It's tough to be a diva these days

Attention grabbing outfits are but one of the things female celebrities like Katy Perry have to keep fresh to remain valid in a new landscape of flighty fans. Photo /  Greg Bowker
Attention grabbing outfits are but one of the things female celebrities like Katy Perry have to keep fresh to remain valid in a new landscape of flighty fans. Photo / Greg Bowker

Cher never did it. Neither did Beyonce nor Britney.

Katy Perry changed outfits eight times during just one song on her current concert tour.

That may sound excessive, but what concertgoers see when Perry performs Hot N Cold, illustrates how hard it is to be a music diva these days. You have to get the attention of the media as often as you can. New hairdo, new tweet, new drama.

Diana Ross, Madonna and Mariah Carey never had it like this.

"When Lady Gaga's record came out and she was doing TV all over the world, I would say it's five times more than Madonna did," said publicist-to-the-stars Liz Rosenberg, who has represented Madonna forever and Cher for the past 12 years. "If they're not saying 'You're overexposed', then you're not doing your job."

The attention span of fans in this ADD-like pop world demands something new constantly. The attitude of music lovers can be summed up in a song by another vintage diva: Janet Jackson's What Have You Done for Me Lately?

Perry seems to release a new single every five weeks. Jennifer Lopez zoomed up the charts with On the Floor in May, then disappeared as soon as American Idol went off the air. After three number one up-tempo hits, Rihanna released a so-so ballad, and suddenly Nicki Minaj has replaced her in the hearts of dance-pop fans.

"The appetite is insatiable," said Rosenberg, just back in New York after a trip to Sturgis, South Dakota, with client Stevie Nicks.

When Madonna was starting out in the early 1980s, Rosenberg had just a few targets: Rolling Stone, MTV, Entertainment Tonight, major newspapers, key radio stations and maybe People magazine. Nowadays, PR involves maintaining a website and Facebook pages, posting regular tweets, singing on TV - morning shows sell albums, late-night shows add cachet - getting plugs on such sites as Perez Hilton and TMZ, scoring magazine features in the likes of Cosmopolitan and InStyle, and walking the red carpet at endless award shows and movie premieres.

Rising R&B star Keri Hilson fondly remembers what it was like to be a fan of Janet Jackson or Whitney Houston and have them disappear between album projects.

"I loved when you missed an artist and when they re-emerged, you saw changes," Hilson said. "But now you don't really recognise the changes because you see them every day."

The only change may be a new look for the next media opportunity.

You need to be on all the time

These days, there are media opportunities around the clock, whether the stars want them or not.

Step out of the house, paparazzi will capture the moment. Go to the convenience store, a fan will snap your photo with a mobile phone. Make a scene at a nightclub, someone will post it on YouTube.

"Who wants to be on 24/7?" asked radio personality Julia Cobbs, who dishes daily about celebs on Lori & Julia on the Twin Cities station MyTalk. "They make gobs and gobs more money today but they're losing their privacy."

"There is no privacy," interjected Lori Barghini, Cobbs' radio partner. "Look at Cher. She has embraced Twitter like a 21-year-old."

Longtime country queen Reba McEntire, who has scored a number one Nashville song in each of the past four decades, knows the landscape isn't the same anymore.

"It's unfortunate," she said. "You need to be on all the time. No matter where you go, you're (fair) game. If you're business-savvy, you'll look presentable. There's not a day I walk out of the house without my make-up on and looking decent. We all want press, but we want good press, too."

Enter what Rosenberg calls the Glam Squad: the team of hairstylist, make-up artist, wardrobe stylist and dresser that's now part of the retinue of an all-day diva. Madonna never needed this much attention except on days when she was shooting a video - and that was in the privacy of a soundstage.

"It's way more extreme than it used to be on the wardrobe part," Rosenberg said. Some divas work directly with couture designers; some have stylists who pick out their clothes.

Some, including Dolly Parton, even have assistants who send out tweets for them.

Any way you look at it, "fans expect much more", Rosenberg says. "They used to just expect a great record and maybe a little press."

Lady Gaga is the master of the media moment. For her, every appearance is a performance - whether it's arriving at the Grammys red carpet riding in an egg, wearing a dress made of raw meat on the MTV awards or being interviewed on 60 Minutes.

As gossip-loving radio host Cobbs puts it: "Lady Gaga dresses for Halloween every day - sometimes three Halloweens in one day."

Visuals aren't the only way to get attention. Drama has fuelled fan interest going back to the advent of movie magazines in the silent-film era. Britney Spears' continuing episodes - her shaved head, weight issues and battle for the custody of her kids and her finances - have made her one of the most Googled stars. Taylor Swift's dust-up with Kanye West on the MTV awards and her romances with a string of older men, including Jake Gyllenhaal, elevated her from a teen sensation to a household name.

"The revelation of a lot of their lives is amped up these days," Rosenberg observed.

Drama, though, doesn't always equate with commercial success, she says.

In 2011, success is defined differently from how it was in Madonna's heyday. Album sales aren't what they used to be, though being number one on Billboard's charts is still prestigious. Selling out concert tours still matters. But winning in today's pop world also includes two new measures - Facebook fans and Twitter followers.

- AAP

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