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Rethinking microcelebrity: key points in practice, performance and purpose

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Bethany UsherORCiD



This is the authors' accepted manuscript of an article that has been published in its final definitive form by Routledge, 2020.

For re-use rights please refer to the publisher's terms and conditions.


Since Terri Senft coined the term ‘microcelebrity’ a decade ago, it has become a key focus for studies of digital celebrity, describing both the ‘bottom up’ production practices of potentially billions of ‘ordinary’ people on social networks sites, and a new category for the famous. Through statistical and qualitative examination of the practices and reach of the top 20 ‘digital first talents’ represented by UK-based agency Gleam Futures and then focused analysis of the Instagram accounts of power couple Zoe Sugg and Alfie Deyes, this article offers three key ways we might ‘rethink’ microcelebrity. Firstly, that what began as a ‘prosumer’ activity in the 2000s is now a professionalised and commercialised group production practice and while microcelebrities are portrayed as symbols of individualised emancipation – building fame on their own terms and challenging the cultural hegemony of corporate media – they now work within the mainstream. Secondly, how performances across social media create sophisticated ‘repressive ambiences’ for audiences, which perpetuate consumerism as liberation through deliberately fostering parasociality with audiences and directives to emulate. Finally, how this follows similar ‘networked’ displays of other reality-based celebrities and argues for the inclusion of the term ‘applied’ celebrity as a means to understand their practices, performances and purposes.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Usher BRW

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Celebrity Studies

Year: 2020

Volume: 11

Issue: 2

Pages: 171-188

Online publication date: 15/11/2018

Acceptance date: 04/10/2018

Date deposited: 01/12/2020

ISSN (print): 1939-2397

ISSN (electronic): 1939-2400

Publisher: Routledge


DOI: 10.1080/19392397.2018.1536558


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