In addition to a kind of existential emptiness, what motivated Nick Prugo to align his interests with Rachel Lee, both then 17 years old, to commit a series of robberies from celebrities and Hollywood stars, in Calabasas, Los Angeles, USA, was the need to maintain a standard of living, to receive validation, to remain interesting, or to nurture that youthful, unstoppable desire to belong.
Prugo wanted to belong to a certain way of life created by the billion-dollar American film industry that, since the 20th century, has sold bottled dreams so that lines of would-be stars can form outside the studios in the hot Los Angeles sun.
The influence began when big names like Shirley Temple, then a 10-year-old, were already inspiring mothers across the country that their children could rise to stardom someday; and Audrey Hepburn paraded through the streets offering something that few could afford: lifestyle. The high standard has divided Los Angeles between those who live on the far side of the mountain and those who are confined to the ordinary life of the valley.
The gang formed by Prugo and Lee, called by the media the Bling Ring, moved the lives of Paris Hilton, Orlando Bloom, Audrina Patridge, Lindsay Lohan and Rachel Bilson; victims of young people who only wanted clothes and luxury items to wear and show on the still emerging social networks and social circles in mid-2008.
But today, with the world just a click away, the young people’s obsession with fame became a life goal.
the fame factor
Kardashian family. (Source: GZH/Reproduction)
There is an established idea that a person is born a star, while celebrities are just built. In other words, by logic, anyone can become famous – especially nowadays. Every moment a celebrity is born on some social network for a situation they recorded, for inventing a joke, for just dancing or for doing anything, it just goes viral.
In the 2000s, when the rise of paparazzi and gossip magazines became a daily entertainment that brought in thousands of dollars in the United States, television producers saw the need to create programs that followed the lives of famous people in an intimate way, recording from morning routine to discussions. This is because Hollywood stars, from singers to actors, at that time inhabited an unattainable level, generating even more interest and curiosity from the public, who wanted to feel closer to that reality.
So producers began casting scouts at clubs and high-end venues to look for pretty faces that could deliver what viewers wanted: media. Having a high standard of living was an attractive differentiator, but personality and charisma were always the basis. Thus, reality shows were born, which launched the Kardashian family from Paris Hilton to stardom.
Since then, the fame culture has spawned something of an obsession, catapulted by the tantalizing benefits that so-called “digital influencers” display daily to a compulsive audience of thousands of followers: luxury items, travel, VIP tickets, recognition, and even money – but also the comfort of a peaceful life in relation to everyday adversities.
Rachel Lee and Nick Prugo. (Source: CM/Reproduction)
“Our focus groups have shown that young people aspire to fame more than anything else,” Yalda T. Uhls, senior researcher at UCLA’s Center for Children’s Digital Media, told TeenVogue.
A survey of 14- to 18-year-olds by the The Washington Post, from the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard University, showed that 31% of American teenagers went from wanting to be famous to admitting that they think it is likely that at some point they will be famous. the author of the book Fame Junkieswriter Jake Halpern, reported that a group of girls he interviewed said they would rather be assistants to a famous person than CEO of a big company.
In her study “Fame and the Social Self: The Need for Belonging, Narcissism, and Relationships Predict the Appeal of Fame,” psychologist Dara Greenwod points out that the desire to be seen/appreciated is the biggest appeal of fame among young people, followed by status and prosocial motivation. Interestingly, these motivations are associated with different fundamental human needs.
The tendency toward narcissism makes these people focus on the recognition and elite status that fame offers, in contrast to those with a greater need to belong, who are drawn to fame as a way to escape personal anxieties about social exclusion. Both, however, share a common need to be seen and valued on a large scale.
Influencer: a new dream
(Source: Free Turnstile/Reproduction)
Currently, being famous is linked to the level of popularity on the internet, especially on Instagram and TikTok. As Thiago Cavalcante, managing partner of INFLR, pointed out, “the internet has democratized fame, providing the opportunity not only for a soap opera celebrity to be relevant, but for anyone who knows how to use the tools in their favor”.
The global intelligence company Morning Consult, in a survey of 2,000 Americans aged 13 to 38, on the culture of digital influencers, indicated that 53% of them aspire to this activity for fame, flexible hours and other benefits. In a world where just over half the population lives on $10 a day, money has become the trigger for everything.
According to CNBC Make It, an influencer with 15,000 followers can earn nearly $500 for a sponsored post, and an influencer with an audience of 50,000 people can earn over $1,000 for a post, which an American formally employed can take up to two weeks to earn.
Brazil is also not far behind. A survey carried out with 3,100 young people in January this year by INFLR, adtech, specialized in influencer marketing, showed that 75% of them revealed that they wanted to be influencers to inspire others; and 63% of respondents show that they aspire to be an influence in the digital environment through financial return.
Saulo Camelo, founding partner of Camelo Digital, a company specialized in marketing, performance and technology, told Medium&Message that, nowadays, being a digital influencer can already be compared to the dream of becoming a football player – something very common among young people in the 2000s, especially the peripheral ones.
Influence without reference
Faced with these numbers and allegations, actor Reynaldo Gianecchini, in a recent interview with Gabriela Prioli, harshly criticized this model of profession. “It’s ok to make money with TikTok, that’s cool, they’re doing a lot of things, but also they can’t just want to make quick money, be famous and forget that there are other amazing professions, and that you can study. The feeling I have is that no one, sometimes, wants to study,” he said.
The actor celebrated that generation Z is more attuned and engaged in various subjects, but he complained about the lack of interest and lack of knowledge, mainly cultural, of many. “They want to do this ‘let’s do a blogger thing, I’m going to earn my money’ thing, and then they don’t want to go into any more depth. That’s what I think you have to watch out for.”
Although currently anyone can become a digital influencer, it takes entrepreneurship and a lot of study to stand out from this sea of people and reach some position of relevance; outside the focus, well-defined objectives and strategic and tactical planning.
But amid TikTok dances and advertisements about robots that supposedly generate instant money, it’s impossible for people not to think it’s too easy, even though this excess of ease is always associated with a responsibility that few can bear, especially when placed in their hands. those who have no references whatsoever.