It’s one thing to talk about becoming a celebrity in your field. It’s quite another to actually begin the process. To make celebrity an authentic goal, we must first desensitize ourselves to the very word “celebrity.”
The best place to start is to refocus away from Hollywood or the Big Apple and turn it inward, toward yourself, your company, product, service, or expertise, and your industry. Celebritizing yourself from the ground up brings to mind two of my favorite domestic goddesses turned celebrities: Julia Child and Erma Bombeck. I point to these two iconoclastic women because we’re talking about specific industries, and these two virtually created their own.
Julia Child loved two things: French cooking and her husband, Paul (and, I suspect, sometimes in that order). Although Julia’s background was in publicity and advertising, she single-handedly pursued her passion for French cooking with such expertise and zeal that no one around her could ignore. Julia became one of the first “celebrity chefs,” and also one of the most recognizable women of the last century. Such celebrity chefs as today’s Emeril Lagasse and Rachel Ray owe their television careers to the pioneering efforts of Julia Child.
Truly, Julia is a poster child for how to first become a celebrity in your own field, and then for the world at large. So was Erma Bombeck. Dayton, Ohio born, Bombeck graduated from the University of Dayton in 1949 with a degree in English. She started her career that same year as a reporter for the Ohio Journal Herald, but after marrying school administrator Bill Bombeck, a college friend, she left the job to raise three children.
As her children grew, she wrote “At Wit’s End,” a self-deprecating tale about the life of a housewife. Seen first in the Kettering-Oakwood Times in 1964, Erma was paid a miserly $3 per column. The popularity of “At Wit’s End” brought national syndication in 1965, and eventually it ran twice a week in more than 700 newspapers. The column was collected in many bestselling books, and her fame was such that a television sitcom was based on Erma’s life. A humble $3-a-column gig for the local paper graduated Erma to full celebrity status.
“Celebrity” for these two icons grew not out of ambition or greed – though both women clearly had business savvy and realized the far greater audience fame could bring to them. What they became famous for was what they loved. Their passion turned into “celebrity” which, in turn, added “celebrity” to their passion.
There is a strong lesson in here for all of us. What is it? Simply this: celebrities are made, not born. What’s more, they share four similar qualities that you may already possess:
- Passion: Julia Child never wavered in her passion for cooking while Erma Bombeck came to her passion for writing only once she discovered the confidence that came from writing – and writing well.
- Persistence: Both women faced challenges and road blocks on their way to success. In this time of female presidential candidates, CEOs, talk show hosts and cable magnates, it is easy to forget that both Erma and Julia were products of the 50s and 60s, where men were the celebrities and women cared for the home and their children. Julia’s persistence to cook even when no one was watching or Erma’s to write while the kids were sleeping forged expertise in both their industries.
- Pride: Julia and Erma never came off as egotistical or brash, not even when fame overtook them and created household names of normal women. Still, it was clear – especially in later years – that both women were not only proud of what they’d accomplished but what they stood for and the inspiration they gave other women.
- Persuasion: Finally, both women used their respective art to persuade; Julia to persuade an entire generation (and even later generations) to discover the “joy of cooking” and Erma to persuade family members to celebrate their family bonds.
The idea that celebrity is only for movie stars should have withered on the vine by now; here we have two shining examples of homegrown women who started where they felt the most passionate and built a career from the inside out.
Neither Julia nor Erma became a “household word” overnight. They each had their unique path to fame – but they both had this in common. Both actually put their foot on the path, and took that first step…and then another, and so on. It is a process; it does not occur in one fell swoop. As Julia and Erma knew instinctively, to “celebritize yourself” is not about fame and fortune. It’s about sharing your life experience and hard-won wisdom with others, who may need what you have to offer. And without a doubt you must take stock of your assets and the resources at your disposal, and use them! I wrote my book, “Celebritize Yourself,” to be a roadmap down that path, and it is my passion to help you find the path.