chapter  Chapter 5
Celebrity politics
Performance, populism, and philanthropy
WithRobert van Krieken
Pages 29

Celebrity and politics are siamese twins, for the simple reason that both politics and celebrity are about visibility, recognition, and esteem: where popular politics and any approximation of democracy is, there shall celebrity be. For female politicians, celebrity politics constitutes a threat to their political effectiveness, because the linkage of personal and public lives characteristic of celebrity ‘presents a complex and unfavourable arena to women because of its inbuilt and extreme polarization of femininity and politics’. Populist political styles rely on a claim to ‘ordinariness’, often expressed through coarse manners performed as authenticity. For the German/Italian political theorist Robert Michels, it was clear that celebrity of all sorts was relatively easy to convert into political leadership, in socialist and social-democratic politics at any rate. The involvement of various types of non-political celebrities in arenas of diplomatic and philanthropic intervention such as environmentalism and humanitarianism, inter-governmental dialogue, as well as the ordinary work of the United Nations, has become increasingly ubiquitous.