Today's Celebrity Role Models Make The Beatles Look Like Choirboys

25/01/2016 5:07 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:51 PM AEST
Powers Imagery/Invision/AP
Miley Cyrus performs at IHeartRadio Music Village, Saturday, September, 21, 2013 in Las Vegas, NV. (Photo by Al Powers/Powers Imagery/Invision /AP)

Celebrity is everywhere. Not only are we inundated with films, magazines and television shows, social media allows us to 'connect' with stars. We can see what they eat, where they go on holiday and how they're working out.

We can directly tweet our favourite movie star and see what models look like without make-up when they post (highly filtered) make-up-free selfies on Instagram. Their lives look achievable. We think that if we eat like they do and work out like they do, maybe we could be them.

The top accounts on Instagram belong to Taylor Swift and Kim Kardashian. The most liked picture of last year was Kendall Jenner's love heart hair. We even have the term 'Instafamous' to refer to someone with a multitude of social media followers who wish to emulate their every move, outfit and pose.

But are our young people choosing to idolise the Instafamous over the writers, professors, lawyers and doctors? It makes sense -- their lives look so glamorous and interesting. Who wouldn't want to be rich and famous? Who wouldn't aspire to be like them?

Celebrity has long been associated with setting a less-than-ideal example for young people. In the '60s, the Beatles were thought to be trouble makers -- although parents may have been onto something here, when you listen to 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds'.

But today's celebrity role models make the Beatles look like choirboys. A young person may be forgiven for thinking success and popularity means being pictured in various states of undress or only wearing the latest expensive fashions.

The visibility and accessibility of role models outside of the entertainment and social-media sphere is incredibly important to ensure our young people are inspired beyond the beautiful. In my teen years, my aspirations extended to teachers I admired and women and men I had encountered though mentoring events or met during my time as a junior doctor.

Young people need to see people who have success in their chosen field but are also real. People who are flawed, who eat burgers occasionally, who argue with their partners and shop at Zara.

I would love young people to be exposed to women of different races and occupations. I want them to learn that beauty is not just about your outer appearance, but who you are as a person too. Being intelligent is beautiful, as is being kind.

Young women in particular are highly vulnerable to the shiny nature of celebrity. Considering we desperately need more women in many professions and industries, it is vital that we get girls and young women connected with women from every walk of life. They can be inspired, share stories and learn how to overcome some of the obstacles they may face.

Instead of aspiring to be famous for being famous, like the Kardashians, wouldn't it be wonderful if aspirations were to be a Supreme Court Judge, a neurosurgeon or a Fortune 500 CEO? How about dreaming of running a successful research program in STEM or winning a Nobel Prize? What if our next great Prime Minister was flicking through Instagram right now?

As one of the greatest scientific minds ever once said: "We must believe that we are gifted for something, and that this thing, at whatever cost, must be attained." Let's show our young people how to reach for every star possible.

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