To Ask or Not To Ask

I know that many of you who have been reading my blog for a while will know that as well as blogging I’m a freelance writer for magazines.

To cut a long story short it’s not something I ever expected to be doing as a job. I always loved writing but it wasn’t until I started contributing to an American magazine that I realised I could combine my love of fashion and writing together.

Although the majority of the writing I do is fashion based, I am slowly but surely branching out into genres such as beauty, music and celebrity.

It’s the latter sector that has prompted me to write this actually.

The work I contribute varies but most of the time it’s interviews. Interviews have kinda become my thing, my USP sort of. I don’t really know how, but I just really enjoy them and thankfully I have been lucky enough to speak with some amazing people.

When you interview someone who is well known the pressure of asking the right questions is definitely tougher. Seeing how far and wide your words and thoughts can reach when you interview a celebrity is astounding.

Sometimes I think that it’s forgotten that the people who have become our entertainment are real too.

There seems to be a sense of entitlement from some magazines and newspapers. A sort of ‘we made you, so we can ask you whatever we like’ attitude. Like they are doing us, the public a duty by outing cheats and uncovering affairs.

It was reading an interview in the December 2010 edition of Marie Claire magazine that first sparked this celebrity interview debate in my head.

Whilst reading the interview Harvey Marcus did with Rihanna, I came across a paragraph where he too questions our need to know everything about celebrities.

On asking her about Chris Brown, he says,

“This far in she has no duty, no responsibility to anyone to meet any further enquiry on the subject. So much was written, broadcast about Rihanna and Chris Brown in the ensuing months that to re-examine that period today- especially as she appears so at peace with the world- seems to serve no function other than to satisfy out celebrity addiction; administer another quick fix at her expense. But she knows, and I know, I am going to ask her, all the same."

I found this so interesting, that while he acknowledges the fact that it is more than unnecessary, cruel even to continue to make her talk about a period in her life that she clearly finds upsetting, he also implies the fact that he doesn’t really have a choice as without a quote from her talking about the said incident, I’m sure the magazine would not have sold nearly as many copies as it did.

I always enjoy Harvey’s interviews in Marie Claire and think he is an amazing interviewer, I feel he handles subjects like the one above with as much grace and respect as possible. Something which I think is becoming more and more uncommon with fashion magazines. Whilst he is of course adding to this celebrity culture, I think he is doing so with a nod of irony and much needed perspective.

For me there are two different types of celebrities you’ve got the ones who have little if any talent who create drama and scandal to court publicity. And then you’ve got the real talented people who, for one reason or another have had a turbulent personal life and seem not to be allowed to deal with it in private as the whole world wants an exclusive on it.

I am the first to admit I am well and truly immersed in celebrity culture. I have read Heat magazine for as long as I can remember and check for daily updates on many an entertainment site. Like so many others I love knowing who’s dating who, who said what and who’s wearing what but I think there is a difference between being interested and aware of celebrities to being ‘obsessed’ and wanting to know every down and dirty part of their lives.

What I’m trying to say is I think there can be a balance.

But what happens when it’s not the public asking for too much information it’s the celebrity giving it all away and for a reason?

You don’t have to be a PR guru to see when someone is working the press to their advantage. The best recent example I can think of is Cheryl Cole.

Someone who refused to speak about their private life for years until she felt her grip on the public’s sympathy for her was slipping, she then decide to uncharacteristically give a no holds bar interview to Piers Morgan.

Call me cynical but to me that’s a clear PR strategy. Use the media to remind everyone of your tough life so the public fall back in love with you.

But in doing this I think she gave the most uncomfortable to watch interview in recent times. Although I may not be a fan of Cheryl’s career I can still, on a human level sympathise with all the horrid things that have happened to her that she didn’t deserve or ask for. But her interview really did make me question the state that our entertainment industry is in. On a prime time slot on TV a grown man probing a young woman on what it felt like to be told by doctors you might not make it through the night. And through sobs of tears she then preceded to tell him her thankfully not, but could have been, last conversation to her mother.

I mean really, apart from her family, who should have been privy to such personal and intimate details of her life?

If that’s not feeding celebrity culture then I don’t know what is.

But who is in the wrong, him for asking her the questions or her for answering them?

I feel like I am toying between the lines. On one hand I am your average 20 year old girl who has grown up in a celebrity infused world and genuinely enjoys learning, reading and hearing about these people whose life’s are so different from my own, its escapism in the purest form.

Whereas on the other hand I am hovering on the outskirts, looking in on a world that I am, albeit on the lowest ranks, starting to intercept . Talking and meeting people I never thought imaginable. Trying to retell their stories with their dignity and my morals intact.

I really do love talking to people from all walks of life and finding out what makes them the person they are today. Be that an a-list movie star for a glossy fashion monthly (fingers crossed one day) or a business man for a local newspaper. Either way I want to cultivate a way of getting to know these people through my interviews that I feel isn’t crossing boundaries. I realise that sometimes I will have to ask questions and hear answers that may be uncomfortable but hopefully like Harvey Marcus with his Rihanna interview I will learn how to do it with grace and subtlety.

In my opinion these people deserve the same rights of privacy, with a bit of give and take of course, as the rest of us.

And maybe and most importantly I have to learn not to underestimate the modern celebrity too much, maybe they come fully packaged with the over share button ready to be pushed when they hit the big time. And maybe I have to accept that even though it’s a completely different mindset to my own, that when celebrities chose their career path, they in turn give up, willingly I may add, a little bit of themselves with it.

And I suppose not every case of over sharing and intrusive questioning has a negative outcome. Take the aforementioned Rihanna interview; she freely admits that without the media intrusion in her life she would never have found the courage to leave an abusive relationship, does that make the intrusion right, who knows?

But I will leave her with the last word on the subject.

“I want to say people loved me because of who I am. People have a lot more respect for you when you’re yourself and let them see your imperfections. That’s the big connection. The only difference between me and you is that I make music. But I’m still a normal person”.

I would love to know your thoughts on this, do you think the need to know everything about celebs has went too far?
What kind of interviews would you like to see in your favourite magazines?

Quotes used from the Harvey Marcus Interview in the Dec 2011 issue of Marie Claire UK


Vicki said...

great post my dear, really thought provoking.. its crazy how caught up in celebs we get and how we expect to know everything about its our right. when really it is none of our business. xo

Jazzy E (hivenn) said...