I have now written the first paper from this fellowship. It provides some insights into how the relationships between NGOs and the celebrity industry are forged and maintained and is based on a large number of interview conducted largely over the last 9 months. This paper has been sent first to my interviewees for comment and they thought it was an accurate representation of their working lives. Please let me know what you make of it. The paper (in PDF form) is available here, and a summary follows.
‘Getting It’ Summary: Most of us ‘get’ celebrity – at least we think we do. Celebrity pervades our media, social interactions and every day lives whether we want it to or not. But what is actually involved when celebrities work with NGOs? How are the relationships negotiated, and the interactions developed? How do NGOs initiate and build support among celebrity circles? How do they work with agents, publicists and managers? What are the constraints that NGOs face, and how do they cope with the interest of corporates in getting access to celebrity? This paper answers some of those questions on the basis of more than 90 interviews with different actors in the NGO and celebrity sectors, and with journalists, based largely in the US and UK. In the process it also sheds light on another issue dogging the interactions between celebrity and NGOs, namely their authenticity. I argue that there are several different reasons for claiming authenticity, and that all claims must be well performed, as well as actually exist, to be credible.
The paper seeks to draw out some common trends and themes from across the interviews, rather than draw out differences. As such it merges and blends extracts from as many difference voices as possible from the different interviews. This risks rendering different experiences homogenous and for that reason (and because I wanted to communicate what I have learnt) I have already sent the first iteration of this paper to interviewees for comment. Their responses were favourable. They did recognize the themes that I have drawn out and none suggested that this paper suppressed differences that should be drawn out.
The purpose of this draft is to communicate these findings, and to elicit further comment and critique. It is deliberately devoid of academic references in order to make it accessible to as large an audience as possible.