic celebrity. It is important that we understand celebrity in modern society so we can engage with it more appropriately, writes Robert van Krieken.


If you’ve ever wondered why humanitarian campaigns are so often fronted by a celebrity like Angelina Jolie or David Beckham, rather than an explanation of the worthiness of the cause, it was explained well by former UN Secretary-General, Kofi Anan. In 2002 he told a group of celebrity advocates that putting their name to a message brings an issue to people’s attention in a powerful way, helping to break through ‘the barrier of indifference’.

The underlying logic of the celebrity production process had already been exp

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