Babs Kupe, a sophomore, reads the bright yellow headline on the Jan. 29 cover of “US Weekly.”
“Brit’s new man!” she says.
Within a second, she reaches across the green table in front of Mahoney-Pearson and grabs the magazine, flipping through the pages to find the cover story on Britney Spears’ new boyfriend. She has been a celebrity gossip junkie since she was 13 years old.
“Their lives are more fantastical than ours,” she says. “Plus they [seem] so perfect and it’s always great to see that they’re not. Their lives are f**ked up.I love it.”
Despite Kupe’s appreciation of celebrities and the paparazzi and writers who chronicle their lives, she says she wouldn’t want to live in the limelight. But the face of Graham Osberg, a senior, lights up when he is asked how he would feel if he were famous.
“People being obsessed with me.I’d love it,” he says. “I get really excited when I have stalkers. In fact, I get so excited, the tables usually turn and I end up stalking them and they get creeped out.”
Osberg says his obsession with celebrity began when he saw Britney Spears in advertisements for Pepsi, his favorite soft drink.
“I got a subscription to ‘Us Weekly’ just so I could cut pictures of her and make a collage for my room,” he says. “I love her. I became obsessed with her.”
Blake Whealy, a junior, believes people connect to tabloids and celebrities as a means to fill a void in their lives.
“I think that people buy [tabloid magazines] when they feel a point of boredom in their lives and they need some type of vicarious drama or entertainment,” he says.
Osberg accepts the possibility that his interest in celebrity is related to his personal insecurities.
“It could be that I wish that I was better looking, more popular, more cultured,” he says. “I’ve always had this need to be bigger and better than myself.”
But Kupe dismisses the argument that her life is lacking and says her interest in reading about Beyonce stems from identifying with the star.
“I feel like we have similar bodies,” she says, adding that she might emulate Beyonce as a means of survival. “It’s a subconscious, subliminal thing, but it’s true.guys are attracted to Beyonce, the way she looks, so I want to look like her and be her, in a way.”
Whealy says that the obsession with celebrity goes beyond the individual level and affects the entire campus.
“I feel like our campus culture encourages people not to read the magazines but to strongly consider what’s in [them] just because the metropolitan area around which we grow up is very centered [on] fashion, vanity,” he says.
Kupe believes the pressure to emulate celebrity fashion distinguishes UM from other universities.
“UM is one of the few schools where Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to the evening, girls are dressed like they stepped off a page of Us Weekly,” she says. “Go to University of Michigan. People are in their sweats and whatever. [But University of Miami] is obsessed with being in. I don’t know what [causes it], but it does affect us on a grand scale.”
Nick Maslow can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.