Essays & Criticism 1

Illuminating the Dark of the Limelight


The Millennial obsession with fame and those who have already obtained it comes down to the desire of possessions and being known. While this can be a motivational push, there are its downsides

The season premiere for Keeping up with the Kardashians racked in 2.547 million viewers. Alex from Target has a whopping 812,000 followers on Twitter. Vine sensation Nash Grier has 12.3 million followers on the app. In a world where the number of people following one’s presence on media seems to define an individual’s worth, some Millennials are almost begging for the attention of the limelight.

“Fame is so appealing to us. We’re all absolutely obsessed with it,” said Frank Simmons Jr, a 20-year-old political science major. He would know.

He’s been trying to achieve it for the past four years.

Frank, who as a musician goes by Phobez Apollo, started his music career while working in the fashion industry in his hometown of Chicago. Always a singer, Frank said he completely understands why people want to be famous: the thrill. He said it’s the greatest roller coaster. The feeling of being noticed. Of people wanting to know you.

Sue Erikson Bloland, the daughter of a well known psychoanalyst, wrote about fame in The Atlantic. She said the illusion of a difference between a famous person and the everyday person is false. She spent her childhood watching her father’s admirers treat him as if he was magical. 

Admirers of her father would often come up to her, begging to know what her father was really like, she wrote. That is one of the things most intriguing about fame. To Sue, her father was the same person. Living with the same difficulties and insecurities. So why did people treat him like he was larger-than-life?

For Frank, his personality as Phobez Apollo is completely different than his own personality. He decided to create a striking contrast between himself and the musician seeking fame. He joked, comparing his situation to the show Hannah Montana, implying that he was living a double life.

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Frank Simmons Jr. uses photos like these to promote his image. (Photo provided by Frank Simmons Jr.)

“[Apollo] is extremely emotional and way more confident. He has no fear, and he doesn’t take anything from anyone,” he said. “Being able to explore aspects of your personality that aren’t always available definitely comes with the music scene. Being able to be honest in the name of your art or release pent up energy performing on a stage are perks of the job. But, the fame that goes with it also brings fans that will always associate you with that side of you.”

Part of being famous today comes with having an online presence. This desire to have a presence online can be easily connected to this generation’s goals and desires. Almost half of a 10-person focus group ranked fame as a top life-priority.

Frank uses his social media to generate a larger following. “Image is a huge thing, especially for me. I have a lot of Instagram followers.” Frank says he posts things related to his music. “I always try to do things out of the box, to get someone to look.” So far, although he only has seven posts, he has 1,143 followers. All photos on social media work to promote his music, he said.

While Frank is not on a record label, he has already found some success. His single “Coming Back to You” is on iTunes and has 22,248 views on YouTube. Frank has even been recognized in public. “It’s very liberating when someone notices you, but I hate being recognized at Ball State because me and Apollo are so different.”

Although Frank is experiencing this on a smaller level, this is something many celebrities face. By being placed on a pedestal, many personal qualities about people are stripped away. There is also a fear of never being good enough. Frank said that one comment can make you entirely insecure of your craft.

Then there is the other side of the spectrum: ego. Frank said staying humble in an industry that enables you to be egotistical is his biggest challenge. He said along the way, he has run into the problem of staying true to himself.

Dr. Katie Lawson, a psychological science assistant professor, said that for some Millennials, fame has created a new desired lifestyle. She compared the desire of some young people to live like the Kardashians to the new American Dream. “It’s a change in the value system,” she said. Some people want fame and fortune without putting the work in.

Even with all of the downsides in consideration, many continue to pursue fame, and many more will. For Frank, he will continue pursuing his passion, hoping to become even more famous one day.

“Of course the limelight attracts you,” Frank said. “Everyone wants to be wanted. Everyone wants to be remembered.”

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  • […] Posted on February 3, 2016 by samanthastevensonwriting Illuminating the Dark of the Limelight […]

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