Wednesday, May 18, 2011

The Fame Chore

Barbara: It’s funny—for a girl who chose a job that requires me to be in the public eye, you’d think I’d be cool about … being in the public eye. And yet, I’ve never been comfortable with the idea of “fame”. I love the work, but not the perk. As it were. But when it comes to other people, I’m all for famin’ ‘em up. Give it to ‘em, baby. “Oh, ye multitudes, see this god/goddess for who and what they are!!”

So you can imagine my chagrin when my daughter seemed to be following in my uncomfortable footsteps. Younger Daughter is in her last year of high school, an aspiring filmmaker/photographer/director/changer of the world. She and a few other students at her school were recently chosen to be interviewed by our national paper… Let me say that again to greater effect: by our NATIONAL NEWSPAPER!!! The Canadian Globe and Mail wanted to cover the fact that several students from her arts high school (Etobicoke School of the Arts) were scouted by prestigious American colleges and offered numerous scholarships. Michele was one of them.

(Commercial pause: if you’re uncomfortable with maternal boasting, skip ahead to the next paragraph.) Okay, so at Portfolio Day last fall, Michele gets scouted by School of the Arts Institute Chicago, School of Visual Arts in New York, Parsons Paris, Pratt, San Francisco School of the Arts, and … wait for it … friggin’ Harvard! Yeah, my arts baby was scouted by an Ivy League school known for its business and science geeks. Turns out they have an arts program. Who knew? So several of the schools offered her scholarships (for Harvard, btw, she got as far as the interviews, but then didn’t get in). Sadly, these American schools are so expensive that even with scholarships we can’t afford to send her. I frankly don’t know how Americans do it. (Or actually I do: apparently the single largest debt load in the U.S. is student loans. Running in the trillions of dollars.) Anyway, it was a great adventure and we are proud and excited for her. And we’re sending her to a Canadian school.

So, when the national paper wants to interview you, you go right? Maybe some investment angel gets a load of your story and wants to send you to San Francisco all expenses paid. Maybe the coverage helps in your bid to get a green card one day. Maybe it helps your profile. It’s a small, important taste of fame. But Younger Daughter blows it off. Well, she doesn’t “blow it off”; she says she’s too busy directing her play, there are deadlines, other priorities. 

But I know her. I know she hates the limelight. I know it’s not important to her. Even if her mother is fairly pulling out her dyed hair and caterwauling at her to go and feed the fame beast, be the fame whore, get used to it, baby, because without our patrons, artists are nothing. To no avail. She had better things to do.

Gae Polisner––whose book The Pull of Gravity just came out––blogged about the dreariness of slogging herself for the sake of her book. Reading this made me realize just how many talented people DON’T crave the spotlight, but awkwardly curtsey in its glare, understanding that it’s just part of the gig. 

Maybe Michele will learn one day on her own what my strident ranting and handfuls of yanked hair couldn’t teach. 

PS: that article? It’s here if you want to read it, but turns out Michele was right. She wouldn’t have been featured any more than she already was (only featured as part of a collective). But still, you get my point, right?  

Deb: Knowing Michele, I think the issue stems from the fact that so many of her generation and younger are fame obsessed. The desire is no longer to be talented, but to simply be famous ... at any cost!

And smart talented people like Michele are now resisting it like the plague. The effort or desire to be famous seems almost tacky these days. And I get why they feel that way.

However the other side of the coin is that smart talented people learn to use fame to their advantage. They learn to treat it like a tool of the trade and they trot it out to serve them as they see fit. 

Fame will find Michele, of that I have no doubt. But when it does,  she will be its mistress. 


  1. First of all Congrads to both of your daughter's for their schooling.

    Second,I'm a person who dosen't care about ever becoming famouse as well,(Not that I ever would be famouse) but if I would I just would not care. While I had friends growing up wishing that they would become this famouse person and live in the spot light I was the total opposite. I hate being the center of attention,I always have. I would just be rather be the same old me,with no fame or anything and stay out of the spot light. The only time that I was kind not really ever the center of attention is when I was in the paper when I was like 10 and I hated it. I threw a fit.

    Really I think we can become famouse with out ever becoming famouse. What I mean is,we can become famouse by doing something that we really love doing in our lives,and not have to be in the spot light. I don't mind that kind of fame.

  2. Congrats to your gifted daughter on the opportunities presented to her, and to her level head through it all. Wonderful!

  3. Congratulations to you for raising such fine kids and congratulations to your daughters for their many accomplishments and recognitions! They wouldn't have done so well without such a great mother. (And, it's more than OK to boast and brag about your kids - it's great!)

  4. Thanks, all! We are so proud of her. But I' also curious about the whole fame conundrum. Do we work it? Or do we bemoan it???

  5. Michele is smart. She was committed to directing her show. I like her priorities and just as the colleges found her, the public will find her as well. You can be so proud and boisterous about her and that is great. She can then just be Michele. I am sure she got a lot of her drive from you.

  6. I am sure she will make the right decision. She is a very smart lady. I'm sure what ever she decides she Will have a good reason for it.

  7. She is smart, but attention is a tricky road to navigate. Too little and you might not get anywhere, too much and you might not be able to get anywhere (er, with that swelled head and all...)


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