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Of Glamour and Politics

Updated on February 13, 2009
The Rockstar
The Rockstar

The Cult of Celebrity in Politics has slowly but surely come into being! There was a time when politics was a category unto itself with politicians well..sort of stubby, portly and not so well endowed looks wise!

One of the first politicians who had the movie star looks was John Kennedy, then along came Bill Clinton .Between the Kennedy and Clinton period, glamour and politics started merging, with movie stars running for elective office and winning! No doubt it is because of their mass appeal and huge fan following!

Ronald Reagan and Rajiv Gandhi

Rajiv's son Rahul Gandhi
Rajiv's son Rahul Gandhi
Mentor and Protégée -MGR and  Jayalaitha
Mentor and Protégée -MGR and Jayalaitha

What better example can we quote other than Ronald Reagan who was the 40th US President? The other notable movie star turned politician is governor Arnold Schwarzenegger with Clint Eastwood playing a lesser political role.

On par with the movie stars, the current charismatic US president is known as “Rockstar’ Obama, for his ability to pull in huge crowds because of his magnetic presence and oratory skills! On the other hand, political parties do use celebrity film stars as brand endorsements during election campaigns!

Closer home, here in India, after decades of old drab politicians (apart from Indira Gandhi) we had a young and charismatic, Oxford product Rajiv Gandhi as Prime Minister about the time when Ronald Reagan was the President in USA. In fact, I was in US, way back when Rajiv Gandhi and his wife Sonia had just ended their official US trip and hence, I was pleasantly surprised when I was accosted at various Malls and other places with a, ‘You are from India? You have a handsome Prime minister!’ Unfortunately Rajiv was later assassinated by the Sri Lankan terrorists but now, Rajiv’s handsome son Rahul, slated to be our future Prime Minister leads the Congress party along with his mother Sonia Gandhi.

Jayalaitha - the Glamour Doll
Jayalaitha - the Glamour Doll
The Iron Lady and 'Amma'
The Iron Lady and 'Amma'

Perhaps the first Indian movie star to enter the political domain, storm the elections and come to power as the chief minister of the state was a south Indian matinee idol called MGR. He remained in office for about a decade till his death, during which period he groomed his co-star and protégée Jayalalitha into politics, who proved her political mettle by being elected as the chief minister of that state in early 90s. She is known as the Iron Lady and ‘Amma’ meaning mother!

Following the footsteps of these two stars, another movie legend NT Rama Rao from a neighboring state, known as the blue Lord, for donning the role of a God with blue face and other mythological roles in many movies, swept the elections and came to power in that state!

The Blue Lord
The Blue Lord
Dev Anand -The Indian Gregory Peck
Dev Anand -The Indian Gregory Peck
Ilona Staller-the porn star turned politician
Ilona Staller-the porn star turned politician

Other Indian celebrity stars like Amitabh and Dev Anand (the Indian version of Gregory Peak) had short stints at politics only to abandon it and return solely to acting! Subsequently many Indian movie stars have turned to politics as the booming film industry seems to be a fertile ground for launching political careers. It is a bit difficult to believe that the stars join the political foray driven by a desire to serve society - power seems more likely to be the incentive criterions!

In other international snippets, Joseph Estrada , the megastar of the Filipino film industry, became the 13th President of Philippines in late 90s. In Poland the famous twin brothers Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski of ‘A Couple that Stole the Moon’ fame contested to become the President and Prime minister of their country, but then, though they lost the elections they are still in active politics. Should we mention Ilona Staller, the porn star who turned politician in Italy? So much so for role models! Furthermore, the dividing line between politics and movies have blurred with politicians like Senator Fred Thompson taking to playing fictional characters on television shows!

We can possibly assume that Princess Diana with her royal star status started the Celebrity humanitarianism trend! Her campaigns against landmines and global poverty, created an impact. Now, the list of celebrity rock stars, musicians, actors and celebrity sports idols campaigning to raise money or create awareness for various relevant issues and causes are endless! There have been many awesome shows and concerts for humanitarian causes but the recording of the song ‘We are the world’ by a super group of popular musicians billed as USA for Africa was truly overwhelming!

I love this quote by Ronald Reagan, 'Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.' Very true!

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    • Keepitsimple profile image

      Keepitsimple 8 years ago from Pune, India

      very well written laila... you have presented things with so much perfection..!!!

    • countrywomen profile image

      countrywomen 8 years ago from Washington, USA

      Actually judging someone by "looks" is pretty deep rooted throughout human history. If one goes by the tales of Cleopatra or Rani Padmini known as the "Indian Helen" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rani_Padmini) or Helen who was known as "the face that could launch a thousand ships".

      Last summer there was a very good looking girl who was just smiling at certain questions or was trying to be evasive.  My other work colleague preferred her over the other guy who was answering most of the questions appropriately.  I gave a very honest feedback and my manager didn't hire her. But if all the guys who were just going to look at her blond looks and be impressed by her looks then we would have had to hire another guy to do the work. In certain roles like PR or Communications one needs such folks who look good and communicate but in programing roles they aren't such a good fit.

      I can understand in Mass media roles like politicians where charisma and public speaking are required then actors who have to rehearse their lines and know how to present themselves may also do well as politicians provided they have enough able counsel (those who fill them with the important content/subject details) then they maybe successful in the new role. Thumbs up for a  good thought provoking hub.

    • hilltrekker profile image

      hilltrekker 8 years ago

      Lovely pics and interesting hub!

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
      Author

      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Hi..Cris..Hybrid?LOL! Bull's eye..yes..here too they have become a hybrid!:)

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
      Author

      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Hi Siddsingh..exactly my sentiments!I'm all for ..to sticking to ones own profession!Celebrity humanitarianism is really awesome and to be appreciated but then,not jumping to politics!:)

    • Cris A profile image

      Cris A 8 years ago from Manila, Philippines

      Hey Laila

      You only need to go to the Philippines to realize that India does not have a monopoly on celebrity slash politicians. I was tempted to say celebrity-turned- politicians but that is not the case for they truly become a hybrid - and there are LOTS of them - and that's an understatement! :D

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
      Author

      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Laringo..Very true..media has become a major influence in our times!:)

    • SiddSingh profile image

      SiddSingh 8 years ago

      Hi Laila,

      It is interesting that you have mentioned the trend of film actors taking to poilitics in Indian context. While the actors certainly ride on their popularity at the box office to win at the hustings, on the ground itself they seem to make a little difference in politics. I may sound bitter, but the track record of actors turned politicians is not much to write home about. One can quote numerous examples, even in the current Parliament.

      Sometimes, it almost becomes a travesty. For example, Sanjay Dutt is all set to stand from the Lucknow seat for Lok Sabha. His party had declared that if he is found unfit by the court (he is still facing conviction in the TADA case), his wife will stand for the seat! And to think that it is the constituency of AB Vajpayee!

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
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      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Anjali..you think Dev Anand is more like Roger Moore? Maybe the aged Dev Anand? Never did much care for Roger Moore..thought he the second worst Bond,the worst being Timothy Dalton!:) Yes,you are right..Politics is a stage show too.Thanks for reading! :)

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
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      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      @Goldentoad..Yes true!.. and I’ve always wondered if people thought that the Terminator would shoot down their problems! Terminator and Bush were two trigger happy actors!

      @Surefire.. LOL..well that’s a nice thought! There's this story doing the rounds here that way back, Gregogry Peck was quite enamored of a yesteryear Indian actress called Suraiya (Dev Anand’s love at that time) and landed in Bombay just to see her! It seems she fell in love with Dev Anand just because he looked like Gregory!

    • laringo profile image

      laringo 8 years ago from From Berkeley, California.

      Without the worldwide media influence on just about everything, imagine how everything would so different. Before 24 hour news and the internet, newspapers were where we got our information and because of limited space, stories were more objective and less subjective. Readers formed there own opinions about a person or event and thought out information more. Now a days, the left, the right and everybody else between has an agenda and basically can influence how one votes, who one likes or dislikes and so forth. Advancements in society are great, but come with many downfalls.

    • anjalichugh profile image

      anjalichugh 8 years ago from New York

      Dev Anand always reminded me of Roger Moore (Bond fame). If you happen to see any of the old Bond movies starring Roger, you'll see the astonishing resemblance. I agree with Goldentoad. Politics is no less than a stage show. You need to give a forceful performance every day and who can do it better than actors.

      Thx for a very interesting hub.

    • surefire profile image

      surefire 8 years ago

      Laila, would you mind if I say that Gregory Peck was the Dev Anand of Hollywood and not the other way round?

    • goldentoad profile image

      goldentoad 8 years ago from Free and running....

      I forget the exact quote but it was along the lines, "How can one be a good politician, without being a good actor first?"

      Speaking skills is what moves the crowds.

      So saying all that..how did the terminator become governor of california?

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
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      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Hi Shalini..yes, glamour outshines other criterions even in politics!:)Thanks..for stopping by!:)

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
      Author

      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Thanks Amanda for enlightening me with more stories of stars turned politicians.It is indeed interesting! Yes..I could never understand how voters just blindly vote for a famous face..who have no experience whatsoever,other than their own profession! Thanks for reading!:)

    • Shalini Kagal profile image

      Shalini Kagal 8 years ago from India

      How true Laila! Somehow the glamourous ones who enter politics are judged by less stringent criteria than the ones who aren't so favoured! Maybe the face or the fame make the flaws less obvious?

    • Amanda Severn profile image

      Amanda Severn 8 years ago from UK

      We have had our own home-grown celebrities turned politicians here in the UK too. Actress Glenda Jackson who won two Academy Awards and was nominated for several more, left acting to become a Labour MP. Sebastian Coe, a former Olympic gold medallist served as a Conservative MP, and Martin Bell, a former BBC news correspondent famously became an Independant MP, the first for more than 40 years.

      It's interesting how voters just assume that a famous face will somehow be superior to a diligent man or woman who just wants to make a difference. Thanks for posting this hub Laila.

    • Laila Rajaratnam profile image
      Author

      Laila Rajaratnam 8 years ago from India

      Thanks Teresa and Londongirl for stopping by and appreciating!:)

    • LondonGirl profile image

      LondonGirl 8 years ago from London

      I agree with Teresa, it's very interesting indeed.

      Churchill, say, was not exactly a looker!

    • Teresa McGurk profile image

      Sheila 8 years ago from The Other Bangor

      Yeah; it's a strange trend, indeed. The cult of personality can obscure the focus on issues, which can ultimately dilute the political process. Very interesting hub, Laila!