By EMILY HEIST MOSS
Angelina Jolie Had Breast Removal Surgery. Christine Quinn Opens Up About Her Struggles with Bulimia and Alcoholism. Gwyneth Paltrow Discusses Miscarriage Trauma.
Catherine Zeta-Jones Battling Bipolar Disorder. Ashley Judd Reveals Troubled Childhood and Sexual Abuse. Beyonce Opens Up About Miscarriage. These are not your run-of-the-mill celebrity headlines. These are some seriously personal stories about issues that are often covered up or hidden behind glossy photos and fluff pieces and they’re coming from our biggest stars.
Jewel tones, pixie cuts, an obsession with nude overlays and oddly placed cut-outs. Selfies with their pets, sex tapes, fundraising their next projects through Kickstarter. Rather than sartorial choices or social media strategies, the celebrity trend du jour is a bit more controversial. With the platforms they’ve built, famous folk are using their megaphones to talk about some heavy stuff. What should we make of this move past the overshare—where stars wax their legs or shampoo their poodles—and into the megashare?
Over the last decade or two, with the rise of reality TV and ever increasing accessibility to our favourite stars through Twitter and the like, we have come to expect to know everything about them. And yet, there are still some things we are surprised to find out. Are celebrities who share their medical, emotional, and psychological histories just playing to what their adoring fans are constantly demanding?
Are they merely trading the most extreme confessions they have to sell more books, acquire more followers, drive box office numbers, make magazines fly off the shelves? Or, as many of them claim, are their confessions a form of public service announcement? Are they doing what any of us might do with such a platform, and trying to shine a spotlight on issues oft suffered in silence? Can it be both?
As I am sure you are shocked to know, I tend to skew toward the oversharing side of the privacy spectrum. For one thing, I write openly about some intimate stuff on the Internet, but if you meet me, you’ll find there’s little I’m not willing to share in “real” life, too.
It’s not just self-absorption that leads me to offer my stories and pry into other people’s, I really do believe there’s value in experience-sharing. The hardest parts of being human—illness, fear, grief, insecurity, disappointment—are often the loneliest parts.
For me, the give and take of oversharing is the first line of defense against feeling adrift in the world. You are never the first to have suffered what you are suffering, to have pondered what you are pondering, to have cried over what you are crying over. If others have found paths through, you can too.
Celebrities are in the unique position of possessing giant megaphones and the brightest of spotlights. As many have pointed out, Angelina Jolie’s New York Times editorial about her family history of breast cancer and her subsequent medical decisions does more for the conversation about breast cancer prevention and treatment than millions of dollars of pink ribbon advertising.
If you think breast cancer could use more discussion (debatable, given that the pink ribbon campaign makes breast cancer an illness that decidedly doesn’t have an awareness problem), you could hope for no better instigator than an Angelina Jolie editorial.
Can it truly help people to hear about their celebrity crushes suffering from the diseases and dysfunction of mere mortals? In her People magazine cover story about her bipolar disorder, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones said, “This is a disorder that affects millions of people and I am one of them. If my revelation of having bipolar II has encouraged one person to seek help, then it is worth it. There is no need to suffer silently and there is no shame in seeking help.” New York mayoral candidate Christine Quinn reached out to The New York Times to share her history with bulimia and alcoholism and said, “I just want people to know you can get through stuff.”