Proponents of capitalism, you’ve got a new idol. And her name is Snooki. Sure, the oft-intoxicated, self-described “meatball” star of MTV’s “Jersey Shore” reality show may not be able to take the reins of, say, a Fortune 500 company. But according to writer Jo Piazza, celebrities like Snooki, reality star Kim Kardashian and actress Angelina Jolie are business savants, managing worldwide brands and raking in millions of dollars by providing the world with what it desires: more of them. Celebrity “is absolutely capitalism at its best because it’s all supply and demand. If people weren’t demanding it, they wouldn’t be supplying it,” said Piazza. “It’s the free market.” Piazza is the author of the recently released “Celebrity, Inc.: How Famous People Make Money.” The book delves into all facets of the celebrity economy, from making money off shedding excess pounds, to selling pictures of progeny for eight-figure sums, to the Machiavellian machinations of Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner. Celebrities can even make thousands in 140 characters or less, by including endorsements in their tweets. “The Kardashians brought in revenue of $70 million last year. They’re not dumb. … It’s capitalism and natural selection at its purest,” Piazza says. The successful celebrities are a brand, and when people no longer desire that brand, the celebrity loses all value. Consider former “It” girl Paris Hilton: “I saw her at [the] Sundance [Film Festival],” Piazza said. “She was begging paparazzi to take her picture and no one cared about her.” But the celebrity economy couldn’t exist without what Piazza calls the Hollywood Industrial Complex, which she describes as “an interconnected web of businesses all working to maximize the value of the industry as a whole.” She says the Academy Awards are an example.
Names in the news, Feb. 16
Posted Feb. 15, 2012, at 4:53 p.m.