Following the Following: The Dark Side of the Celebrity Obsession

Nicole Smithee


When I was a little girl I watched the action thriller Speed starring a young Keanu Reeves and Sandra Bullock.  (I was probably too young to watch an R-rated movie at the time, but we’ll skip over that small detail.)  Not only did it leave me with a fear of public transportation, but it also left me with a newfound dream – to one day become the next Sandra Bullock.  She was cool. She was quirky.  She was smart.  And she got to kiss Keanu Reeves at the end of the movie.

At 12-years-old, I became a fangirl of Sandra’s and began following her career from the highs of While You Were Sleeping and Miss Congeniality and Blindside to the lows of Murder by Numbers and All About Steve.  Yes, I saw All About Steve in the theatres on opening weekend.  That’s loyal fan status.

When I was 18-years-old, I even moved to Los Angeles to attend an acting school in the hopes of having a long-standing career as one of America’s sweethearts like Sandy (I think if we were friends, that’s what I’d call her).  Sandra was my personal inspiration, and I especially loved watching her in interviews and on the red carpet.  Her life seemed so glamorous and exciting.  The world loved her.  And most women wanted to be her… including me.

A couple of years passed, and God awakened within me an even more compelling ambition (no offense, Sandra, you are amazing).  I began to discover that the great purpose of my life was to preach the Good News of Jesus and pastor people.  I believe pursuing a career in the arts or the entertainment industry can be a noble pursuit, but for me that pursuit quickly got overshadowed by a greater personal awakening to a call to ministry.  It’s a call I’ve been saying ‘yes’ to ever since.

But just because I discovered a deeper personal sense of purpose in my early twenties didn’t mean I stopped admiring those in the limelight.  It’s hard to shake the appeal of fame in the celebrity-focused and consumer-driven society we live in.  I served in my church and did good in my city. I worked long hours for little pay.  I prayed with people and visited people in hospitals and in their homes.  I ministered to gang-members and troubled youth.  I advocated for teens in court rooms and the offices of social workers.  I traveled to developing nations to serve the poor and the orphaned.  I preached sermons on selflessness and love.  I led Bible studies and ministries that promoted the values of humility and sacrifice and godliness.  All the while, I was fantasizing about what my life would look like if it were more like Sandra’s…  How much easier would things be if I got her paychecks?  How exciting would it be to have that many fans?  What sort of opportunities would I have if I wasn’t just an average person, but a celebrity?

There is a definite allure to becoming famous.  Who doesn’t want a butt load of money and the ability to travel the world and hang out with other famous people and have your work applauded by the masses???  Of course, we rarely think about the dark side of fame- how everyone scrutinizes the details of your life and profits from your personal pain and how your agents, managers, and producers view you not only as a person but as a dollar sign.  And if we do think about these things, we don’t think about them too long or we risk the danger of our reflections pulling back the curtain on our fantasies.  We reason instead that if we were famous, we would be different- we would know how to manage the paparazzi and we would stay grounded and our relationships wouldn’t end in heartbreak.  We would be the exception to the long-standing rules of fame and fortune.

That’s the power of fame’s seduction.  It can make all of us a bit delusional every now and again. 

There is nothing wrong with fame or fortune in and of itself.  The problem is that our human hearts tend to make idols out of them, believing that they hold godlike powers over our lives:  If we find ourselves in a hidden season, a time in our lives where our faithfulness remains anonymous to those around us for the intentional purpose of Jesus refining His character within us, we view this as the god of fame withholding from us.  We find ourselves frustrated at the hidden moments, believing if we were more seen and applauded our lives would be so much better.  And when we are recognized and our influence begins to broaden, instead of seeing this as an opportunity to humbly share the hope of Jesus, we see our growing following as fame’s reward for our diligent worship.  We believe fame holds the power to bless us and make us and can secure a real future for us.  And perhaps, even more disheartening, we believe that fame can silence our insecurities and heal our broken-hearts.

The thing about idols is that they are creatures of our own making.  They hold no real power beyond the power we give them, and they can’t bring lasting hope or significant healing or radical transformation or complete security and peace.  We may worship them, but it doesn’t make them real.

In the same way, we can strive for more likes and followers and we can compare our lives to the latest celebrity crush, we can admire and envy and plot as much as we’d like.  But no amount of followers will rid us of shame and insecurity.  No amount of applause will make up for the childhood bullying or the absence of a father or the abuse of someone we trusted.  No amount of fame will appease our need to be seen and loved and significant.  No celebrity status can secure our peace and our protection.

I write to you, friend, both to warn you and to encourage you.  I hope we’ve earned the right for me as a fellow friend, or big sister of sorts, to offer a piece of well-intended advice.  And here it is:  beware of pursuing fame for the sake of fame.  The temptations are subtle and appear on a daily basis.  They show up in what we choose to post on our social media accounts, and who we compare ourselves to, and who we hang out with, and what shows we watch, and even the clothes we wear.  The pursuit of fame will scam you of your time, your energy, your peace, and even your identity.  It makes a lot of promises, but it never delivers.

Okay, now that the warning has been issued, I offer you a most encouraging truth:  What fame promises but can’t deliver on, Jesus can.  Jesus can heal the wounds of your past.  Jesus’ words to you can ring more true than the past’s hurtful ones that you can’t seem to shake.  Jesus can be the peace and the security you’ve been searching for.  Jesus can give you an unfailing love that far surpasses the applause and likes of the masses.  Jesus sees you.  You have His attention, and you have His affection.  And when you deny the worship of fame to simply worship your Savior, you will find He is the one you’ve been searching for all along.


Let me know how this blog personally spoke to you by leaving a comment below…










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  • Reply
    Gerald Reece
    March 27, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    I have come to the point in my life, that my heroes are heroes in the faith. Those who have stood fearlessly in the face of public opinion and maintained their calling. This who have been committed enough to steward their calling well. God bless you and be with you.

  • Reply
    March 27, 2018 at 9:27 pm


    This is so good! This is right on the money and so pertinent to what is going on in society today. I was encouraged and learned some things reading the blog about my own journey with God, i can definitely relate to much of what you shared. Women….and men need to hear this, I agree with everything you shared and hope you will do more blogs and sermons on this especially for the younger generation. Another big danger I see is so many young people are chasing fame and followers but not necessarily chasing God’s will for their lives and thereby missing out on the awesomeness that is a life with God, abundant and full. Love this, thanks again for writing something so relevant and helpful.

  • Reply
    Maria Vasquez
    March 29, 2018 at 10:46 pm

    Great blog. Just yesterday I was a bit saddened to see a few of the “publically well-known” preachers actually posting celebrations of reaching milestone numbers of “followers” on Instagram or Facebook. I actually unfollowed and will listen to them on YouTube when and if I desire. One preacher actually credits instagram for building his church. That’s bothersome.

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