So Now You’re Famous. Can You Handle It?

How to Handle Fame

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I handle fame by not being famous…I’m not famous to me.
Bob Marley

Whether you’re a celebrity, a politician, a MySpace star, dating someone famous, a well-known author, and even if you look different in a small town, you might be uncomfortable with being recognized wherever you go. Any one of us could become famous (even if just in our own towns) at any time, and not necessarily for reasons we’d want to become famous! Think about it – a family member could win the lottery, a friend could get into huge legal trouble, a sinkhole could open up beneath your house…any of these are possible and could thrust a normal person unexpectedly into the spotlight. How do you preserve a good reputation while still maintaining your privacy?


  1. Be boring to the public. The best way to maintain the privacy of your private life is to bore people to tears. Unless you’re one of those people who believes that all publicity is good publicity, it’s better to become famous (and stay famous) through the merit of your work, not because of a rollercoaster relationship, an addiction, a surprise pregnancy, or a glamorous wedding. If you’re a naturally flamboyant or free-spirited person, it might be difficult to stifle that, and you need to decide how you’re going to strike a balance between uninhibited expression and privacy, which tend to be mutually exclusive when you’re famous.
  2. Go to major events solo. Even if you’re married, the fact that you’re there together is bound to result in personal, sometimes totally inappropriate questions like “When are you having a baby?” or “When are you having another?” or even “How is your sex life?” Also, if you’re always attending events as a couple, all it takes is one event when your schedules conflict and you don’t show up together, and everyone will presume your relationship is on the rocks. If you do ever split up, the last thing you want is people wondering where your date is–talk about salt in the wound! That being said, sometimes being consistently dateless can stir its own breed of gossip, depending on the context–a famous celebrity going solo is understandable; a political figure probably wouldn’t be. If you do bring a date, make sure it’s someone you’re in a long-term, committed relationship with, and who’s mature enough to be by your side consistently, even if you have a disagreement right before the event.
  3. Refuse to answer any questions about your personal life. This is what some famous and successful celebrities do to keep their private lives private.[1] That means keeping the details private even when things are going well. Some famous people make the mistake of gushing about their private lives when a new relationship has begun or a child is born, but then suddenly become tight-lipped when the details aren’t so glorious.[2] By making people curious about the good things going on in your life, they’ll naturally be curious about the bad things as well. Be consistently silent when it comes to your personal life and no one will be surprised when you say “I want to keep my private life private.”
  4. Be humble. If you’re famous, it’s probably because people admire you. With admiration comes a certain degree of idealism and even idolatry, so it’s important to remind people that you’re not perfect. You’re human, just like they are. Talking about little things that you struggle with–like getting the stomach flu, or locking your keys in the car, or bad hair days–can help keep your image in check. One celebrity went as far as to ask a magazine to take pictures of her with no make-up or retouching so that she could show people that the image of perfection is just that–an image, not reality.[3]
  5. Go undercover. If you can move to a place where you’re not well-known, most of your problems will be solved. But most of us can’t relocate that easily, so the next best thing is to avoid public places where you’re likely to be seen. For celebrities, it’s a matter of not getting photographed; but for most people struggling with fame, it’s exhausting to engage in small talk wherever you go, and it can be disconcerting to know you’re recognized when you’re browsing books or shopping for undergarments. If you do bump into someone who recognizes you, however, handle it gracefully. Commit to the conversation long enough to be friendly and polite, otherwise you might be labeled as a snob, or worse. You can negatively affect that image with one misstep, one harsh word, or one thoughtless action. Take a minute or two to be friendly with a fan (or a group of fans); most will be respectful of your private time if you provide some level of access when you’re in public.
  6. Use your fame to help people. Take advantage of your “star power” to draw attention to causes you feel strongly about. Take, for example, a ridiculously famous celebrity couple that sells photo rights of their newborn children and donate all the millions to charity.[4] But you don’t have to be one half of a mega-famous couple to do good. Even just spreading the word about a charitable event during those many bouts of small talk can make a big difference. When someone asks “How are coping with the divorce?” or something similar, you can say “Well, I’m focusing on something positive…” and discuss your efforts.


  • Be politically correct. Controversial statements will get people in your business in the blink of an eye. Before long, they’ll find something you do or say that contradicts your statement and call you a hypocrite. Don’t speak your mind unless you’re ready for this kind of scrutiny.
  • If you can help it, try to avoid dating another famous person. Not only will you avoid sparking intense gossip, but being in a relationship with someone who’s not famous will help keep you grounded.


  • Whether you like it or not, when you become famous, many people will expect you to act like a good role model, and some people will always criticize you, no matter what you do. Whether you accept fame as a responsibility or consider it an annoying byproduct is up to you, but expect to be criticized if you’re not providing a good example for kids.
  • Hire security in the event that you feel your life is in danger.

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Sources and Citations

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