So You Want to Be Famous...

How to become a celebrity without any talent or skills whatsoever.

Paris Hilton feeds Bentley, a chimpanzee, at a bowling alley, October 2009

Paris Hilton feeds Bentley, a chimpanzee, at a bowling alley, October 2009

Once upon a time, it took actual talent to become a celebrity in America. Whether you achieved fame in arts and letters, athletics, or politics, it was necessary to have at least some modicum of skill. But now, thanks to cable television and the Internet, there is an endless appetite for “content.”

Content is a 21st-century invention for programming that too often falls short of the label “art,” but is usually entertaining nonetheless. For instance, Mad Men and The Sopranos are television art; reality TV and game shows are content. Vanity Fair and The Atlantic Monthly are stellar examples of the art of magazine writing, while Us Weekly and OK! are cover-to-cover content.

This need for content has created an opportunity for a young, enterprising person who’s willing to do anything to be famous but has no discernible skills. The tabloids abound with superstars who are “famous for being famous,” to crib the phrase most commonly used for this phenomenon. Paris Hilton, Kim Kardashian, Nicole Richie, and Lauren Conrad are just some of the A-list names who enjoy the power and privilege of worldwide fame even though it is difficult to name a single project in which they showed an inkling of aptitude. They cannot act or sing, nor are they renowned for outrageous acts of charity, political courage, or even intelligence. They’re each adorable; but none is a great beauty on par with Halle Barry or Angelina Jolie. What each has, it seems to me, is the ability to turn their personal lives into viral video. But before you come to the conclusion that keeping the self-perpetuating fire of fame burning is, in itself, a skill, I promise you that it is not. Anybody can do it. You just have to follow the seven tried and true steps to celebrity—no skills required.

1.  Come from a wealthy family that spoils you rotten.
One of the tricks to fame is to have something that the viewing public covets—and who doesn’t want to be rich? But not Bill Gates or Warren Buffett rich—they work too hard. I mean born-with-a-silver-spoon-in-your-mouth rich. You want to possess the kind of privilege that convinces you from birth that you are something more special than the average middle-class person. It’s very hard to fake a lifetime of never hearing the word “no”—it requires a lack of self-awareness and self-control that most people are unable to muster up after the age of 3.  So if you have any idea what a dollar is really worth, consider becoming a pop star.

2.  Conform to society’s standard of beauty.
Being famous for no reason except for the number of Facebook friends you have is a lot easier if you are a majority of the following: skinny (thin or not-fat doesn’t count), blonde, well-endowed in either the breast or butt region, and always dressed in the latest trends. Do not attempt to make fashion. Again, that is limited to those famous people with actual talent. Luckily, the simple addition of a stylist and a plastic surgeon to your entourage will allow you to slavishly follow whatever look society deems hot. For some reason, the 21st century is chock full of people who actually believe that your looks are the most important part of your personality, so if you feel unable to dye your hair or lose too much weight, call yourself a writer.

3.  Convince yourself that you are a star.
Your last name could be Kennedy and you could be a blonde-haired, blue-eyed head on a stick, but you won’t get into People magazine without the right attitude. If you don’t believe you’re destined for a famous life, no one will. Work as fast as you can to develop the idea that you are a gift to mankind, and don’t let anyone undermine that. Famous but talentless people behave in ways that are very different from the average person. They never take their sunglasses off—even in nightclubs—and they always wear makeup and form-fitting clothes. Make sure to stifle any urges to behave as if you were not the center of the universe. Do not ever recognize that there is a world outside your desires. If you find yourself unable to do that but still want the perks of power and privilege, consider becoming a politician.

4.  Act as if your every moment is newsworthy.
Faux celebrities are not embarrassed or unwilling to invite the press into the most intimate areas of their life. No detail is too small or too private to release to the media, and now, thanks to Twitter, you don’t even need the press. Tell everybody everything.  If you live your life on the record, some segment of the seemingly endless Internet will take an interest. Treat the paparazzi as your friends until you don’t need them anymore. If you have any need at all for privacy, get thee to acting school.

5.  Conduct an affair with the ex- or current boyfriend of a more famous woman.
Remember, in this arena, basking in the glow of another woman’s fame is not cheating. It’s required. What you want is to be caught canoodling with a famous man with a super-talented ex-wife or girlfriend. I can’t explain how this happens, but for some reason, thanks to the magic of celebrity, you will instantly be considered as famous as the woman you cuckolded. The effect is temporary but should last long enough to get you on a few red carpets and into the offices of whoever greenlights reality shows for Viacom or Bravo. Do not date anyone exclusively unless he or she is an A-list performer whose talent is unquestionable. Should you be a male faux celebrity, this part is even easier. Sleep around with as many beautiful and talented women as you can and be sure to throw around the phrase “I love women.  What can I say?  I can’t resist them.”  If you want to date for any other reason, perhaps you’d be better suited for a life as a trophy wife.   

6.  Get arrested.
All publicity is good publicity unless you kill someone or beat someone in an unfair fight. If you’re careful to get arrested for a misdemeanor that gets older people hot under the collar, the net result will always be a public-relations win.  You’ll seem young and hip by comparison to the grayhairs tut-tutting over your behavior, and TMZ will make sure the world gets to see your image constantly, which also means that if you’re going to get arrested, make sure you look good for your mug shot. Should you screw up and commit too serious a crime, just know that you will also be required to get a drug habit. That way, you’ll be able to present mitigating circumstances and get a positive bump in Web hits from your stay in rehab and subsequent teary confessions. Again, if you’re going to be seriously hooked on drugs, alcohol, or shoplifting, you’ll have to go learn a talent somewhere.
7. Release a sex tape.
This is the 21st-century equivalent of a box-office smash.  If you feel as if you’re on the cusp of getting famous for no reason at all, if producers want to film your every move, and you regularly appear on any red carpet that invites you, it’s time to get caught in a sex scandal.  Nothing too dirty—just leak a copy of you and your boyfriend doing the bump and grind. Then claim that it was stolen or licensed without your permission. The press from a sex tape should allow you to cozy up to Perez Hilton, who’ll put you on his site every day, and the Twitter followers will come pouring in. Remember, this is best accomplished when you are on the cusp of fame: you want the sex tape to propel you to fame, not hurt your “career.” Remember, if you’re not willing to let millions of people watch you get dirty with “the love of your life,” you may have to go out and get a job.

Kelley is a staff writer for NEWSWEEK.