When singer Katie Melua was a young girl in Belfast she used to work in a petrol station. It is a fair bet that she will never be returning to that job. The stunning looking singer is now one of the UK's richest young musicians, having amassed a fortune of £18m. That demonstrates the huge rewards available to those with the talent and luck to break into the big-time.
However, there can be a high price to pay for celebrity. Katie is obviously a well-grounded woman who has been able to cope with her fame and fortune, letting her talent make the headlines rather than her personal behaviour. Compare her experience with that of another hugely talented musician, Amy Winehouse, whose personal life appears to be a shambles. Her disintegration, brought about by a troubled marriage and drug abuse, has been played out in the tabloid press and it makes very unedifying reading.
She appears to be following in the footsteps of many celebrities, particularly in the entertainment world, who have been unable to cope with life in the public eye. The heady cocktail of riches and fawning public adoration has proved too much, driving them off the rails. The fast moving, intense life of the celebrity has a habit of winkling out every human weakness and exploiting it to the full, leaving the victim a burned out shell.
Most of us would dearly love to be the possessor of a talent which sets us apart from the masses. Yet it seems that often the endowment of great ability, in whatever field £ we need look no further than the tragic case of George Best — is matched by a fragility in some other personal trait.
But celebrity is no longer the sole preserve of the talented. The plethora of television reality shows has created a new breed of celebrity, people who are famous merely because their images are beamed relentlessly into our homes. A prime example is Jade Goody, who made her reputation as a rather dim entrant in the Big Brother show.
While she has no discernible talent, that has not stopped her making several million pounds through entreprises such as a fitness video and perfume sales. Her exposure on television made her a household name and she was quick to trade on that name. It seems that the public appetite to be associated in some way with celebrities — even by simply buying products endorsed by them — is insatiable.
Another who has achieved astounding financial success. largely through trading on her name and physical assets, which have been surgically enhanced, is the model Jordan. She has been variously described as a model, author, singer, dancer and television star, yet it is only for her looks that she stands any chance of an enduring legacy. The rest of her activities were mere vehicles for her brand, a brand which has made her a reputed £30m.
Celebrity can have a very short shelf life and it is little wonder that so many people who have been thrust into the public eye, either through talent or marketing, are so keen to cash in quickly. The world they inhabit is full of dangers and they have to realise that when they are no longer marketable, they can be cruelly cast aside.