The compulcelebrity effect: upmarket chef proprietors and compulsory celebrity
Wright, Scott Douglas
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Using an inductive grounded theory methodology this research, congruent to grounded theories’ intent, presents the development of a substantive theory of compulcelebrity. Coined by the author, the term ‘compulcelebrity’ is the compulsory acquisition of celebrity by individuals who, through entry and exposure to the conditions within their environment, become compelled to attain celebrity status. In the case of this research, the environment in question is that of upmarket chef proprietors (UCPs). Compulcelebrity was evident within the environment of UCPs as research participants discussed their actions, understandings and feelings as they denied their celebrity, admitted their celebrity, desired celebrity, used their knowledge to generate celebrity, arranged media participation at their opening events, admitted a financial need for celebrity, accepted the rewards of celebrity and, through the integration of celebrity duties into their everyday life, accepted and reinforced a celebrity norm. Compulcelebrity derived from, and was illuminated by, research participants’ own descriptions of UCPs in situ, their celebrification, and of their celebrity as a fait accompli. Research participants discussed compulcelebrity predominantly through the narrative identifier of ‘chef’. Thus, although UCPs acknowledged the need for synthesis between their celebrity activities and their restaurants, it was through their identity as chefs, and the culinary content they could provide, that they felt the media was interested in them. The interest from the media in UCPs further reinforced the connection between themselves, the media, the celebrity chef phenomena, and the celebrity industry. Furthermore, public interest in culinary content has created a demand for UCPs as celebrity figures which, in conjunction with their need for visibility and the media’s demand for legitimate content, has resulted in UCPs’ exposure to compulcelebrity.