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Last Updated: Friday, 4 April, 2003, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Stardom in the 21st Century
Robbie Williams and Geri Halliwell
Robbie Williams and Geri Halliwell: No strangers to publicity
Modern-day celebrity has become a phenomenon, fuelled by what seems to be an unquenchable public thirst for news and gossip about celebrities.

A growing number of outlets supply an unending stream of information and intrigue about headline-hitting stars.

Magazines bursting with celebrity titbits line the news stands, with Now, Hello!, Heat and OK! leading the pack, while tabloids and websites have pages devoted to nuggets of gossip.

Paparazzi photographers have a reputation for making a fortune out of shots of stars in compromising positions which get sold to the highest bidder, and are often accused of invading privacy.

The Beatles: 2,110,000
Mozart: 2,110,000
Beethoven: 1,720,000
Picasso: 1,310,000
Rolling Stones: 975,000
Leonardo da Vinci: 600,000
Nicole Kidman: 479,000
Jack Nicholson: 442,000
Halle Berry: 428,000
The Osbournes: 245,000
Kate Winslet: 182,000
Will Young: 63,400
Hear'Say: 47,200
Youssou N'Dour: 39,600
Tracey Emin: 7,570
Amitabh Bachan: 2,520
However celebrity snapper Jason Fraser, famed for his "unposed portraits" of Geri Halliwell with Robbie Williams and the late Princess Diana with Dodi Fayed, has said it is not uncommon to receive "tip-offs" from the stars themselves.

"In a huge number of the photographs I take, the celebrities - how can I put this - aren't exactly surprised when the pictures appear in the newspapers afterwards," he told the BBC.

The internet is also a hive of activity, with many stars setting up official websites about themselves, while millions of fans also pay homage with fansites.

Not all websites are quite so complimentary, however, and notorious gossip sites such as Popbitch are full of rumour and innuendo.

There is also space for celebrity news - as opposed to gossip - however, and it appears in newspapers, as well as in TV and radio bulletins and online news sites.

Will Young
Will Young won Pop Idol
But people's fascination with stardom now goes beyond the goings-on of the rich and famous - many appear to want an instant slice of the "high life" for themselves.

This wanting fame for its own sake - for attention and often money rather than to develop a talent, has been most clearly seen in reality TV shows such as Pop Idol and Big Brother.

Many of the thousands who auditioned for judges and TV cameras for Pop Idol simply said they wanted to be famous, rather than talking about their love of singing and a desire to pursue it professionally.

They key goal was the trappings and perceived glamour of fame, rather than seeing it as part of being a pop star.

Jade Goody
Jade Goody was slated by the tabloids when she was on Big Brother
Another way of trying to achieve fame is to appear on reality TV show Big Brother, in which 12 housemates are filmed in a house 24 hours a day before being voted off by the public.

Each contestant from the Channel 4 show became famous for a handful of days, featuring on the front pages of several tabloid newspapers and magazines.

However long-term fame has proved rather elusive for many Big Brother contestants - only those with a talent for TV presenting have survived in the public eye.

What these shows reveal is the changing nature of fame.

Back in ancient times, celebrity was all about status, power and notoriety, but as the years went by it began to include those with talents including writing, music, art and performing.

Now, fame is up for grabs - and often those with the greatest ambition or need for attention can elbow their way into the limelight, with talent as a secondary consideration.

Hear'Say were eager for fame at the start of their career

Fame is also fleeting, however, as the members of pop group Hear'Say would no doubt agree.

They shot into the limelight after being selected through reality ITV1 show Pop Stars from thousands of hopefuls, to be in a band put together after a series of gruelling auditions.

But they ended up splitting up less than two years after first entering the limelight, citing pressure and public abuse.

Although the TV show provided massive publicity, with their first single selling 1.2 million copies and debut album shifting more than a million, sales started to slow after their second number one single.

Publicity power

Band member Danny Foster said was quoted in the Sun saying: "Hear'Say was a phenomenon at the time and people have seen us grow and evolve into pop stars.

"We were just cleaners and waiters. It's been hard work and the pressure has got too much.

"Two months ago we were held up by a gunman and the next day people thought we had made it up as a publicity stunt."

Of course it is not just the media that help make or break the stars - PR companies are also a key factor, working behind the scenes to try to get the maximum amount of positive exposure.

They guard their stars ferociously, acutely aware of the impact bad publicity - or a lack of publicity - can have on their client.

But as long as there is an appetite for fame, news and gossip, the celebrity machine will survive - and there are no signs so far of it slowing down.


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