I think lots of people have always wanted to be "well known" as well as be popular. It's the old thought of being a "somebody" versus being a "nobody". Famous people in our society are often given the "royal treatment". They're also granted more access to opportunities socially and financially than "unknown" people.
The driving force today that has taken becoming famous from a dream to a reality has been the advent of social media. YouTube videos have launched careers! Once a video goes "viral" it's posted online on various sites and is often shown on shows like "Good Morning America" or "The Today Show". An agent or manager might like what they see and the next thing you know the ball is rolling.
Awhile back the big thing was creating a good looking "MySpace" page and then later it was about collecting as many Facebook friends as possible, Twitter followers, Instagram, and LinkedIn connections. The Internet has made it much more possible for an unknown person to become known. Becoming famous for a lot of people is right up there with winning the lottery!