What’s in a name?

Lubna Abdel-Aziz
Tuesday 8 Aug 2023

A name is a name is a name, unless it is the name of a celebrity. Only then a name becomes a title, a badge, a credit you flash around at will. It opens every door and places you a head above the rest. It makes you a celebrity.


Celebrities keep coming, non-stop, flooding our lives with their empty ones.

In past centuries celebrities were achievers. They made scientific breakthroughs, archaeological discoveries, wrote books, symphonies, performed operas and plays that the world applauded. They painted canvases that hang in museums for generations to admire.

We hardly knew what they looked like, but greatly appreciated their famous creations.

Now, we only know too well what they look like, but little or virtually nothing about their accomplishments.

Such celebrities are not the great talents on the sport fields or in the world of entertainment. They are simply famous for no reason.

Famous for being famous, they have inundated every form of audio-visual media and soon they will be at our doorsteps, yet not one is worthy of our attention. Still, they get it. We dote on them; the sound of their names perk up our ears and watching them on TV lifts up our spirits.

Celebrity is achieved in many ways.

Legitimately it is a title given to the few significant achievers who have touched our lives, changed it to the better, quickened our passion, lightened our burden, eased our sorrow, and brightened our lives.

Actors or filmmakers are legitimate celebrities, because they possess extraordinary gifts that keep on enchanting us. Athletes give of themselves. They display talent and skill at great risk to their very lives, to give us those thrills and chills that enhance our lives’ experiences and enjoyment. They deserve our admiration, often our idolisation.

Why then do those shallow souls who have benefited no one, except themselves, become such adulated celebrities?

‘Tis a puzzlement. We scratch our heads and ponder.

Is it the physical attributes? Beauty, glamour — or a scandal — a series of marriages, divorces, etc, that mesmerise us?

Is it the company they keep that grabs our interest? Hanging on to a true celebrity or icon is an asset. Ever heard of Amal Alamuddin, before she became Amal Clooney?

Not to take away from her position as a respected Lebanese-British barrister, but would we have admired what shoes she is wearing if she were not the wife of an icon. George Clooney’s fame rubbed off on her and overnight she too became a celebrity.

This is not a present day phenomenon. Half a decade ago, Nicaraguan Bianca Perez-Mora Macias became a trendsetter when she married rock star Mick Jagger. Then, Bianca Jagger was followed all the way to the then famous, Studio 54, her favourite haunt. Mick Jagger is still around, but where is Bianca? Who cares now what she wore or what she ate?

American painter Andy Warhol is credited for the phrase “15 minutes of fame”. It turned out to be prophetic.

Anna Nicole Smith, Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie, all products of reality shows, until the public tired of them. The question is the reason for the initial interest, not too commendable.

Elizabeth Taylor, a beauty goddess of her time, a fighter, a survivor, a remarkable talent, was the centre of media attention, more for her personal life than her works. Married and divorced eight times, we can only remember one of them, the incomparable Richard Burton.

The dilemma that is hard to decipher is the Kardashian phenomenon. There has never been anything like them. They came under the spotlight disgracefully when a graphic sex-tape of Miss Kim and a rap star was leaked out. It sold briskly, inspiring some entrepreneur to make a reality show starring Kim and family. The celebrity status was born, with Kim leading the clan.

Children of Los Angeles prominent lawyer Robert Kardashian who defended OJ Simpson in his murder trial; “the apple does not fall far from the tree” and with such a catchy name, fame came quickly.

With a curvaceous body and a pretty face the stellar of the clan led the rest to the road of celebrity.

 Mother Kris, who divorced Robert to marry Olympian hero, Bruce Jenner, now a female Caitlyn Marie Jenner. His transformation, among numerous shocking Kardashian scandals took place in front of our very eyes. Is it any wonder that “Keeping up with the Kardashians” has lasted 14 years? And we are still watching.

Jenner’s two daughters, as well as Kardashian’s three daughters and son Robert, are all worth millions. Mother Kris managed a $2 billion empire for the K family and we wonder when the magic will end.

The wonder of the Kardashians is that they have no talent, not even good looks, except for Kim, who alone is worth $1.2 billion. How can that be? We only need ask ourselves.

Social media has substantially changed the ethics of old Hollywood where private lives of the stars were kept secret.

Academicians claim that fame is addictive. When it begins to recede it is hard to accept or cope with. The Kardashians however are well set for life with all their thriving businesses.

There is something half-comic, half-tragic about our affinity to these half-educated minds and artificial lives.

Can we stop this Niagara of reality shows?

How will history describe them? Moral? Ethical Worthy?


“The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves, that we are underlings.”

William Shakespeare (1564-1616)


* A version of this article appears in print in the 10 August, 2023 edition of Al-Ahram Weekly

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