Cameo: a brief appearance to monopolize the attention
Cameo is a platform on which celebrities can sign up and decide for which price they are willing to record personalized messages, zoom meetings, or chat with their fans. The platform retains 25% of that price, and if the videos are not recorded within seven days of booking the fan is refunded. Celebrities can also decide to not record the message, if the content is offensive, or if fans ask to promote brands or specific products. Cameo managed to extract value from something that was already based on profit: a relationship between a celebrity and their fan base. Fans already felt unique and seeing by their Idol when they got an autograph or a shout out via social media. The platform is however stepping up and putting a price on that interaction.
While the end result of this additional digital labor for the celebrities is highly appreciated by their fans, there are two main elements at play: one, the bond between fan and celebrity is not only not genuine, but it is also a reason for monetary exploitation; two, the celebrities who put in this extra work for their careers do not seem enthusiastic at all, and some of the content they film seems to be rushed at best. It is worth noting that there are some good things that can come from this platform: lesser-known celebrities get to still have an income during the pandemic, and they have a higher chance to reach a younger audience to raise awareness for social issues.
The illusion of bonding with the celebrity and digital labor
Caitlyn Jenner herself admits on her Cameo profile that she had lots of people stop her on the street and ask her to record a greeting video for friends, adding that now with the help of the platform her fans have a chance to book personalized messages just for them. What she conveniently leaves out is that each booking for her videos costs a little more than 2000 pounds. With this in mind, it seems clear that there is an exploitation of something that used to be free. Additionally, the bond and perceived interconnectedness (Abidin, 2015) between fans and celebrities weren’t genuine to begin with.
Caitlyn Jenner’s videos can last as little as 20 seconds. She records from the back seat of her car, or from her sofa, directly from her phone, making the image look very poor quality. For Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend, there were “deals” on video requests, limited to 15 per celebrity who wanted to participate. These were priced from 50 to 150 dollars per video.
Putting a price tag on the face of a celebrity for such sterile content is not benefiting either fans or celebrities. Indeed, the former receive a questionable memory of their idol, the latter are overworked to the point they do not enjoy their work anymore (Jarrett, 2015, p. 5).
Abidin, C. (2015). Communicative ❤ intimacies: Influencers and perceived interconnectedness. A Journal of Gender, New Media, & Technology, 8. DOI: 10.7264/N3MW2FFG.
Clark, K. (2019, June 25). Cameo raises $50M to deliver personalized messages from celebrities & influencers. Tech Crunch. https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/25/cameo/?guccounter=1&guce_referrer=aHR0cHM6Ly93d3cuZ29vZ2xlLmNvbS8&guce_referrer_sig=AQAAAD0LidQS6I8SiCpO4toQnPAMQAM117Mj0EqoPBVt6Rll-m8Ma-NUnUDIFPMBkfZ6ZotDzNY7qWu4eIgbhVFY8OWqdO1H0MdGShuhozYOJmSE6lCCKlN3sTLZ7p1KQ_aseo48SRDMQvPgB7iATcPhpkKsQC9fQAVH_FOcV_ZZXxpN.
Cullen, J., & Heck, S. (2020, February 27). Cameo is weirder than anyone expected. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2020/02/cameo-and-meaning-modern-celebrity/607096/.
Jarrett, K. (2015). Feminism, labour and digital media: The digital houswife. Routledge.