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KEEPING IT REAL?

CELEBRITY CULTURE AND ‘AUTHENTICITY’

July 2017

Location: At the offices of 'Mr President', 12 Soho Sq, London W1D 3QF

Whether reality TV stars or politicians, we often talk about celebrities in terms of what they're ‘really’ like, whether they're 'being themselves', or whether we can access 'the real woman behind the image'. We seem undeterred, even when we can see that a spectacle is staged, or scripted, or mediated. At this round-table discussion with speakers from academia and the media industry, we interrogated the weird, contradictory status of 'authenticity' in celebrity culture.

Melissa Waterson, TV Producer/Director, spilled the secrets behind how she constructs reality in all our favourite Reality TV shows including The Only Way is Essex, Celebrity Big Brother, Ex- on the Beach and Geordie Shore. She explained the tension between achieving the appearance of ‘authentic’ spontaneity and securing what will reliably make for good TV. Leander Reeves, Senior Lecturer in Publishing, Oxford Brookes University explained celebrity culture in terms of Jean Baudrillard’s theories of Hyperreality. Laura Jordan Bambach, Chief Creative Officer, Mr President creative agency and Co-founder/Director of SheSays, an international volunteer organization encouraging women to take up digital creative careers, examined what is at stake in the need for brands to be able to communicate with an authentic voice and to ‘do’ rather than just ‘say’. Dr Hannah Hamad, Senior Lecturer in Media University of East Anglia and editorial board member at Celebrity Studies Journal, examined ordinariness and extraordinariness, proximity and distance, as stardom manifests through different media from digital to Hollywood film.An Nguyen, Senior Audience Strategist at the BBC shared the ways that young audiences define ‘authenticity’, the importance of perceived authenticity or lack thereof in which stars they like, and who for them feels like an authentic celebrity.

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