by Karen D. Swim
They're coming, they're coming! Lady in Orange, Lady in Orange, can I have your autograph? Over here, will you sign my program? You were so good, I loved when you...
It was the back entrance of a small theatre in Hollywood, California, across the street from the famed Pantages. I had just finished my first stage performance as The Lady In Orange one of 5 leads in "For Colored Girls Who Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Wasn't Enuf."
Celebrities had turned out for the performance and snapped my photo in the dressing room. People were clamoring for my autograph and I was heady with the experience.
The reviews were good and a planned two performances extended to a year long gig. Yet here I sit today without an Emmy or autograph seeker in sight.
My brush with small time fame taught me the danger of falling for the hype. How easy it is to believe only the good reviews and to soak up the attention lavished upon you by strangers. Luckily, my faith, friends and family kept me grounded. They reminded me to act because I enjoyed the art form and to ignore the illusions that came with the territory.
Today, our culture seems obsessed with fame. We elevate our public figures to cult status even as we pursue our own 15 minutes in the spotlight.
I have watched with a mixture of amusement and horror as bloggers, authors and business leaders have gained a following that rivals Oprah. I celebrate their success but wonder if "followers" are doing them a disservice. Are we allowing them room to fail, to make a mistake? Have we pressured them to always have the answer? Have we ceded them too much influence over our opinions and choices?
"Well if he said it, it must be true," exclaimed a follower of the current "It Man" in the blogosphere. Have we become so lazy that we no longer critically examine things for ourselves? Do we blindly trust the famous simply because of their high visibility?
Are we capable of forming an opinion contrary to the herd?
The herd mentality scares me. I am all for learning from others and supporting their success. My hope is that we do not yield our own critical reasoning to the herd. In doing so we risk becoming a vanilla blend of sameness. What do you think? Have we gone too far?
Photo credit: Matt Gilluley, Flickr