WOULD MOTHER TERESA'S CELEBRITY BRAND SLAY IN 2017?
I was raised Catholic, Irish Catholic. When I attended Catholic grade school back in the early '80s, Mother Teresa was Numero Uno on my school’s celebrity A-List. Seriously, she was as hot as Brooke Shields, Valley Girl and the Go-Gos. Anyone following her meteoric rise to fame knew that once dead, she would be fast-tracked to induction into the Roman Catholic Hall of Fame (a.k.a. Sainthood). Living in abject poverty caring for Lepers —LEPERS—she never even lost a body part! Even more impressive, Mother Teresa achieved this level of stardom back when the only mass media platforms included print journalism, network news, and Sunday Mass bulletins. She was a living, breathing, mother-touching miracle. The first celebrity nun!
Like many Catholic school girls at that time, I wanted to be a nun when I grew up. But not just any nun, I wanted to be a hallowed goddess like Mother Teresa. The nuns at my school taught us all about the saints and their sacrifices. Each saint we studied provided me with a road map to my ultimate goal—eternal celebrity. I wanted it all: Jesus inspired sacrifices, Virgin Mary visions, and direct conversations with God. So serious about my path to religious glory, I regularly led my girlfriends in prayer in front of a life-sized Virgin Mary statue hoping to achieve the Stigmata (that’s the wounds of Christ for all you Philistines out there). The convent seemed like an appropriate and necessary step toward achieving my goal.
Then I reached puberty. In eighth grade I flipped from saint wannabe to Spin-the-Bottle addict. In other words, I no longer wanted to be a nun because I finally realized what “none” meant. But I can’t help but wonder: would Mother Teresa’s celebrity brand survive in today’s culture? If alive today, could Mother Teresa dominate the headlines like she did in the 20th Century? Would modern girls want to grow up to become a celebrity nun? After analyzing the essential components of modern female/female-identifying celebrity, I discovered four fundamental categories: fashion, squad, romance and social media presence. Comparing Mother Teresa to modern celebrities within these categories might answer my questions about her potential for 21st Century relevance.
Nobody grabs attention in the fashion category better than Lady Gaga. For the better part of the last decade, Lady Gaga has shocked the world with her outrageous, headline-grabbing fashion choices. From her “Sea Urchin” outfit to the infamous “Meat Dress,” Lady Gaga elevated surf and turf to high fashion. Scratching our heads, we can’t wait to see what she will do next. But do not underestimate the power of the habit. Consider this: to this day, Mother Teresa is the only woman in history who regularly appeared in the press wearing the exact same outfit without being ridiculed once. Not ONCE! It should also be noted that despite regular journeys through poverty stricken slums, Mama T consistently maintained a crisp, white frock. Unfortunately though, an absence of ridicule is not necessarily a useful asset in today’s celebrity culture.
WINNER: Lady Gaga
The top celebrity squad leader right now is Taylor Swift and her squad crushes all others. It is the modern equivalent of Jesus and his Twelve Apostles. With members Gigi Hadid, Selena Gomez, Karlie Kloss and a whole bunch of people whose names I don’t even know, it makes every single millennial on this planet salivate with envy. They are all so damn sparkly and pretty. I think Jesus himself would have wanted in. Mother Teresa totally fails this category. She hung out with nuns and poor people.
WINNER: No contest, squad win goes to T Swizzle.
Anyone who has not been living in a cave for the last nine years knows that Beyonce and Jay Z are the A-List celebrity “It” couple. With the release of Beyonce’s Lemonade, we mortals caught a glimpse into the emotional wreckage caused by Jay Z’s astounding infidelity and Queen B’s remarkable recovery. A journey to recovery that would leave most of us drowning in gallons of Ben & Jerry’s inspired Bey to take life’s lemons and…okay you get the picture. So how can Mother Teresa compete as a nun in the romance category you may ask? Well, Beyonce is married to Jay Z; Mama T was married to J. C. That’s Jesus Christ (or “JESUS H. CHRIST!!!” as my father called him in my house when someone really pissed him off). Jesus Christ and Mother Teresa had one very hot (albeit chaste) romance. Even more dramatic, theirs was an open marriage in which Mother Teresa not only tolerated but encouraged other men and women to establish intimacy with Jesus in their hearts. Woah, right?!? Still, without an album, a video, and a “Becky with the good hair”, Mother Teresa simply cannot compete with Queen B.
With one category left, things are not looking so good for Mother Teresa. Right off the bat, Mother Teresa suffers a huge disadvantage in the social media category. Not only was social media not a “thing” during her lifetime, but it is doubtful she would have stopped cleaning wounds and spoon-feeding the sick to tap out a witty tweet. So for this celebrity category, it is necessary to begin by highlighting some of Mother Teresa’s famous quotes that easily fit into 140 characters. Potential tweets include following:
“If you judge people, you have no time to love them.”
“Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one come to you without leaving happier.”
“Never worry about #s. Help 1 person @ a time & always start with person nearest u.”
One of today’s most followed Twitter celebrities is Kim Kardashian West. With over 52 million followers hanging on her every character, can Mama T compete? Below are some of Kardashian West’s notable tweets:
“The flu can be an amazing diet. So happy it came in time for the Met. LOL #6lbs down.”
“Have you ever thought someone was kinda cool, liked their vibe, then saw their tweets and realized they are so lame? LOL.”
“Ate a bite of salad & an olive was in it.I liked it but scares me bc I hate olives!Hope my taste isn’t changing. I don’t wanna like olives.”
Diets, lame tweets and olives are way sexier than suspended judgement and charitable love. WINNER: Kim Kardashian West.
In today’s world, it appears there would be little interest in a celebrity nun. Sorry Mama T, your relevance today would be nil. Thank God your timing was perfect.