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The ‘Who, What, When, Where, and Why’ of Becoming Famous

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What is that defining moment when you know you’ve ‘made it big’?  Not surprisingly, perhaps, every defining moment is unique to the individual.  Perhaps it’s when you get a call to put together a sizzle reel for a potential new television show.  Maybe it’s when you are cast as an extra in a feature film and bump elbows with the stars.  Or, you are the star!

‘Made it’ moments can be big or small, seemingly insignificant or extremely shocking.  You can be ‘discovered’ at a shopping mall or secure a gig after years of attending auditions without luck.  There’s no hard-and-fast formula for becoming famous, no one way to get there, and no one-size-fits-all ‘made it’ moment.  Sometimes it takes hard work to get recognized and sometimes the circumstances are simply happenstance.

Some celebrities made it onto Hollywood’s A-list because they were born into famous or wealthy families – think Paris Hilton or Kim Kardashian.  Or, they have that “it” look, like Natalie Portman, who was eating at a pizza parlor when she was approached by a Revlon rep scouting new faces.  Celebrities Johnny Knoxville and Tom Green became famous for exceptionally outlandish, quirky comedy and crazy stunts that nearly killed them.  Viewers were unable to look away.

Some now-famous faces were first recognized for their eccentric lifestyles, such as Frank William Abagnale Jr., a consultant who gained celebrity status when Leonardo DiCaprio captured his many convincing aliases in Catch Me If You Can.  Or, they’ve been recognized simply for being a victim of a broken system, such as Richard Wershe Jr., better known as “White Boy Rick,” who was a Detroit-based drug dealer.  At 17, Wershe was imprisoned for possessing more than 650 grams of cocaine, sentenced to life without parole.  The Michigan Constitution no longer allows such a sentence, yet, three decades later, he is still behind bars, is the longest-serving juvenile drug offender in the state’s history.  Rick’s tormented life is set to be captured in an upcoming feature film starring Matthew McConaughey.

There are other A-listers who have taken true talent to the big screen – think HGTV hosts Chip and Joanna Gaines and Food Network’s Guy Fieri or Bobby Flay.  Or, the winners of American Idol and The Voice.  Coco Chanel has been widely recognized and featured for changing the way women dress, and J.K. Rowlings, the author of the Harry Potter series, created a captivating world that Hollywood quickly picked up.

In most cases, you can’t simply rely on chance.  The key is to find your niche and take it as far as you can!  Social media is a great way to start.  You must learn to market your expertise in a way that gets people to notice.  Susan Ward of The Balance says another great place to start is to search for television shows that regularly feature guests like you (much the same as looking for any other job) and contact with the right content to pitch an appearance.  Your fifteen minutes of fame could lead to much more.  Don’t wait for the opportunity to knock to open the door!

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