Monday, February 1, 2016

Supplemental Response #3: Sia & Privacy in the 21st Century

Yesterday, The Guardian released an article about the singer Sia with a prominent quote: "Everyone in entertainment is insecure. We've been dancing our entire lives for your approval."(link: http://www.theguardian.com/music/2016/jan/31/sia-everyone-in-entertainment-is-insecure-observer-music-interview) While the article discusses Sia's development within the entertainment industry in light of her recent album release This Is Acting, it begins with and continuously returns to her choice of always performing while obscuring her face. Rather than dance herself, she often chooses to have others dance while she signs along in the background. Sia has chosen wigs, paint, costumes and the faces of others to obscure and hide her own presence, a practice that has also been captured by the Guardian in photographs (link: http://www.theguardian.com/music/gallery/2014/jul/07/sia-1000-forms-fear-faceless-performance?view=desktop). It is interesting that in an age where stars keep displaying every facet of their life on social media, however polished it may be, Sia has attempted to and succeeded in maintaining a fairly low visual profile. Although her name is familiar to many, I had to Google Image her to get an idea of her face. I was unsure whether such photos would even be available, and was pleased to find a few photos of a regular, smiling face.

Privacy seems like an underrated currency these days, with teenagers who have grown up with social media more than happy to plaster their image all over the internet. Nowadays we don't even hear warnings from websites aimed at children to "ask their parents" before they log on and sign up, nor are there as many after school specials about the dangers of releasing your information. On the contrary, more and more often we hear stories about Vine Stars who have become Pop Stars, YouTube Stars who became Best-Selling Authors. This encourages young wannabe famous people to begin sharing their lives young, in order to accrue viewers and subscribers to one day catapult themselves into even bigger fame.

Even if famous people didn't want to be plastered all over the internet, it's likely they still would. Paparazzi follows every Kardashian or Miley Cyrus known to lead to sold photographs and greater viewership. Once a person reaches a certain level of fame and notoriety, it's assumed and usually inevitable that they will be in the public eye if they are successful enough; it might even be preferably to these people to display their lives on their own terms through social media rather than allow the paparazzi to do so. It also knocks out two birds with one stone for certain types like the Kardashians: they feed into the frenzy of their personas and brands while crafting their own image.

Yet Sia not only has avoided much of the media frenzy around her but does not want it at all. The media even seems to humor her as Rolling Stone released a cover of her with a paper bag over her face and the Guardian whites about her without displaying an available picture of her face. It makes me wonder whether it might even be part of some sort of contract she makes magazines and journals sign in order not to have her face released.

Of course, in the cynical 21st century the move seems to preserve her privacy as much as it seems to promote her image in some way. Her usage of wigs and paint and other famous faces become an undeniable part of a performance, a part of 'the dance' she mentions above, very appropriate for her album name of "This Is Acting". The myth of Sia is created, unlike other celebrities known to enjoy privacy who still show their face every once in a while, like Adele. Obscurity earns her equal fame to overexposure, if not more due to its curious and rare nature in these times. It becomes a win-win, as her fame increases while she's able to step outside without thousands of fans hoarding her as she goes by unseen.

It's the sort of privilege that one would think more famous people might enjoy, but maybe the ego and need for public adoration speak louder than the need for privacy in many people.

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