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Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Thoughts on Celebrity and Character

I mentioned in my last post the whole to-do over Lance Armstrong. As I observed the "Lance mania," I thought a lot about celebrity and what it means. Believe it or not, I'm not a big celebrity person. I don't understand why, just because a celebrity says something, we should all go out and do it.

I am, however, a big character person. When I mention celebrities I like, it's typically because they have some character trait I admire. After this weekend, I am a Lance Armstrong fan. Why?

It's clear he loves riding. He also seems like a pretty decent guy. The interviews with him were all really good in terms of how he spoke of others, and when he spoke at the awards ceremony, I couldn't help but be impressed by a guy who didn't just compete, but worked to get others to work harder and better too.

At one point, he rode by us with the guy who ended up winning, Dave Wiens, and I don't know what they were saying, but clearly, they were having fun. You'd think they were just two guys out on a bike ride, enjoying the day. When Dave won, Lance had no sour grapes, but open admiration for a worthy competitor.

Lance Armstrong is just a regular guy who happens to have made a name for himself. I don't think he's perfect, for one, he's a man, but he's also human. And yet, there are traits about him that I respect and admire enough that you can bet the next time he rides, I'll be on the sidelines, cheering for him.

It made me think about other celebrities I respect and admire, and why. As many of you know, I adore Todd Agnew. His music is amazing, but more than that, he's got an incredible heart for God. I've met him a few times, and he has always been a humble, caring person. Again, he's not perfect. But because I see the person behind the music, he is an artist I will always support.

That said, there are a couple of artists whose music I will no longer support because of how they treat others. I realize it must be hard to have everyone vying for your attention, but the rudeness I've seen and the way they have treated people I care about makes me wonder how much of the message they really live. Without character, their message means nothing to me.

And then there's the great Nora Roberts. I like her. Haven't read one of her books in years, and am completely unwilling to stand in one of the fan-crazed lines to chat with her, but you know what? I have a lot of respect for her and if I didn't have a ton of other books to read, I'd read her again. Not because she's sold tons of books, although let's face it, that's pretty cool. But for me, the reason I like her is that I have had several opportunities to encounter her and she has always impressed me with what a decent human being she was. For example, at the last RWA conference, we were at the Harlequin party, and someone had spilled their drink. Nora told me to be careful of the mess and guided me away, not knowing me, not caring that she was the great Nora. We were just two folks trying to maneuver a dance floor.

Contrast that with another author, just starting to get a lot of bestseller attention. I used to adore her books. Haven't read one in years. Why? Character, or lack thereof. She's been rude, arrogant, and downright nasty to me a number of times. She's probably one of the most talented authors I've met, and because she is such a nasty person, I will never read one of her books again.

Note... in all the bad examples, I'm not mentioning names. I'm doing that for a reason. I don't want people to make decisions about others just because I have an issue with them. I hope that they will take the time to judge for themselves.

The thing about celebrities is that anyone can be one. Slap a talent label on a person and suddenly they're hot stuff. I wish, though, that we had another category for celebrity. Folks with good character that we can look up to and say, "hey, that's something to admire."

I don't know if or when I'll ever hit the big time as an author. But my hope and prayer is that I learn from the examples set before me. I want to take the time to treat others as human beings and give them the respect that everyone deserves. I pray that I will not be rude or look down on others because they have not reached the same level of success. I'm not perfect, either. And I'm pretty sure I'll continue to make my share of mistakes. But when people say they admire or respect me, I really hope it's because they see the good qualities in my character.


Jan Parrish said...

Well written, Danica. I agree. Great post.

Kay Day said...

I completely agree. I am not impressed with celebrity, either.
I say, "They are just someone who does well at their job. Why should they get more credit than a fireman or a fry-cook who is great at their job?"

Eaton Bennett aka Berenice Albrecht said...

A famous person's character can always be confirmed, as to whether he or she is honorable or not. If you're a rat someone will know and it won't matter how famous you are, word gets around. Great post! :)