Leaving a Legacy: Youth, Beauty, and Fame

In order to be a contestant for Miss America, you have to be between the ages of 17-24 by the time of the competition. In order to be a contestant for Miss USA or Miss Universe you must be between the ages of 18-27. Beauty is of course in the eye of the beholder, but it is also apparently reserved for the young. Youth culture and celebrity culture are intrinsically intertwined. The fascination with the upcoming generation of Hollywood as seen through Vanity Fair’s often white washed “New Hollywood” Feature consistently puts importance on what’s next, what’s new, what’s young.


Those already in the industry are highly aware of their possible expiration date with mostly actresses complaining about it as opposed to actors. Charlize Theron recently had a strange rant about young girls not knowing “sh*t” and how being older is better. http://abcnews.go.com/blogs/entertainment/2014/08/charlize-theron-on-the-benefits-of-getting-older/

In our readings last week, Japan’s obsession with making older women look like little girls was one of the main topics of beauty practices in Japan. But I would venture it is much the same in the US where boyish figures, hairless body parts, and youthful faces make for the models, actresses, and singers many of us see. To be young and beautiful is one of the prerequisites for being famous.

So no wonder shows like Toddlers and Tiaras exist. These are actually little girls who are beautiful and more importantly young, but for some reason, they are dressed up to look like grown women. Young grown women of course, because no one wants to be dressed up like an 80 year old. Youth and beauty is something to try to hold on to forever, especially if you’re famous.

Michael Jackson, in a private phone call with his friend and mentor Rabbi Shmuley thatshouldhaveneverbeenreleasedbutbecauseIcan’tgetenoughofhearinghisvoiceIwilllistentoanyandeverythingnomatterhowproblematic, was quoted as stating “I don´t want a long (life). I don´t like, I don´t, I don´t. I think growing old is the ugliest, the most, the ugliest thing. When the body breaks down and you start to wrinkle, I think it´s so bad. I don´t , that´s something I don´t understand, Schmuley. And I never want to look in the mirror and see that. I don´t understand it. I really don´t. And people say that growing old is beautiful and this and that. I disagree. I totally do.” For Michael, who is an avid fan of Peter Pan, growing up represented defeat, it represented ending a fairytale.


The early deaths of Marilyn Monroe, Dorothy Dandridge, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin and so on have been glamourized, as tragic yet amazing deaths. These people died during the peak of their fame, or at least within a close radius to when it ended, and therefore will forever be solidified in our minds as these young, beautiful people. Marilyn Monroe, for example, will never have to worry about the public seeing her aging face, because she died with her beauty still intact. And even when these artists do grow old, they are less frequently shown in their older years and we choose to only remember them in their prime, i.e. Audrey Hepburn, who when you type her name into a Google Image search, the first picture we see is


And to find any older picture requires some scrolling.

The lust for fame itself has been relegated to the young, with teeny-bopper heart throbs and child stars being a main stake in celebrity lifestyle. With YouTube, Vine, Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and so on making any and everybody possible celebs, children and teens naturally want to be special and popular enough to be idolized and revered. A 2009 English survey found that children desire to be a pop star over any other occupation including lawyers and doctors. They want to be known for something, for thousands of people to know them, even if those people they will never meet.

Famous people more than any other group have that chance to get their names everywhere and live on after their deaths. Michael in his song “HIStory” sang:

“Every day create your history
Every path you take you’re leaving your legacy
Every soldier dies in his glory
Every legend tells of conquest and liberty”

The thought process behind this is to live everyday with death in mind, not by saying you are going to die every day, but to say that everything you do today will lead you to creating something that will last even after you are gone. Michael was quoted as saying, “Who wants mortality? Everybody wants immortality. You want what you create to live! Be it sculpting, painting, music, composition. That is why to escape death I attempt to bind my soul to my work because I just want it to live forever and just give all that I have.” The notion of immortality was central to his being, with him professing on the highly controversial documentary with jackass Martin Bashir that he would like to live forever

Beauty queens, in a similar way, work to solidify their place in a long history of pageants. That when you search their name 50 years from now, their crowning picture will be the first picture you see on Google, not their most recent, older appearances. To capture them in their youth is necessary for adding to the fantasy of a beauty queen. A woman so vibrant and young who represents the hopes, dreams, and possibilities of a nation. And as America ages, and its magical youth disappears, the youth of its pop stars and beauty queens present to the world a forever vibrant, immortal super power.

— M. Drew

For more MJ quotes on death and immortality check this website out. 


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