Since being in quarantine, my Apple-calculated screen time has shot up. Astronomically. I spend much of my day on my phone, clicking through Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and even Facebook, to some extent. I live on the internet now, in true Gen-Z form. I can confidently say I’ve seen it all on the internet, including the unexpected normalization of celebrities’ lives.
The entire world has been put on hold, the lives of the rich and famous included. While many celebrity connoisseurs have been quick to call the “average” content boring, I can’t help but disagree. I’ve become obsessed with the normal aspects of influencers’ lives: the way they cook their breakfast in the morning, how often they play with their dogs. I’ve mindlessly consumed the media they’ve produced for weeks on end now, even though their content showcases nothing fancier than my own life. There’s something so humanizing about watching my favorite stars share baking recipes that I’ve loved for years or complain about how arid the L.A. weather can get in May. Quarantine has become the great equalizer between the glamorous and the bored.
Above all others, though, there are two influencers who have consistently appeared on my Instagram explore page: Leslie Jordan and Tabitha Brown. The two of them have been providing entertainment, advice, recipes, and everything in between. I’ve seen dozens of my friends repost their content, treating Jordan and Brown as their new idols. What I find most interesting, however, is that quarantine’s royalty are gaining popularity and fame for being utterly…normal.
Fitness Fanatics and Southern Stories: The Life of Leslie Jordan
Photo by Earl Gibson III
Leslie Jordan’s popularity has been on the upswing since mid-March. His Instagram hosts videos of him talking about his life while filming projects or attending events, always speaking directly to the camera.
In that regard, his quarantine content hasn’t changed one bit, except for being stuck at home. Jordan first garnered attention after a post captioned “sex during pandemic” went viral. Jordan’s candid language and conversational discussion of a New York Times article about sex during the pandemic racked up over a million views.
His videos are interesting because they’re relatable. Jordan, aged 65, feels like a friend when he speaks to the camera. He’s got a humorous way of looking at the pandemic and conveys stories with a charming Southern accent and dramatic flair. One of the best examples of Jordan’s appeal is a post from March 29th. In the video, Jordan uses a backscratcher as a twirling baton, pretending to be a majorette. As he twirls the backscratcher and hops around on screen, he tells a story from his youth about his desire to be a majorette. I’ve rewatched the video too many times to count. Jordan’s story feels like one from my own life, a familiar narrative that I’ve experienced firsthand. His popularity during quarantine likely stems from his relatability and delivery: every video feels like a story told personally to the viewer.
America’s Virtual Mom: Tabitha Brown and TikTok Fame
Courtesy of Tabitha Brown
Tabitha Brown got her start on TikTok and amplified her following via Instagram. Her content is largely cooking-centered, with Brown offering her viewers easy recipes to use during quarantine. Similar to Jordan, her content feels familiar and friendly—almost as if your mom is giving you cooking and life advice. Brown quickly became a quarantine favorite because of her gentle and loving nature, as well as her fun catchphrases that she repeats in many of her videos.
Brown’s content has evolved since she entered the public eye. While she still produces cooking videos and offers her viewers vegan recipes to try at home, the real appeal of her content lies in her pep talks. Brown always greets the camera in a personal way, speaking to “you” individually instead of her collective 1.7 million Instagram followers. Her advice is always positive and uplifting, inspiring the viewer to relax or spread love. Brown’s messages are always delivered in a soft-spoken voice, in some instances inspiring literal tears in my eyes. She’s a regular motivational speaker from home, offering the advice that viewers would otherwise get from their family or friends.
So Why Are We So Obsessed with Lives That Could Be Our Own?
Jordan and Brown really are modern stars who don’t appear too different from normal people. Their approach to Instagram and other social media platforms is so successful because they understand how to talk to an audience without being preachy or impersonal. Jordan and Brown are realistic about their lives in quarantine—they’re honest about their boredom and candid about their imperfections.
But why are they trying so hard? Celebrity normalcy extends beyond the content of Jordan and Brown—video game days, family movie nights, massive puzzles, the list goes on. Celebrities from across the internet have utilized social media throughout quarantine, coming out in full force to showcase how normal they are…in multi-million dollar homes, no less. The world’s rich and famous have “struggled” just as much as the rest of the world, their Instagram posts say. They’ve been forced to stay inside and confine themselves to the dozens of rooms in their homes! What a shame, right?
In an attempt to normalize their image or seem more relatable to their audience, Hollywood’s elite have failed to recognize how little it all means in the grand scheme of things. Watching music stars sing “Imagine” doesn’t change the fact that the world is experiencing a pandemic. Knowing the contents of Timothée Chalamet’s fridge is nothing more than a flimsy piece of gossip, familiar as it may seem. Though the sentiment is nice, knowing celebrities want to relate to their audiences is perhaps even more alienating. The social divide between Leslie Jordan and his Instagram followers cannot be captured through his videos, but it exists. Jordan may parade around in pajamas on the internet, but he’s still living more comfortably than most of America.
In their attempt to seem normal and raise fans’ morale during this unprecedented time, celebrities have wound up vilifying themselves, to a certain extent. In a lot of ways, celebrity normalcy both is and isn’t what the world needs now. Sure, we all got some laughs out of Madonna’s quarantine diaries, but those laughs were hollow and stale, because we know that, even in quarantine, Madonna isn’t really like us. None of our favorite “normal” celebrities are.
So yes, consume their content for the entertainment it offers. I’m guilty of indulging in Brown’s pep talks constantly, but I also know that her normalcy is not my own. Try as they might, the rich and famous aren’t capable of being “normal” or not famous, trapped in their homes or not. That’s celebrity culture and the wealth divide it creates.
In this instance, normal really is boring.
By Sophia Moore