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Why do we “worship” celebrities vs. the successful professional

Over the last many years, I have started to wonder more and more why do Americans worship celebrities, athletes, singers, and the like? Why do so many Americans treat them like “gods”? As I have grown older, hopefully a little more thoughtful and “wiser”, I have been asking myself that question even more.

Why do people value celebrities vs. the immigrant who came from overseas and started their own business, even though that immigrant had to overcome tons of barriers, most likely discrimination, and most likely other challenges? Why do people value celebrities vs. the scientist who is working on a cure for some form of cancer? Why do we value celebrities vs. someone who volunteers at a charity to help the less fortunate? And I can go on and on….

Now there is of course psychology behind this worship of celebrities, but I am not a psychologist. I will just think about this from an professional, career, economic standpoint and what I will call a “realistic standpoint”.

Realistic outlook

As I have written about, I am not a parent. But I do not understand why a parent will sit there, maybe watch a game on TV or a movie, and talk about say a professional football player and get so emotionally involved and think that the player is some form of hero (or maybe the actress/actor)?

Instead, why won’t a parent say go into a small business, maybe a store, that was started by an immigrant, minority or a woman, and talk to their child about all the challenges those people most likely had to go through to start that business and get to the place they are. Why won’t the parent talk about that small business owner as someone to idolize and look up to. The risk the business owner took with their own personal finances. The fact the minority, woman, or immigrant more than likely faced discrimination, sexism, adversity, and many other barriers but that they persevered to get to that place in their life to be able to start that business. I think what those minorities, women, and immigrants did, they should be worshiped and looked up to.

Shouldn’t what those individuals have accomplished be so much more relatable and achievable to Americans and in particular kids in everyday life than some baseball player who is making $15 million per year playing a game? Or a singer who is making millions for singing?

It is tragic to me the amount of discrimination against immigrants. But what is ironic is the data shows immigrants are up to twice as likely to start a business than a “Native Born American”. They are more likely to try and take that chance, even while they face all those barriers of society. Read more on immigrants more likely to start a business.

Instead of discriminating against immigrants or minorities (which sadly too many people do and parents pass those beliefs down to their kid), shouldn’t a parent be passing on to their kid the risk that the immigrant took to come to a foreign county, the barriers that immigrant or minority they faced, and that even with that occurring, they still started that business? I think what that immigrant or minority (black, brown, etc.) did should be worshipped, not some actor or actress.

There are countless other examples. Parents may talk about the latest soccer game or concert they went too. Or sit around the table and talk about some quarterback or singer. But why do parents not talk about Ursula Burns, the first black CEO of a Fortune 500 company (back in 2009 at Xerox). Ursula Burns, who was born of immigrant parents, grew up in a housing project, and started working at Xerox as an intern. Yes, she started as an intern and worked her way to CEO as the first black CEO of a fortune 500 company…I think that she should be idolized and worshipped.

Now is what Burns accomplished achievable or relatable to a kid? Regardless of your answer to that, I think that what she did is probably as achievable or likely for a kid to be a higher powered C Suite Executive than be a professional sports player, actress, singer, etc. But the fact is being a CEO of a major company is probably just as difficult as being a celebrity; both would be super, super rare – but maybe just as likely.

That being said, in my opinion, the key difference that does make Burns example exponentially more relatable/practical to a kid or even an adult is that while Ursula Burns made it to the CEO role, that is not the only measurement of success (being a CEO). Even if a child learned to worship or idolize people like Burns, maybe that kid will not make it all the way to a CEO role of a major company, but they can see it is very achievable to progress to a professional, decent paying job and lifestyle – while coming from a housing project. Whether a salary worker, manager, VP, or any role, the kid can learn to worship people who go from “nothing to something” in life. Or maybe the kid can see it is possible to be the CEO of a small business, which is exponentially more likely than being a celebrity. Is worshipping someone like Burns showing the “dream” is attainable? Or worship the underdog in society. I think so.

Why are celebrities worshiped vs the person who works at a charity or non-profit? Who may be on the “front lines” every day trying to help the disadvantaged, either with their short term needs or the volunteer who is trying to “empower” the disadvantaged for long term success? Such as the person who is volunteering to teach financial literacy or any other topic…should they not be worshipped? Can parents talk about how those people have touched other people’s lives?

Why are celebrities worshiped vs a corporate CEO? While about 80% of Fortune 500 are white males and tragically there is very little diversification, and while it may be that many of those CEOs came from “privileged” (even though no data on this as it is very subjective), I wonder if a CEO such as Jamie Dimon at Chase, while he makes $30 million plus a year but is “responsible” for 200,000+ jobs, should he be worshiped more than a celebrity? Or the general concept of should a CEO, regardless of race, ethnicity, background who maybe makes a lot of money (but is responsible for jobs) be held in higher regard than a baseball player who is paid tens of millions of dollars to play a game? Or some singer who makes millions for singing? In my opinion, I think a CEO (even though many may be privileged and there is terrible discrimination in that world), I tend to think they should be held in higher regard than a celebrity who provides no other value than performing. I even wrote about this top 1% hypocrisy and viewpoints in Americans love the top 1%.

How likely to hit goals of professional vs celebrity?

If some child wants to be “famous” or “popular” (so maybe they like celebrities for those reasons (which I think are ridiculous)), but isn’t is much more likely for a child to hit that goal of being successful (with maybe a tiny but of fame) by say starting a business? By being a leader? By helping/volunteering in their community? Maybe they can have level of same by say growing up to be a teacher helping kids grow and make a difference in some kid’s life. Or mentoring someone. Or if some kid wants a “better or different life”, then it is much more feasible to have a “different” life by being a nurse, starting a business, giving back, or any other countless jobs than being an athlete.

Celebrities are ordinary people, like you and me. I do not know why they are valued. Of course, like much in life, this worship of celebrities more than likely starts early in life, when the person is a child. But why are children encouraged to (or maybe why are not kids “discouraged from”) worshipping celebrities?

Not possible you say. Then fine, then maybe kids should have that worship of celebrities offset with worship off others in society, such as the small business owner, doctor, fire fighter, or countless other people who work every day to make a difference. Maybe the point is talk about that immigrant or small business owner who risked it all. Or that doctor who is helping the sick by volunteering or working at a clinic. Change or modify or enhance the definition of what is means to be famous, idolize, or worship someone.


Jon McNamara is the CEO of needhelppayingbills.com, a company that he started in 2008 and that specializes in helping low income families as well as those who are in a financial hardship. He also found NHPB LLC, a company committed to helping the less fortunate. Jon and his team also provide free financial advice to help people learn about as well as manage their money. Every piece of content on this website has been reviewed by him before publishing and many of the articles he has personally written. Jon is the leading author for needhelppayingbils.

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