Home Blog Taylor Swift, Prince Harry, more are choosing authenticity. Here's why – USA TODAY

Taylor Swift, Prince Harry, more are choosing authenticity. Here's why – USA TODAY


Gone are the days of picture-perfect poise and larger-than-life mystique. Stars are making an art of authenticity.
Prince Harry captivated readers with his brutally honest memoir “Spare,” which sold more than 3.2 million copies in its first week. Actress and singer Selena Gomez pulled back the curtain on her mental health journey in the Apple TV+ documentary “My Mind and Me,” earning critical acclaim with a score of 97% on Rotten Tomatoes.
And let’s not forget about pop titan Taylor Swift, who launched the campaign for her latest album “Midnights” with lead single “Anti-Hero,” an unapologetic anthem of self-loathing that peaked at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks straight.
“This song really is a real guided tour throughout all of the things I tend to hate about myself,” Swift said of “Anti-Hero” on Instagram in October. “It’s all of those aspects of the things we dislike and like about ourselves that we have to come to terms with if we’re going to be this person. I think it’s really honest.”
While stars have let fans behind the velvet rope with revealing works in the past, celebrity candor has reached new heights. This frankness has been supported, in part, by an increasingly open media, says Sonya Dal Cin, professor of communication and media at the University of Michigan.
“Our current media environment seems to have made more space for certain types of issues to be disclosed without the concerns about backlash that existed in prior eras,” Dal Cin says. “Fifty years ago, celebrities may not have disclosed certain things about themselves because they or their team were concerned that it would adversely affect them in terms of their career, and that seems to be less of a concern now.”
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Singer and actress Dove Cameron opened up about her struggles with depression and dysphoria in a May Instagram post, sharing a string of teary selfies and an emotional caption.
“We all deserve to unlearn self abuse and self hatred. I am on that journey now,” Cameron wrote. “I’m sharing so that we may all feel more comfortable in a conversation that may be confusing, and we may navigate something that feels difficult to put to words, together.”
Minji Kim, assistant professor of communication at Flagler College, says a broader shift in social media use toward self-affirmation, being more attentive to “how we perceive our own self,” has allowed for a greater level of authenticity that can also be seen among celebrities.
“Because people are now using different social media platforms and they are not following other people’s expectations anymore, but focusing more on themselves and their beliefs or values, they are expressing more of themselves,” Kim says.
Kim also says Gen Zers as a whole are more “self-focused” in how they share their self-expression with others, inspiring their Millennial counterparts to “follow up on the trend of revealing oneself authentically” in the process.
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And when it comes to stars’ revelations, the vulnerability of these self-expressions can create a relatability that speaks to others, Dal Cin says.
“There are many (celebrities) who have been very open about challenges or difficulties that they’ve encountered, and the style of communication often feels more intimate, as if one is getting the sense of peeling back the curtain,” Dal Cin says. “There is something that the public responds to with that sense that you are seeing the inner lives of celebrities.”
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During the world premiere of Gomez’s documentary “My Mind and Me,” Gomez said she hopes the film starts “a chain reaction of people” opening up about their mental health.
“I’m not going to lie and say maybe there were a few moments that weren’t scary to offer,” Gomez said. “So, I kind of used myself as a sacrifice in order for people to have the hard conversations.”
Clinical psychologist Paula Durlofsky, author of “Logged In and Stressed Out,” says many mental health discussions and services have “transferred to online or virtual interactions” since the coronavirus pandemic, and this influence can be seen in this recent wave of authentic content.
“People are talking about feeling anxious and depression, talking about their mental health or family conflicts and dynamics in very open and raw ways,” Durlofsky says. “It’s very good when a celebrity can share and talk about their mental health and raise and elevate that discussion, so other people don’t feel as alone.”
A post shared by Selena Gomez (@selenagomez)
Dal Cin says public disclosures about mental health can inspire people “to seek information” about certain health issues and “sometimes to even seek help or treatment.”
“The fact is that there are things in our society that are stigmatized, and sometimes that stigma is counterproductive to people’s well-being, to alleviating the problems that exist,” Dal Cin says. “Celebrities sharing their own experiences can sometimes be beneficial because by talking about (issues), we make it OK to talk about it.”
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When it comes to the staying power of increased authenticity, Kim says the future is unclear because authenticity isn’t always clearly defined among the public. Take, for example, the TikTok dance challenge for the Meghan Trainor hit “Made You Look,” a song whose lyrics emphasize natural beauty.
“(The challenge) started with people with natural looks, with no fancy background or outfit or makeup, just emphasizing the core message that we all are beautiful as we are,” Kim says, noting that the trend has changed. “It gets fancier, and only those people who can afford and already have Gucci, Louis Vuitton and Versace outfits could film the dance video, and they show off their looks.”
Another limitation to authenticity is that “unfiltered” content is hard to come by in mass media, Dal Cin says, especially when the honesty in media products is subjected to rigorous review prior to release.
“There is this tension between the appearance of intimacy and the actual honest disclosure by the celebrity,” Dal Cin says.
Durlofsky says this “movement of authenticity” needs to progress past its media and online forms in order to have true effectiveness, especially when it comes to any mental health benefits.
“The authenticity needs to be broadened into one’s real life – practiced and developed with our real-life relationships,” Durlofsky says.
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