We enjoy poking fun at famous people who make lots of money with little talent, such as reality TV stars. Ironically, by doing this we are feeding the frenzy. We should consider the art of making oneself popular (branding) to be a talent worth admiring and cultivating. Why? Consider the following:
- Snooki is paid more for college appearances than Nobel Prize winners are.
- The Situation will make over $5 million in 2011.
- The Kardashians will make over $65 million in 2011.
- Publications pay millions of dollars for the rights to publish celebrity baby pictures, weddings, and “Just Like You” pictures of stars who couldn’t be less like us (unless we were popular enough to hire publicists and paparazzi to pose us).
At first, I was disgusted by this. I take part of the blame because I subscribe to magazines like Us Weekly and regularly watch shows like The Bachelorette and Jersey Shore as well as shows that generate most of their success by commenting on reality shows (e.g. Chelsea Lately).
Women are the primary johns as they can’t seem to get enough of housewives, dancers, singers, daters, addicts, and dieters. I had a female friend stay with me for a few days on her vacation. She chose to stay in one night to catch up with the Kardashians … on her vacation! I watched her watch. She was mesmerized, as was I.
Then, I fell deeper into the trap.
I enjoy watching The Millionaire Matchmaker. When I moved to the sugar daddy and gold digger capital of the world in 2004, I was fascinated by how many women would trade their pride to be with unattractive men with thick wallets. I witnessed these men (most of them faking it) reel in women with ease, only to treat them like cufflinks. That’s why MM appeals to me—Patti, the host, exploits the freaks on both ends of the transaction. Clever woman!
This concept only works with spoiled men and desperate women. Try putting together a Barely Getting By Matchmaker and it will be cancelled in two weeks. “Meet Joe, a middle manager at a financial planning company who works fifty hours a week, struggles to pay his bills and child support, and forces himself to hit the gym to combat his expanding belly. He can’t find time to meet his soul mate. Meet ten women who spend most of their time fighting aging with clothing, makeup, treadmills, and hair coloring, which too often is wasted on unappreciative men.” *Yawn*
I ran into Patti Stanger from The Millionaire Matchmaker at a local club this past summer. She was attractive, kind, and buried in her Blackberry. She fascinated me, so I bought her a drink and flirted as she checked me out over her reading glasses. No luck. Afterward, I thought, Why did I do that? I’m not attracted to her. Obviously, her show is produced and scripted. Liking her on the show isn’t the same as liking her in person. I guess I was star struck.
Then, a few weeks ago, a friend of a friend contacted me saying Patti asked him to find her “a nice San Diego man.” He had me send an email with some personal ditties and pictures, which he forwarded to her. “Be patient. She’s very busy,” he warned me. No shit.
After I sent the email, I felt icky. Why must I sell myself to a woman I hardly know? Screw that! She should send me a sales pitch. Then I considered the fame aspect. If she agreed to meet me and actually began dating me, this could help my brand immensely. She might mention my books. I might appear on an episode. Paparazzi might become curious about me. More eyes on me would translate into more book sales.
Still, it felt dirty.
I wavered and waited for her response. Finally, we spoke on the phone and I was encouraged because she didn't seem like the hyper-critical woman from her show. She asked me to text her another picture. I complied and then I didn’t hear back. Oh, well. A friend persuaded me to send just one more follow-up text, in case she was too busy to respond. Finally, she responded, confessing she “didn’t feel the chemistry.”
The ego punch was gentle, actually, as I had low expectations. To me it felt like losing a business opportunity or being turned down for a job. I responded saying, “Fair enough. Still a fan. Best wishes.” Naturally, her next text solicited me to become a customer. Ugh. Must it always be about the money? She has the goods and I almost paid. I nearly became a john.
Can’t we admire people for their personal qualities instead of their financial influence? Can’t we find love based on what’s deep inside, instead of the shiny bows and wrapping paper that conceal the goods? Must we consider taking on certain relationships for the non-emotional benefits they offer? Can we distinguish the person from the brand and love one regardless of the other? I’m not sure it’s possible.