Here we go again, and NO WAY did I see this one coming…
Half of the pictures I see of Heidi Klum are her in the park with her kids. I’m just like her — well, minus the stunning looks, fabulous clothes and parties, unimaginable wealth and millions of people interested in my every move. I also don’t renew my vows every year. Our anniversary is usually celebrated by a clink of our Pacificos over family dinner at our house. So, every year when I saw the pictures of the happy beauty renewing her vows I’d ponder about how much more fabulous her life must be than mine.
But now she and Seal are getting divorced.
How does this happen to almost every celebrity couple? Some are easy to see coming: Kris and Kim, Katy and Russell, Vanessa and Kobe – but some of the recent splits, Al & Tipper Gore, Will Smith and Jada Pinkett Smith and now Heidi Klum and Seal, are surprising to me.
Despite the long-term marriage challenges, the trips to rehab and the camera-phone culture that eliminates any semblance of privacy, kids today still want to have celebrity status more than anything else. Jake Halpern wrote an insightful book called Fame Junkies where he talks about how Americans are “addicted” to fame. For his book, he surveyed 650 teenagers in the Rochester, New York area. More girls said they’d rather be the personal assistant to someone famous (43.4%), than be the President of Harvard (23.7%), a Navy Seal (9.8%), a US Senator (13.6%), or the CEO of a major company like GM (9.5%). Within this study, there’s something significant worth mentioning: people with low self-esteem and poor grades are the ones most likely to be attracted to others in the limelight.
It’s trite but true: being a celebrity does not insure a life of fulfillment, happiness and meaning. There are certainly some advantages and it looks like so much fun from the outside – the wealth, the notoriety, the clothes, the access to virtually anything. It’s everything we as Americans aspire to have. Yet they are just as vulnerable to matters of the heart as the factory worker whose waitress wife leaves him because he’s “just not good enough.”
Media reinforces the importance of celebrity. I wish the messages in the news profiled a college-kid who spent her holiday break in India building homes or a wealthy couple whose “vacation” was in Malawi digging wells in villages. (I am lucky enough to know both the college student and this couple.) Instead, mainstream news programming is geared toward Kourtney’s pregnancy cravings, Jen’s potential “baby bump,” and of course, the juicy divorces.
As for me, I’m going to remember, once again, that life behind those glossy pics is no better than the life I live in my old jeans. More importantly, when it comes to raising my kids, I’ll be sure to turn off the news and give them the news of our community – the neighbor caring for her elderly mother, my cousin who went to India, the kind couple who dug wells and the countless other heroes around us.
Ellen Padnos lives in Manhattan Beach, CA with her husband, Ben, her children Anthony (4), and Annie (1), and her Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Lola. You can also follow her on Twitter (@ellenpadnos).