What does glamour mean in the celebrity context? I think everyone has a slightly different definition, but it is not much of a stretch to imagine that a lot of people when asked to conjure up a vision it involves beautiful movie stars, evening gowns, popping flashbulbs, and red carpets. It is almost a cliché, but in a comfortable way. It offers us a standard.
Grace Kelly in ‘Rear Window’
Grace Kelly always looked impossibly glamorous, yet you could always see there was something behind her eyes.
For me at least, the notion of the glamourous movie star really becomes a part of a culture post-World War II. As the 1950s began, a number of glamourous actors began to define grace and glamour. Grace Kelly, Jayne Mansfield, and Marilyn Monroe personified beauty. Marlon Brando, James Dean, and Tony Curtis balanced the scale with their own style and glamour.
What happened? The 50’s went and the 60’s came. Stars like Elizabeth Taylor and Sean Connery defined early 60s glamour and remained relevant even in a volatile decade. The 70’s discoed in after that. The glamour changed, but it remained exclusive— and elusive. Black and white photos of celebrities clubbing at Studio 54 were simultaneously classy and decadent, offering a glimpse into a world that many people only fantasized about.
Beyond the Doors at Studio 54
I love Los Angeles, and I love Hollywood. They’re beautiful. Everybody’s plastic, but I love plastic. I want to be plastic.
The 80’s and 90’s began to change our view of glamour. Supermarket tabloids and cash-for-trash television brought glamourous celebrities down to our level. Their personal foibles extrapolated and dissected, the people we once thought of as glamorous suddenly seemed just like any of us in many ways. Media became less interested in elevating famous people and instead working to diminishing them.
Glamour is all about transcending this world and getting to an idealized, perfect place.
The internet has been the final straw for glamour in the sense that it no longer is something that is bestowed on the beautiful from fans and observers. Instead, glamour seems to be a vulgar scramble of selfies, twitter feuds, and Instagram posts.
The queen bees of this new paradigm seem to be the Kardashians. They have courted fame, but have been unable to attain glamour. In some ways their efforts to self-identify as some sort of touchtone of beauty and glamour and beauty have backfired. With each NSFW selfie and strained reality show stunt, they seem more and more desperate to be seen as glamourous, and it seems to consistently backfire.
Keeping Up with the Kardashians
Being glamorous is about strength and confidence. It’s black and white – dramatic. You have to be strong.
– Catherine Zeta-Jones
Even in 2016, we owe a debt to the beauties of the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. They give us a standard that in many ways will never be matched. We still have celebrities that are glamourous. George Clooney, Julia Roberts, Denzel Washington, and other celebrities still define glamour in a way when it is increasingly difficult to find.
But on the other hand, if you’re a celebrity chasing for it, glamour is probably long gone.