Manufacturing Celebrity and Marketing Fame: An Ethnographic Study of Celebrity Media Production.

by Vanessa J. Diaz

Institution: University of Michigan
Department: Anthropology
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: media production, new, journalism, magazines; celebrity, celebrity culture, paparazzi, red carpet; labor, invisible labor, creative economies; Latinos, Latinas, Latin American Immigrants; gender, race, class, ethnicity; Anthropology and Archaeology; Social Sciences
Record ID: 2061312
Full text PDF: http://hdl.handle.net/2027.42/111629


Building on theories of value, creative economies, and invisible labor, this dissertation analyzes the performative politics and division of labor in the production of celebrity-focused media in the U.S. It explores the work and lives of the celebrity journalists, paparazzi, and red carpet photographers who create the content for the celebrity weekly magazines, such as People and Us Weekly (and their websites), and is based on over two years of fieldwork in Los Angeles, where I conducted ethnographic interviews, archival research, and participant-observation through institutional, informal, and virtual ethnography. This production-focused research offers a close examination of a part of the symbolic industry that has not previously been analyzed in terms of work and hierarchies in economies of labor. The gender, racial, ethnic, and class politics involved in the labor production of this media are of key concern, as I examine the work of and relationships between the predominantly white, female celebrity reporters and the predominantly male Latino (both U.S.-born and Latin American-born) paparazzi of Los Angeles. My project also addresses how the rise of digital media has affected the production of the weekly magazines, specifically focusing on how the increasing importance of the magazine???s websites affects the paparazzi labor force by simultaneously increasing the demand for and disparagement of paparazzi photographers. Ultimately, this project offers new perspectives on race and gender in media industries and advances conversations about the power of cultural producers in shaping national culture and discourse. The conclusion offers an evaluation of what news and journalism mean today, as celebrity seeps into all forms of ???news??? media. Prior to pursuing my doctoral studies and beginning this research, I worked as an intern and stringer for People magazine for five years. My previous experience as a reporter provided me with a deep understanding of the inner workings of this form of media production and unique access to a group of understudied and hard-to-reach cultural producers. Grounded in a feminist, humanistic, self-critical ethnographic practice, my research considers the production and cultural implications of a form of celebrity media that I in turn help produce.