No matter what a celebrity has to say, someone will be willing to listen. Even if that celebrity has no relevant opinions to share about anything important, that person's word will likely be held as gospel for squealing fans around the world. Between gossip websites and stars' own social media, there is enough celebrity "wisdom" out there to make someone want to renounce the Internet forever.
That's why it's so refreshing when stars, whether they're actors, singers, comedians, or other types of performers, actually use their influence to say something important. It turns out that celebrities are actually people with thoughts and opinions, and some of them have even written essays to start conversations about some pretty important social topics. Here are six celebrity essays with something important to say.
Title: "The Meanings of the Selfie"
Published: December 2013, The New York Times
The self-portrait is an easy target for charges of self-involvement, but, in a visual culture, the selfie quickly and easily shows, not tells, how you're feeling, where you are, what you're doing.
James Franco, swoon-worthy star that he is, wants us all to know that he's not just a pretty face. The best way to tell us this? To write an essay about taking pictures . . . of his own pretty face.
Franco's essay on the selfie, which was published in The New York Times, is a response to the criticism he received for posting too many of these controversial portraits on Instagram. In this short celebrity essay, Franco explains not only the attention-seeking nature of a selfie but also how the attention he gains for pictures of himself gives him the power to bring attention to the more important and meaningful things in life. It's a pretty succinct summary of what it means to be relevant in the age of social media, and it resonates even with us non-famous, selfie-taking folk.
Title: "Confessions of a Juggler"
Published: February 2011, The New Yorker
"How do you juggle it all?" people constantly ask me, with an accusatory look in their eyes. "You're screwing it all up, aren't you?" their eyes say.
Tina Fey, unlike the other celebrities on this list, is actually a writer. She was the head writer on Saturday Night Live for several years, she wrote the classic movie Mean Girls, and she published a comedic autobiography entitled Bossypants. It's appropriate, then, that Fey's "Confessions of a Juggler" puts a comedic spin on what it means to be a "working mother" in the entertainment business. As always, Fey's sharp wit is intact as she contemplates what to do after becoming a mother, taking into account the criticisms that are sure to come her way regardless of her choices.
It's true that not all moms are award-winning comedy writers or actors, but women everywhere can relate to Fey's simultaneous ambition and fear that she's somehow going to get it all wrong.
Published: May 2013 and March 2015, The New York Times
I am writing about it now because I hope that other women can benefit from my experience. Cancer is still a word that strikes fear into people's hearts, producing a deep sense of powerlessness. But today it is possible to find out through a blood test whether you are highly susceptible to breast and ovarian cancer, and then take action.
Depending on how much you know about her, you may think of Angelina Jolie as an actor or a director. You may think of her as a humanitarian or a mother. You may even think of her as a sex symbol. But, after reading her two essays about her decisions to undergo a double mastectomy and to remove her ovaries and fallopian tubes, you might also begin to think of her as a role model.
Jolie's writing is candid, and her message is clear: she made her decisions based on what was right for her, and her readers should do the same. The only way to come to such a difficult decision, however, is to know what it is you're up against. Jolie's message seems to have reached millions of women, as requests for genetic testing and other preventive measures increased after the publication of her 2013 essay.
Title: "Why Do I Make Less Than My Male Co-Stars?"
Published: October 2015, Lenny Letter
I would be lying if I didn't say there was an element of wanting to be liked that influenced my decision to close the deal without a real fight. I didn't want to seem "difficult" or "spoiled."
Jennifer Lawrence is almost as famous for her laid-back and candid public image as she is for her work in films like The Hunger Games and Silver Linings Playbook. While Lawrence is known for speaking bluntly, she admits in her Lenny Letter that her desire to be liked has stopped her from negotiating fair deals for herself when it comes to her movie contracts. Lawrence's voice comes through strongly, as if she is giving an interview rather than penning an essay. But there's something more evergreen about a celebrity essay than a celebrity interview, and Lawrence's short musings on this matter will surely continue to spark discussions about the gender wage gap.
Title: "The Death of My Father"
Published: June 2002, The New Yorker
My father's death has a thousand endings. I continue to absorb its messages and meanings. He stripped death of its spooky morbidity and made it tangible and passionate. He prepared me in some way for my own death.
Steve Martin became famous for his off-the-wall comedy routines before making a name for himself in television and film, but in 2002 he penned an essay that showed another side of himself. Martin's essay about the death of his father doesn't have the same social justice message as most of the other celebrity essays summarized in this post. Instead, it is a deeply personal account of loss, and as such, it resonates with readers perhaps even more than the others. If nothing else, Martin's essay reminds us that even the most famous of stars, who are envied by so many for their lifestyles and accomplishments, experience conflict and heartache.
Did you ever suspect that you would come across a celebrity essay, let alone a celebrity essay worth reading? Stars have thoughts and feelings too, and some are even pretty darn good at expressing them.
Essays—whether they're written by celebrities or students, politicians or plumbers—can be a powerful form of communication. With the right intent and a bit of help from an editor, there's no reason you can't also publish your thoughts about important issues. True, you might not get the same readership as Angelina Jolie, but if even one person reads your work and takes meaning from it, you'll have accomplished something great indeed.
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