Respecting Celebrities’ Privacy: Where Do We Draw the Line?

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By Amanda Cardini, Co-editor

From the drama between Stormy Daniels and Donald Trump to the seemingly never ending news on the Kardashian clan, the media certainly takes an interest in public figures’ personal lives. In the age of social media, where information is shared quickly and easily, getting a closer look at celebrities’ private lives has become commonplace. Twitter allows users to quickly interact with those with the “verified” blue check mark while Snapchat gives fans access to a public figure’s life in real time. Reality TV shows have added to the mix, satisfying viewers by showing the rich and famous partake in everyday activities from grocery shopping to attending high-end events.

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It seems as though the more information is made available, the more fans seem to demand it. The craving for such personal details from celebrities is so prevalent that fans are often disappointed, if not angry, when celebs choose to withhold them. But with horrible things happening across the globe on a daily basis, why do we care so much about famous people?

Psychologists refer to an “illusion of intimacy” that is created when the lives of high-profile individuals are easily accessible. Feeling like you know important details in a celebrity’s life can translate to a feeling of personal connection. If a fan becomes too obsessed, it can apparently turn into “Celebrity Worship Syndrome,” a condition Psychology Today defines as “obsessive-addictive.” The website acknowledges that in most cases, caring about celebrities is mild and not harmful, but it begs the question of why we feel entitled to so much personal information in the first place.

This leads to an age old debate: Do celebrities deserve the demands the public makes of them, seeing as they knew what they were getting into when they entered the entertainment business or public sector? Or do they deserve privacy, considering they are humans just like the rest of us?

In my research, as I struggled to clearly find a stance on this issue, I came across an interesting BBC piece on the topic. Celebrity PR consultant, Max Clifford, was asked for his opinion on whether celebrities can expect a certain amount of privacy. The article makes the argument that the roles of the media and celebrities or public figures are inextricably intertwined; one can’t exist without the other. Clifford is quoted saying, “If you use the media, you can’t complain much when the media uses you.”

This is to say that while some celebrities may desire a certain amount of privacy, they must establish this from the beginning of their careers. Once the media has gotten used to a star sharing all the details of their life and has reaped the benefits of reporting on such details, they’re not going to stop probing for personal information. It would be wishful thinking, not to mention hypocritical, for a celebrity to share such personal details as a way of accumulating their fame, and then to ask for privacy once they have attained it.

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While many of us are sick of hearing about the Kardashian/Jenner family, Kylie Jenner’s recently announced pregnancy is a perfect example of this. After hiding the pregnancy for its entirety, the 20-year-old confirmed it with an apology on Instagram and Twitter a few days after her daughter’s birth. That’s right, she actually felt the need to apologize for keeping something private from her fans. The world is used to knowing every detail of her family’s lives, having seen every moment of her sisters’ pregnancies, and even births, broadcasted on the show, Keeping Up With the Kardashians. But Kylie has been known to express anxiety in the face of ruthless paparazzi and felt that it would be best for both her and the baby to keep the pregnancy as private as she could.

This is something I can fully empathize with; mental health should be regarded much higher than it typically is in society, and there’s no question that during pregnancy your only priority should be the health of yourself and your child. However, mere weeks after the announcement, Kylie released new makeup products using her daughter’s name, Stormi, as the theme and “inspiration” for the line.  

I’ll leave this open to interpretation, but I have to refer back to the quote from Max Clifford: if you’re going to use the media and the public’s interest in your child to promote a product, you can’t be upset when the media seeks out all the private details.

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