Celebrities are just that.
Some are vacuous, attention-seeking souls whose rise to the entertainment pages of Hello seems to bear little justification beyond a night shooting darts with Ryan Giggs or downing highballs with De Niro. Others genuinely deserve their fame. Regardless, over exposure has left much of the general public jaded.
But in Vietnam, a country that has yet to develop the culture of stardom so prevalent in the west, the arrival of a household name can ruffle more that just a few feathers.
Cue — centre stage — Tyra Banks. Along with Mark Zuckerberg, the Jolie Pitt entourage, a couple of American presidents, The Duke of York and Donald Trump, she's one of the few genuine international household names to make it to Vietnam. The result was that a far larger number of viewers watched the three-hour long final of Vietnam's Top Model, the local version of Tyra’s franchise, than would have done otherwise. For a show dogged by widespread criticism this was a feat. But that was the whole idea.
Talking the Talk
Press conferences overseas tend to be a free-for-all. Manchester United manager, Sir Alex Ferguson, for example, will take all job-related questions and will deal with them as best as possible. Sometimes he is eminently quotable, sometimes he responds with psycho-babble, sometimes he refuses to answer. But unless the questions pertain to anything outside the realm of football, there are no boundaries to what can or cannot be asked.
At the press conference in Vietnam, though, the questions were vetted. Nothing too controversial.
Fortunately, Tyra’s answers proved herself to be worthy of stardom.
“It's not about being the best looking,” she explained about becoming a successful model. “You have to treat it like a business.”
She added: “My mum always told me you have to think about the end at the beginning… The idea is to leave the industry before the phone starts ringing.”
But more important for a country like Vietnam, where the models typically lack curves: “We want to expand the definition of beauty... I like atypical beauty.”
Ok. At the end of the day, it’s Tyra Banks. Who cares? She’s just a human being with normal bodily functions like the rest of us. But except for Miss Universe a few years ago, this is the first time an overseas celebrity has flown into Vietnam specifically to appear on Vietnamese TV. It’s big.
Vietnam is an ambitious country and desperately wants to be recognised on the world stage. And yet, despite talk of the booming economy, it gets overlooked when the stars come to Southeast Asia.
Banks coming here is a milestone. It says that this country is elevated enough in the supermodel’s esteem to be worthy of a high profile trip. More importantly it’s a mark of where Vietnam is on the development scale. And as the country’s fortunes continue to improve, so more household names will make it over here. Let’s just hope they’ve got something to say for themselves and aren’t the mindless, self-seeking idiots who make it into Hello.