A person can achieve celebrity status by having great wealth, their participation in sports or the entertainment industry, their position as a political figure, or even because of their connection with another celebrity. As leisure time increased, more people had more time to visit theaters, operas and conference rooms, where they saw celebrities in person. In addition, through the media, celebrities are presented as a particular type — a trendsetter, a role model, a rebel, a mirror of the status quo — and, in the process, they become both a cultural agent and a social force. But, seen from the evolutionary and anthropological perspective that I have outlined, the question is: what are celebrities for if they are not role models? Although Hollywood didn't invent stardom, it did briefly change celebrity culture in a major way.
Many scholars have used the argument that celebrity requires consumption to argue its origins in the 20th century. Celebrities are people known during their lives by more people than they could ever know each other. However, based on a measure of external scrutiny, celebrity implied reciprocity between esteemed people and the public, making its concession less of a designation and more of a negotiation process. Not surprisingly, given the depth and breadth of the celebrity theater system, early film producers used stage stars to draw people to the new medium of cinema.
The 19th century laid the foundation for modern celebrity; the 20th century, through the media, amplified celebrity beyond all expectations. Nowadays, the fact that no media or industry controls the stars or stardom has made more visible the force with which the public and celebrities have always influenced the course of celebrity culture and how their movements have been crucial to keeping it alive. In the 21st century, the media offer audiences greater access to information about public figures (increasingly, in real time), thus publicizing celebrities, increasing their visibility and confirming their relevance. A century before the rise of radio and television commercials, celebrities were promoting wigs, facial creams, powders, pianos and bottled water.
Celebrity stands apart from other forms of public approval because it focuses on individual personality. Celebrities always appear on television and in the media, so of course, having them wear your brand of jeans or wristwatch is a great way to give them visibility. Locating the birth of the celebrity in an earlier period marks an important starting point with respect to many late 20th century studies that correlated celebrity with cinema and aligned it with the rise of the Hollywood star.