So you want to be famous.
I’ve been there, and I have thoughts and advice to offer if you really want to know how people become famous. My background and references are mostly in regard to the entertainment industry and Hollywood specifically, but I think there are key pieces of advice here that could be applied to any career.
Keep reading and you’ll get my full break down.
GROWING UP IN HOLLYWOOD
I was born in Hollywood, California in an apartment building not far from the Hollywood sign. I think it was because of this I grew up feeling that it was only natural to want to be famous.
I went to a performing arts school with famous kids, and kids who had famous parents. I went to studio dance classes with famous people. I took acting classes that famous people had taken. I took vocal lessons from renowned vocal coaches. I did anything I could to increase my potential to reaching my goal of fame.
Growing up, every friend I had was an actor or musician, and most had the same desire to be famous.
Some of my friends followed through on their goals and actually became famous – I won’t name-drop here because they’re my friends and this isn’t about them.
A large portion of the people I grew up with left Los Angeles and moved on to other goals. Some stayed and are still pounding the pavement auditioning (20 years later), and working side jobs, living on pennies or family charity. And some are successfully acting or singing in movies, TV shows on a weekly basis, but they’re not famous.
TOO FAT FOR FAME
I was unfortunate enough to experience most of my auditioning during a time in the 1990s when being more than a size 0-6 was pretty unacceptable and unheard of in Hollywood. Most of my auditions seemed to end when I walked in the room. I remember my last audition for Disney: the casting director looked up, then back down, and that’s it – it was over. I was too fat and they actually told me so.
I personally decided to move on from my goal of fame in entertainment after discovering how awful the “fame” industry in Hollywood truly can be. The recent stories starting with Harvey Weinstein that are pouring out of the #METOO movement are not a surprise to me. I have already been told I’m pretty, but in Hollywood pretty is not good enough and I feel blessed for not having had to deal with such issues. Instead, I allowed myself to be pushed out.
These days, starts like Melissa McCarthy and Amy Shumer, and so many others, are making headway into clearing out the idea that “to be popular is to be skinny.” Other industries are following suit, such as Project Runway featuring their first plus-size runway a couple years ago.
I promise you, Hollywood is still as nasty as always, but it is improving as more and more famous people talk about the things that are not right.
WORKING “BEHIND THE SCENES” IN HOLLYWOOD
In my time in the industry, I did land some “work,” although most of it was unpaid or underpaid since I didn’t work long enough to join a union. I landed a few commercials that were aired in other countries. I worked a bit in the chorus or background in plays or musicals in West Hollywood. I was a background extra and stand-in for projects too numerous to mention, many being college films.
One of my most notable moments is the extra work I did for one of my favorite teen movies of the time, “Can’t Hardly Wait.” I spent several moderately interesting days, occasionally doing teenager stuff in the background of the college graduate scene and some of the party. I can’t find myself in one shot of that movie. I’m pretty sure the editing table thought I was way too fat as a size 8.
I also got to be in the background of a Hallmark Special made-for-TV movie, starring Mary Steenburgen (Back to the Future 3). I did get to see her up-close-and-personal, although I don’t remember her making much of an impression on me. My favorite thing about that shoot was getting to party late at night around a bonfire and Santa Monica beach, I hardly noticed the cameras. I did end up in the final cuts of this one…well, a part of my face did anyway. I remember my mom recording it on video and we kept rewinding until we could find that little bit of my head that popped into view.
As a singer, I recorded songs as demos for songwriters to sell their songs to actual famous people. None of the songs ever became famous, but I sometimes wonder who got to hear my voice. I haven’t taken a vocal lesson in about 20 years so I definitely don’t sing much anymore.
WORKING FOR CELEBRITIES
I gave up on my idea of being famous when I was about 19-years old. I decided I wasn’t cut out for such rejection, so I took on a job to help others build their careers. I spent 10 years or so with all kinds of talent in Los Angeles, including some famous people – again, not name-dropping, in this case because I legally promised I would not.
I worked in Hollywood for over ten years in supportive roles to celebrities and people trying to “make it” in Hollywood. I also spent several months in Nashville, right on Music Row where all the production companies are, and learned a bit about what goes into a successful music career. (Free Tip: If you want a successful music career, go to Nashville, not L.A.)
Let me tell you, a lot of famous people in Hollywood have family members who are famous or work with famous people. It’s a tight little weaved fabric and outsiders are very selectively taken in. When you go in to audition you are battling against thousands of others, but mostly against the top people that have ALREADY BEEN CHOSEN for whatever role you’re wanting to play. It is very rare and unusual for someone new on the scene to get a part of significance.
The people who I worked with who were successful, and not already somehow connected to the industry, worked extremely hard at their craft. I watched hundreds of people take the same advice, put in the same amount of work, and only a very tiny percentage actually became famous without help from within.
I’m so sorry to have to give you the brutal truth about this. I’m either going to save you from a career of pain, or light a fire under you so big that everyone in the world can see it. That’s what you need to really be famous.
THE ILLUSION OF HOW TO BE FAMOUS
Talent shows like American Idol and X-Factor have promoted the false idea that “anyone can be famous.” They make it look simple by laying out stories of normal people who just walked in and auditioned, but it’s not 100% accurate. The people who you see on the shows auditioning have been weeded out of hundreds and thousands of auditions, and a lot of them are actually referrals or people already active in the industry. They want someone they know will do the work if they win.
Stories about Justin Bieber being discovered on YouTube, or even the recent YouTube sensation, Miranda Sings, make people think that anyone can just be discovered on YouTube and made famous. But these stories are 1 in a billion on Earth. You have a better change of being struck by lightning or winning the lottery than being discovered on YouTube, and Miranda actually promoted her show to every network in Hollywood after 10-years of development and script writing before she got picked up by Netflix. (Note: I’m not saying YouTube can’t be a helpful tool as a PART of becoming famous.)
Any instant fame stories, like every other rags-to-riches tale, are the exception and not the rule. Do you really think Kim’s tape being released was an accident? Hadn’t it worked for Paris Hilton three years earlier? Kim is no dummy, trust me.
I do NOT advise releasing, whether by accident or on purpose, a sex tape as a means to becoming famous. Unless you are already in that little fame club or having sex with a famous person, your tape is going to be nothing but amateur porn. Regardless, fame from a sex tape does not last unless you have some sort of talent or know how to carry it.
I have some better suggestions for you.
HOW TO BE FAMOUS
Because I know people are looking for it, and because I know something about the subject, I decided to share what I believe to be helpful information on how to actually be famous. Click to read: HOW TO BE FAMOUS – THE HOLLYWOOD WAY