Jewel Waxes Poetic on the Fame Game
In this third in her series of exclusive blogs for The Boot, Jewel tackles fame -- what it means to be famous, the perks and hindrances that come with fame, and the two different types of celebrities she's encountered throughout her illustrious career. Read below, in Jewel's own words.
I often get asked about fame. What's it like? Is it a dream come true? It must be so fun!
The red carpet for the 'Valentine's Day' movie
Here is what I have learned: Fame does not exist except in the minds of people. It is not real. It's like the Easter Bunny or the Tooth Fairy. It is not a real thing. It is not a tree or air or bread. It is a fantasy that is created and built on clouds in our collective minds.
I guess mostly it reminds me of high school: Everyone wants to be liked and popular. Everyone wants to be the "it" girl or the "it" guy. Hours are spent getting their look "just so," and hoping everyone will notice, but also that it doesn't appear they are trying "too hard."
The difference with celebrity is that there is money to be made at this, and there is an entire industry built around manufacturing, selling and creating the illusion of celebrity.
Hamming it up for the camera as I get ready for the CMA Awards. Laurent from Prive is doing my hair and administering some "rock and roll medicine" before the show, while Charlie Green does some body glam and Jessica Paster zips me up.
I have always felt like an outsider - even in school. My guess is quite a few famous musicians did as well. Some of us were the outcasts - the band nerds that made good.
I have always been shy and introverted and watched the 'cool' kids, and I wrote about everything I saw. It shocked me that these writings led me to fame. It was so disorienting when I became famous, and it took me a while to get my bearings.
Ty and I often talk about success, and have categorized famous people in two groups - whether it is music, acting, sports or politics. There are two types of famous people. One group is made of those who wanted to be excellent at their craft and by being excellent became successful or famous as a side effect. For this group, being good at their craft was the goal. For the other group, fame is the destination and they simply see music or sports - or a Senate seat - as their vehicle to fame.
When you meet someone, you can instantly see of which of the two groups they belong. The first group - the "Love Of The Game" people who want to be good at their craft are almost always good listeners. They are usually humble, confident and secure. They spend most of their time practicing - not networking. The "All For The Glory" group is usually insecure and has a deep need for attention and to be liked. They usually have big egos and are somewhat narcissistic and are self-centered. They will usually do anything to be famous.
Over the years, I have been lucky enough to be around a lot of types of celebrities from Presidents to Holy men to stars of the field and stage - and the most truly talented ones have always been the most open-minded, humble and curious. In the arts field, I found Bob Dylan, Neil Young, BB King, Meryl Streep, Jack Nicholson and Merle Haggard among the most interested in young talent and new ideas. It has always been the mediocre talent who grandstand and are pompous, trying to dominate conversations and tell you their entire resume and all their accomplishments within the first 5 minutes of meeting them.
Another misconception about fame is that it changes you. Fame in and of itself is not some magical transformation. It is simply a heightened awareness of a person. That's it. It just means suddenly a lot of people are aware of you that weren't before. There is no metamorphosis that takes place, unless you are foolish enough to take it personally, in which case it can warp your mind- and fast!
On the set for Mary Kay cosmetics campaign to Kiss Domestic Violence Goodbye
Being famous does not mean you are talented. It doesn't mean you are a good person. It doesn't mean anything except a lot of people know your name and face. At the end of the day, artistic growth has to be guarded privately by the artist and the moral integrity of the person must be shepherded by that person alone. Fame can be like candy and ruin the morality of a prone person- if that person doesn't have character.
I see so many people get a little bit of fame and start to think they are a big deal, and they get arrogant and they spend their money like they are going to be popular forever. But in truth this is a fickle business with a high turnover and an insatiable appetite for something new. And there are one thousand young aspiring talents to take that place any given day.
The most frequently asked question I get: how do I become famous? Well, it depends on which kind of fame you want. If you want to be the best at what you do, don't try to be famous, try to be great. I always tell aspiring artists to work hard, stay humble, have good manners and save their money. I suggest they spend all their free time practicing because talent will get recognition and stand out.
If you want to be famous for the sake of being famous - that's fine too. It's also a way for some to make a great living in today's world. All you have to do is hire a publicist and a good stylist, then get out of a car with no underpants, be controversial and highly visible, maybe have a celebrity tryst, and presto! You have your own fashion accessories line! It's still hard work to network and constantly be out being seen and living such a highly public life. It's a high price to pay and these people definitely earn what they have in their own way. It's just a different type of talent - a talent for being famous, instead of a talent for a craft, which may or may not make them famous as a side effect of greatness.
I don't think one type of fame is better that another. In fact, I always get asked by reporters if it bothers me that there are people who can't sing that are famous singers, or people who are famous for just being famous - and the truth is it doesn't bother me at all. I'm not an art snob. I think there is room and appetite for it all. That's why so many people visit my friend Perez Hilton's website, because celebrity culture has reached new heights and as much as some targets of his hate being made fun of, it helped them get the last laugh - all the way to the bank. Everyone works hard and pays a steep price for whatever they have and I don't think those people take money out of my pocket. There is room for us all.
Everyone's goals are different and I realized early on my goal was longevity. It was focusing on how to have a long career and how to keep writing well over a long career. Many songwriters don't write well after their 20s. I think a lot of it has to do with lifestyle. They get distracted by fame and stop learning and practicing the craft. That is why I have tried to live a life that feeds an artist and I have tried to make career decisions that allow longevity. But the right attitude is everything for someone who wants to keep learning and growing. Arrogance is the death of talent because to be arrogant is to think you have nothing to learn. When you don't learn, there is nothing new to feed growth so you become unoriginal. Soon your craft becomes rigid and lifeless. To be a good artist (or a good boss, or leader) you have to be sensitive and supple and listen as things change, which is something not always easy to maintain as fame requires a thick skin to survive usually. But to evolve, you have to keep learning and getting new information - this is the food that feeds growth. That is why I go away between albums and disconnect, or why I read so much or go to a new place with new surroundings so that I can fill up, learn and grow.
As for fame, I don't feel any different now than before I was famous. I still see the world through the eyes my life has shaped. I am deeply sensitive and feel the longing and beauty and pain and ugliness that are around us all. And I am still inspired by words and by fitting words like puzzle pieces to describe the indescribable.
All of us come together around the same thing: Being human and trying to do the best we can in our own ways. That's what makes us great as a nation. We each peruse our own liberties as we see fit. I have always seen myself in everyone. I guess my life has taken me from ranches to project developments to food stamps to caviar parties, from biker bars to the Vatican and I see myself in everyone.
Visiting with fans before a show in Alaska
For me the best part of my job is that it has allowed me to travel the world and see more than I ever thought I would get to see. It has allowed me and my pen to travel around the entire world and get to know revolutionaries and racists and senators and heirs and shop keepers and transvestites and see that we are all the same. Truly we are the same. We are just different expressions of the same thing and I just love them all. I have such a passion and compassion for how hard everyone- each of us- works at being alive- striving for happiness, love and satisfaction. It's a great journey. It's deeply private, and yet when we share our stories, it makes the journey seem less lonely. It's what Neruda and Rilke wrote about. I try to add my scribbles to the same cause.
So, what is fame? It's lightning that strikes some people. It's lightning that some people seek. It's luck, timing and hard work. It's a tawdry flashlight that shines on your soul and reveals to you your truest character and puts gasoline on your greatest flaws. It delivers treasures that can add beauty and it can enrich your life or corrupt you with that same beauty. But I can promise you that a person who is famous is no different than anyone who reads this. In the end there is only a great life lived or a life squandered - whether it was a public life or not. That is something each of us shares.