In a society that largely obsesses about entertainment and celebrity culture, celebrities can have a powerful impact on a person's life. From fashion trends to political views, the attractiveness of a celebrity's lifestyle can influence people's beliefs, interests and behaviors. This obsession with celebrity culture often starts at an early age. Many children and teens are infatuated with young, pop-culture icons. They think of celebrities as role models and may choose to imitate them.
Some historians credit the rise of mass celebrity culture in America to the early 20th century. Between 1900 and 1929, the entertainment industry in New York was flourishing with different forms of entertainment, including opera, vaudeville, radio and film. Many Americans became infatuated with celebrities and contributed to a new, consumer-based culture that continues today.
The influence of chic fashion can be traced back to the 17th century, and it's often credited to Louis XIV and his obsession with glamorous and elegant clothing. Today, celebrities have become the trendsetters in fashion. From red carpet award shows to celebrity gossip magazines, media coverage of "who" a celebrity is wearing can influence a person's decision to buy the latest designer clothing and accessories.
The entertainment industry often pressures celebrities--especially actresses--to look thin. Since some people look to celebrities as role models, this can have a severe impact on societal perceptions of body image. Some celebrities maintain their body images through extreme measures, including plastic surgery and eating disorders. Though celebrities do not directly cause people to seek out these extreme measures, the National Eating Disorder Association says that the media impacts the ways people define ideas of body image.
Through the media, celebrities have the ability to affect people's interests in political parties or politicians. One of the most recent, high-profiled celebrity endorsements was Oprah Winfrey's endorsement of Barack Obama in the 2008 presidential election. Though it's unclear exactly how influential Winfrey's endorsement was on the race, a USA Today poll showed that 8 percent of the adults who participated in the poll were more likely to vote for Obama because of Winfrey's backing.
Many environmentally conscience topics, such as global warming, have received publicity because of celebrities. Al Gore, Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hanks are strong believers in living a "green" lifestyle. These celebrities have often vocalized support for "going green," and have endorsed hybrid cars, such as the Toyota Prius. Their advocacy for environmentalism can influence people in adopting a more eco-friendly lifestyle, while strengthening the environmental movement.
Christina Shaffer is a freelance writer based in New Jersey and has been writing arts and entertainment articles since 2005. Her articles have appeared in "Philadelphia City Paper." Shaffer received a B.A. in journalism and gender studies at Rutgers University.