Beyond The Fame: The Rise And Inevitable Fall Of The Digital Influencer
Paris Hilton is arguably the most saturated tabloid star of the 21st century. Featured on every entertainment portal, newspaper and magazine for her lifestyle and sartorial choices, Hilton was famously known as New York’s leading It Girl. Already a media sensation, the attention took a dark turn when her sex tape with then-boyfriend Rick Salomon was leaked in 2003.
“I didn’t leave my house for months. I was so embarrassed and felt like everyone on the streets was laughing at me. I literally couldn’t walk in the streets because I felt like every single person had watched it and seen me naked and talking behind my back. It was like being raped – I felt like I’ve lost part of my soul,” the businesswoman revealed in the Netflix original, The American Meme.
Her voice cracking, Hilton goes on to talk about how she even considered suicide because she thought that everything had been taken away from her.
The 37-year-old is only one of the personalities featured in the Netflix documentary, the others being Josh Ostrovsky aka The Fat Jewish, Kirill Bichutsky, Brittany Furlan, Hailey Baldwin, DJ Khaled, Emily Ratajkowski and Dane Cook. With a rating of 99 per cent on Rotten Tomatoes, The American Meme is already being declared one of the finest, most in-depth documentaries on the age of the digital influencer and social media.
To say that the world of entertainment and glamour is murky and depressing is a cliche. However, what is fascinating about the Bert Marcus directed documentary film is the fact that this depression, anxiety and crippling loneliness is brought to the forefront not by ‘experts’ or psychologists but by the subjects themselves.
“I have never wanted to die more,” says world-famous photographer Kirill Bichutsky who goes by the name ‘Slut Whisperer’ on Instagram. With a following of over one million on the app, Bichutsky is somewhat of a legend on social media. Outrageous, inappropriate and downright ridiculous, the photographer is known for his crazy parties and what has come to be known as ‘champagne facials’. His photographs regularly feature gorgeous women in different stages of undress.
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To an outsider, Bichutsky appears to be living ‘the life’ – women, booze, money and travel. One of the scenes depicts a couple (who had just been together for about a week or so) getting ‘slut whisperer’ in Kyrill’s handwriting tattooed on their buttocks.
However, The American Meme shows us a side of the photographer that doesn’t come across while viewing his Instagram page – he is depressed, tired, sleep deprived, lonely and correctly believes that most people only love him so they can be featured on his social media accounts.
“That’s how lonely we are that we are going on here and seeking validation from strangers,” says former Vine superstar Brittany Furlan, adding how her life seemed to come to a standstill once Vine shut down. Furlan instantly went from being one of the most popular social media personalities to a life of struggle, having to convince people that she could act. The image of the ‘funny girl’ that she had built was so strong that those attending her auditions didn’t seem to take her seriously.
Throughout the film, other digital influencers constantly praise Hilton for creating a blueprint for the new-age celebrity and fame. She, of course, is the OG and as Josh Ostrovsky says at one point – let us not forget that Kim Kardashian was Paris Hilton’s intern. Today, Kardashian is a multi-millionaire with the Midas touch and her family dominates all forms of social media. However, this fame comes at a steep price. Today, the 37-year-old businesswoman and former socialite states that she does not trust anybody and is used to being conned and hence, chooses to hang out with her fans who call themselves the ‘Little Hiltons’. Ostrovsky also talks about how the age of the digital influencer is going to crash and hence, it is imperative for social media stars to have a Plan B. After all, fame is still a 15-minute affair and while social media has democratised conversation, it exists inside a bubble and bubbles, always inevitably burst.
(Header credits: Wikipedia)