The Ubiquity of Fame
“Book personalized video shoutouts from your favorite people.”
From Charlie Sheen, Randy Jackson and Caitlyn Jenner, to the Dos Equis Man, Ken Bone and even more obscure names — if that’s possible, the spectrum of “talent” is near infinite. Cameo has an end goal of on-boarding over five million names one day, positioning itself as the talent booking platform for the 99%.
How it works: Browse the names, pick your celeb, tell them what to say, pay, wait, and then receive your star’s selfie-video layered with the Cameo water-mark.
Get rapper Ice-T to wish your Dad a happy birthday, 80’s child star Cory Feldman to congratulate your sister, a porn star to salute your co-worker’s retirement, or actor Gary Busey to offer newlywed advice… however he’ll “likely riff on his own.”
Much like sending a GIF to express emotion that words cannot, or because we don’t want to do it ourselves, Cameo has become another novel means of outsourcing communication to another person, coincidently again one that happens to be famous.
Since each celebrity has their own public booking page on Cameo, anyone can watch their previously recorded messages, voyeuristically peering into their offices or bedrooms where they frequently record these messages in bulk — sometimes 10 in a sitting… you can easily tell because the celeb’s outfit and background are the same. The other side of the voyeurism here is listening to what people requested their star to say. To keep with Galanis’ Hallmark analogy, it’s like reading a stranger’s birthday card.
There are no rules as to what can and cannot be requested, as each fulfillment is up to the talent’s discretion. In line with the other tech giants: “We’re just the platform.”
What’s implied, unspoken and unanimously acknowledged is frankly how lowly the concept is: Pay (often second-act) celebrities to record what you tell them to say.
On basic principal, it’s as amusing as pathetic. But what it implicitly reveals about celebrity status is even more sophisticated.
There are scarce comparisons of Cameo’s model where humans have a price-tag for public consumption while someone takes a cut… outside of prostitution of course, which makes this concept as familiar as icky.
These public prices make for a fun guessing game, but also constructs a perverse catalogue of sorts. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar? $500. Stormy Daniels? $250. Jon Lovitz? $150. Chris Hansen? $50.
One can’t help but question if these celebrities browsed existing names and prices to determine their own. As to why they’re motivated to join in the first place remains another mystery. Desire for relevancy? Strapped for money?Raising for philanthropy? Pure fun? Who knows. But Gilbert Gottfried will roast your friend for $150. Actually, $112.50 after the cut.
While these sorts of rates have always been a thing in the world of talent booking, never have they been publicized… or so low. The democratization and affordability of star power is spawning a fascinating new power dynamic.
Once tucked away in the prestigious Hollywood Hills, exclusive movie-set-trailers, or guarded locker rooms, Cameo’s celebrities are stepping out earnestly asking for your hard-earned cash. Since the customer is always right, this cliché puts the buyer, you, in control of this engagement — therefore, celebrity.
It would be more genuine or even-keeled if one was paying for an interaction with the celebrity, but because the buyer is dictating the script, the nobody has become the director of the somebody. We’re the puppet master now.
But the average Joe isn’t just pulling the strings of these stars, they’re now becoming the new celebs themselves. The script is entirely flipped.
If today’s social media influencer culture has revealed anything about being a celebrity, it’s that any- and anybody can do it. This bulldozed path to stardom contrasts the conventional dogma that only those in a blockbuster movie can become famous. After all, with cameras in all of our pockets today, anyone can make a “movie,” and therefore, become famous. Ask Kim Kardashian.
Historically, fame was always relatively more unattainable, something only a select few could ever experience. Not everyone could become famous, and further, not everyone could even access those who were famous.
Despite this new landscape, what we experience today with Cameo is an uncanny valley of celebrity status and interaction. Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe is ready for your script, while Emma Chamberlain is too busy.
But this more than just explicit and awkward “levels” or “newness” of stardom. Audiences today are valuing any celebrities’ transparent and humanizing self-documentation and interactivity with us. But this is at odds with their continued manufacturization and commercialization of an elevated persona. Cameo presents another peculiar limbo here: We want it raw, but we’re willing to pay for it, fundamentally making it disingenuous.
Fame is now democratized, but that contradicts the fundamental idea of what it once meant: exclusivity. Cameo attempts to offer both of these elements, which makes the whole transaction feel unsettling. This result plays out like an inconvenient favor. It’s unclear if Joey Fatone of *NSYNC actually wants your Mom to have a happy Mothers Day, or if he really can’t wait to plow through his six requests for the day before going out and racking up a bar tab bigger than your monthly salary.
As influencer culture and platforms like Cameo swell, the future and definition of what celebrity means becomes increasingly unclear. This ultimately begs the philosophical question: What does it mean to be famous today?
If fame is now available to everyone, what is it actually worth?