From Sex Scandals To Business Success: How 4 People Built Careers From Misfortune
How do you make it in 2012? In an age of global economic uncertainty, it's never been harder for Americans to find a job, especially a secure one. Simply getting a degree from the local state university won't guarantee you a safe job, anymore.
But in the early 21st century, one thing does appear to make you a more marketable commodity, and that is public notoriety. While the Internet is not the sole cause, nor its only forum, the web has helped escalate the phenomenon; if you rank highly on Google search or have oodles of followers on Twitter, the market will surely fall in line. So it doesn't matter if you get there by being a call-girl under arrest, an ignorant Miss Teen USA contestant or even a hysterical fan of Britney Spears: as long you've as you've become a recognizable brand, you'll be able to build a thriving career.
The Sex Ticket To Success
In an article called, "Sex to Success," The Week put together a list of infamous call-girls who parlayed their fame into legitimate and thriving careers as fashion designers, writers, businesswomen and activists. It notes that Zahia Dehar, a hit at this week's Paris Haute Couture Week, was mixed up in a sex scandal two years ago. (She entered the spotlight for having sex with three French soccer players, who said at the time they didn't know she was underage.) Far from running away from the world of sex and erotica, she doubled down, launching a lingerie label, "Zahia By," this past January. And as proof of high far she's come: no less than Chanel's creative director Karl Lagerfeld shot her first "lookbook."
The transformation from sex tabloid fodder to richly employed need not even require all that much creativity. The infamous street walker Divine Brown, aka Estella Thompson, says she "was just trying to pay a few bills" when Hugh Grant patronized her in 1995. But what ensued was a public speaking career including guest appearances on British television from which she says she's netted 1 million British pounds, or $1.55 million. "I'd agreed to go with him for $50, but ended up with more than ten thousand times that," she told the Daily Mail. She's also reportedly running a music production company.
Laughable Stupidity Helps, Too
The dynamic isn't limited to the salacious. Sometimes ignorance, or at least the commercial appearance of it, can help lead to a healthy payday, too. When Caitlin Upton, then 18, was asked at the 2007 Miss Teen USA Pageant why more Americans couldn't locate their country on a map, she said:
"I personally believe that U.S. Americans are unable to do so because, uh, some, uh. . . people out there in our nation don't have maps and, uh, I believe that our, uh, education like such as in South Africa and, uh, the Iraq, everywhere like such as, and, I believe that they should, our education over HERE in the U.S. should help the U.S." Watch here:
A video of her performance garnered more than 54 million page views on YouTube. And the attention turned into appearances on "The Today Show" and "The Ellen Degeneres Show." Despite finishing third runner-up for the 2007 competition, she was able to do what many winners of beauty pageants only dream of -- launch a successful modelling career. She's appeared in ads in magazines like Seventeen and Cosmo Girl, and has been signed by Donald Trump's agency.
Not Just A Female Phenomenon
Men can get in on the act, as Chris Crocker, seen in photo above, demonstrates. Back in 2007, few public figures were as embattled as pop singer Britney Spears, who was going through a divorce and a public meltdown. But rising to her defense was Tennessee teen, Chris Crocker who posted a YouTube Video entitled, "Leave Britney Alone." In it, Crocker delivers a tearful monologue from what appears to be his bedroom. He says Spears is "only a human," and then wonders, "When is it professional to publicly bash someone who's going through a hard time?"
After the video went viral, garnering some 4 million page views in the first two days after it was first posted, Crocker's sincerity was called into question. While he maintains he was truly worried about his idol, his own professional life as a videographer was only the better for his association with the video. His YouTube channel, on which he regularly uploads new content, has some 350,000 subscribers, and plenty of advertising to go with it.
He's also the subject of a new HBO documentary, entitled "Me @ the Zoo," premiering this summer. The documentary takes a look at his life starting with his childhood in eastern Tennessee, where he was targeted by bullies for being openly gay. In the documentary he says his videography career was never just about launching his own brand and career. It was also, he says, a "way of defending myself against the people in my hometown without having to fight back physically."
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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