June 28, 2009

The Mother Of Invention Is Reinvention

From the first pilgrims who came to practice their “reinvented” religion free from persecution to the undocumented immigrants who now wander like Moses across the desert of opportunity in search of an economic Promised Land, Americans of all ages have always believed in the prospect -alas, the right – to reinvent their lives in whatever idiosyncratic ways they choose, a trait that, ironically, has come to define the core of our celebrities and icons.

When it comes to controversy and pushing the envelope, no two people measure up more than the “Material Girl” Madonna and Janet Jackson. Their fans have argued for years over which one sends more shock waves and which is the more valid artist. The truth is, neither one has the singing chops of Barbra Streisand or the dance moves of Fred Astaire, but their ability to reinvent themselves has made them permanent fixtures in the music industry. With energy, hard work, and the ability to drop jaws, these provocative powerhouses have already become entertainment icons and it’s anyone’s guess as to what else they have up their sleeves.

So what is it that makes it possible for some “celebs” to be the rubber that everything bounces off of and others the glue that ends up tarring and feathering them. Why hasn’t the Crow known as Russell fallen from grace for his violent outburst (allegedly throwing a telephone at the head of a hotel clerk) while others end up being one-hit wonders on Bravo doing reality TV with wife and child.

Almost all celebrities express a feeling of invincibility and the ability to compose their lives, to reinvent the person they were to that which they feel they now need or want to be, and some achieve it several times over.

It is an ethic the Founding Fathers embedded in the Constitution, where before they declared our right to pray and say what we like (they had to amend it to do that), ensured that we could declare bankruptcy and start anew without fear of going to debtors’ prison. To be sure, while we like to boast that ours is the land of opportunity; it’s probably more accurate to call it the land of reinvention.

But in the rush to reinvent, many celebrities may lose perspective on where they have come from – sometimes rewriting history itself. This is where I think we can separate the winners from the losers in this game of illusion and disillusion.

No mater how many times celebrities nip, tuck, lift, or flatten, despite admissions of child abuse, multiple personalities, tirades against psychology, and conversations with aliens, the gems in the rough that always seem to sparkle are those who stay grounded in a sense of who they are.

Take for instance Paula Abdul of 80s MTV video fame. It might have taken a decade or two, but she is back and she continues to be the powerhouse she was as a dancer, but now she takes on the likes of the press and “Simon” with the grace she showed on the dance floor.

One of the newest and most delightful reinventions is Teri Hatcher, of Desperate Housewife fame. As Lois Lane in the “New Superman” she was strong but vulnerable, quirky, but smart and on Wisteria Lane she has aged with grace and allowed herself to be the clumsy mom who is not afraid to call herself a “dork” publicly.

From Martha Stewart who would not know a good thing if it bit her in the ankle (above her house arrest bracelet) to “J Lo” who was and never will be “Jenny from the Block” with her Prada this and Gucci that, one must also admit with enough money, a thick skin, and PR machine behind, anything is possible.

In fact, you can even be a debutante of high society who made a porn movie, sued the man who taped it and then was photographed buying multiple copies in a sleazy adult book bookstore and still end up smelling like roses, or in this case like “Paris.”

Tinsel town has come along way since Plymouth Rock, but the natives are still restless and waiting for the next mythical Phoenix to rise from the ashes of the red carpet.

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