Not all press is good press, no matter what the publicists say.
Consider pop tart Britney Spears, whose every move from club-hopping to head-shaving has grabbed gobs of tabloid ink. But rather than earn her adoration, the recent media onslaught has resulted in eye rolls. And worse.
According to studies by Encino, Calif.-based E-Poll Market Research, which provides appeal rankings for more than 3,000 celebrities, 72% of the U.S. population would use the term “overexposed” to describe Spears in 2007, as compared to only 54% five years earlier. To put that in perspective, most celebrities average between 3% and 7% during the peak of their careers. Worse: During that same period, her “talented” score, the presumed basis for her celebrity, fell from 35% to 25% on the E-Poll index.
But Spears isn’t the only star to have worn out her public welcome. Among others who audiences have tired of: Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, and the late-Anna Nicole Smith’s lover Howard K. Stern. And while overexposure may have less to do with the precise number of headlines than it does the public’s perception of the celebrity, the 15 stars on our list have proved that familiarity can, and does, breed contempt.
So who’s to blame? The stars, or the tabloids that cover them?
Blame the celebs, says publicist Stan Rosenfield, whose clients include George Clooney and Robert De Niro. “It’s like the juggler’s lament: The balls go where you throw them,” he says. “If you show up at places that are covered by the media, then they’re going to cover you. And if you don’t [show up], they won’t.”
It comes down to how these celebrities choose to lead their lives, adds In Touch Weekly editor-in-chief Richard Spencer. Risk-free lives don’t sell magazines. “No one wants to read about the cup of tea and the great banana bread [a star] made yesterday,” he says. “What gets exposure? Kissing a guy at 4 in the morning.”
And while E-Poll Chief Executive Gerry Philpott agrees that the press can only build somebody up or tear somebody down so much, he argues that the 24/7 attention that the Internet provides expedites the fame trajectory, and the exposure that comes along with it. The result: “You can go from zero to 60 in exposure like that,” he says. “And, for that matter, 60 to zero.”
He cites “American Idol” cast-off Sanjaya Malakar, who comes in at No. 11 on our list, as an example. Consider this: when we ran this list in early fall, the public knew nothing of the subpar singer or his many wacky hairdos. Some seven months later, the polarizing contestant is lining both the glossies and the blogs, even scoring an invite to the White House Correspondents’ dinner.
That kind of attention can be a turn-off for some, especially those like Tom Cruise or Lindsay Lohan looking for respect as an artist. But for others, like Malakar, that overexposure may not be a bad thing, opines Jake Halpern, author of “Fame Junkies: The Hidden Truth Behind America’s Favorite Addiction.” For them, Halpern says, it’s all they have. And more importantly, without it they cease to be celebrities.
“You’re only a celebrity as long as you’re in the dialog of popular culture,” he explains. And if you don’t have your work, be it a movie or an album, to keep you in that dialog, you are forced to rely on exposure.
Spears’ ex-husband Kevin Federline, who ranks third on our list, serves as another example. Without the music career he hoped would take off — Federline’s debut album, “Playing With Fire,” opened to critical disdain and lackluster sales — it’s his tabloid presence that continues to open doors for his celebrity. Among the latest rewards: a gig as the AXE Bodyspray pitchman.
“For certain celebrities, it becomes almost a survival instinct,” says US Weekly Editor-in-Chief Janice Min of that need for attention. “And after a period of time out of the press, there’s sort of a hunger or craving to get back in.”
But how easy is it to win back the people’s favor, and thus the press’, once you’ve lost it?
Very easy, according to Philpott. “In this country, we love to build people up, tear them down and then build them back up again,” he says.
But Ellis Cashmore, author of “Celebrity Culture,” argues that staging a comeback is far easier for some than it is for others. The dividing point, he claims, is talent. And without it, he questions what the celebrity can come back with.
A star like Spears, on the other hand, can use her singing and dancing skills to win over fans, he says. What enabled the pop star to rise to fame initially will be the thing that can bring her back again.
In the meantime, Rosenfield offers this advice for all overexposed stars: “How can I miss you if you don’t go away?” he says. “Just go away.”
1) Britney Spears
Overexposed Score*: 72%
Once covered for her musical prowess, it’s Spear’s questionable behavior that gets ink these days. Most recently, it was a stint in rehab and a shaved head that proved tabloid fodder for the former Mouseketeer.
*Source: E-Poll Market Research, which provides over 45 appeal rankings for more than 3,000 celebrities.
2) Paris Hilton
Overexposed Score: 68%
Life has been anything but simple for one of the world’s most notorious celebutante, who was sentenced to 45 days in jail in early May for violating her probation. The upside: The shutterbugs may finally get some rest.
3) Kevin Federline
Overexposed Score: 54%
Best known for his marriage (and divorce) to pop tart Britney Spears, the former backup dancer is a tabloid staple. But while his personal life, be it his child-rearing or his fast clubbing ways, has had little trouble grabbing headlines, his debut album has had no such luck. Instead, Playing with Fire faced critical scorn and lackluster sales.
4) Tom Cruise
Overexposed Score: 53%
These days, Cruise tends to generate more headlines than he does movies, thanks to his high-profile marriage, religion and couch-jumping antics. The star will return to the silver screen later this year in the Robert Redford-directed drama Lions for Lambs, co-starring Redford and Meryl Streep.
5) Nicole Richie
Overexposed Score: 52%
Richie is no stranger to the spotlight. In recent years, everything from her shrinking waistline to her relationships to her best friend feud have caused heads to swivel. Up next, she and fellow celebutante Paris Hilton reunite for The Simple Life’s fifth installment, which is slated to premiere in May.
6) Lindsay Lohan
Overexposed Score: 48%
Like it or not, the starlet’s private life is anything but–instead, her every move has been splashed across tabloids, raising speculation on everything from her weight to her drinking to her latest relationship. But for those still focused on her art, Lohan’s Georgia Rule, co-starring Felicity Huffman and Jane Fonda, rolls into theaters in May.
7) Michael Jackson
Overexposed Score: 47%
Michael Jackson the musical sensation seems a thing of the past. These days, the once-King of Pop gets more attention for his bizarre behaviors. The latest: a reported desire for a 50-foot robotic replica of himself striding about the Las Vegas desert.
8) Donald Trump
Overexposed Score: 47%
Hardly camera shy, the New York real estate mogul-turned-TV personality has been grabbing headlines for years. But the most recent press attention has little to do him or his hair. Instead, Trump has been berating The View’s Rosie O’Donnel for, well, pretty much everything.
9) Terrell “T.O.” Owens
Overexposed Score: 45%
For the Dallas Cowboys wide receiver, no season is complete without a handful of controversies. Among this season’s: accidentally overdosing on pain pills and spitting in the face of Atlanta‘s DeAngelo Hall.
10) Howard K. Stern
Overexposed Score: 45%
Best known as Anna Nicole’s attorney-turned-lover, Stern was by Smith’s side through a very-public period of deaths, drugs and legal battles. Though recently ruled out as the father of Smith’s daughter, Stern appears adamant about his continued involvement in the child’s life–and thus, the tabloids.
11) Sanjaya Malakar
Overexposed Score: 44%
As famous for his hairstyles as he is his (questionable) singing chops, American Idol’s most polarizing contestant found still more fanjayas in the press. In addition to pages in the glossies and time on the talk shows, the cast-off got an invite to the White House Correspondents’ dinner.
12) Jessica Simpson
Overexposed Score: 42%
Having her marriage (and divorce) to heartthrob Nick Lachey play out in the public eye, Simpson has gone noticeably mum on her current relationship with rocker-boyfriend John Mayer. But the shutterbugs are no less interested, and the singer-turned-actress remains a tabloid queen.
13) Howard Stern
Overexposed Score: 41%
The shock jock got the press’ attention for something other than racy jokes when he made the move to Sirius Satellite Radio some three years ago. That move made him $500 million over five years, not including the slew of bonuses he stood to make. The King of All Media has been earning both the bonuses and headlines ever since.
14) Rosie O’ Donnell
Overexposed Score: 38%
The once-Queen of Nice got everyone’s attention (again) when she announced she wouldn’t be renewing her contract with The View. During her one-year stay on the daytime chatfest, she raised its profile and its ratings–and thanks to her laundry list of controversies, which ranged in topic from the Catholic Church to Donald Trump, she also raised its tabloid mentions.
15) Sean “Diddy” Combs
Overexposed Score: 38%
As famous for his ever-changing name as he is for his music, the artist-turned-mogul is hardly publicity shy. Also grabbing mentions: his wardrobe, his parties and his not-so-private private life.
Filed under: Hollywood