At the start of her career, Rosie O’Donnell probably never dreamed she’d have her own TV talk show, but she did. And with Oprah Winfrey’s landmark show ending next year, a new Rosie show is being positioned to take over from Oprah as the preeminent daytime talk show. Rosie’s success in the entertainment industry is a lesson to everyone with aspirations to become a celebrity themselves.
My point is that just about anyone can become a celebrity if they have an expertise and a passion to match it. The important thing is to be flexible, persistent and watchful for opportunities that can be parlayed into forward motion down the path to achieving fame as an expert in your own field.
In today’s celebrity-driven culture, there are plenty of opportunities for people in just about every profession to become celebrities within their fields, and then go beyond. There was no way of knowing 20 years ago that today we’d have reality TV shows featuring celebrity chefs and hairstylists, celebrity interior designers and financial advisors. We even have a celebrity dog trainer, Cesar Milano, who has his own cable TV show, The Dog Whisperer.
Rosie O’Donnell’s career path is an example of that phenomenon. In the late ’70s and early ’80s, Rosie was a fixture on the comedy club circuit, until Ed McMahon’s daughter caught her act and got her booked on Star Search, where she was a winner 5 weeks in a row. From there she got a recurring role on Nell Carter’s TV sitcom Gimme a Break! and when that was cancelled a year later, she was hired as a VJ for VH-1. Nowhere in that pedigree did it indicate she’d have had the career in movies and talk shows that she’s had, and she wouldn’t have guessed that a couple of decades later she’d be teed up to replace the most successful daytime talk show franchise in history.
Many celebrities like Rosie and celebrity experts like Rachel Ray all started out with media opportunities that are very different from where they are today. It’s not like they woke up one morning and had their own TV shows. It was a progression, and the underlying thread was to keep building their platform and getting exposure, no matter where they got it. Rosie had always gravitated toward hosting her own show, but she had to start on the comedy circuit and sitcoms. Rachel was working the candy counter at Macy’s when she started doing cooking segments on local TV based on her having written a cookbook. The key thing is that when the media called, they answered.
The lesson is clear – find your passion, find your expertise, and get out there, no matter whether the opportunity before you seems like a perfect fit. Speaking engagements at the local Kiwanis Club can be just as rewarding as talking to an industry group. Co-hosting a pledge drive for the local public television station is just as valid as being a serious news source for a national newspaper. The key is to understand that no matter the twists and turns on your journey, exposure is paramount in getting to your final destination.