When will I be famous?

Should your eye casually fall across the celebrity magazines, you might for a moment wonder why it is exactly that some people are so famous. You might also grumpily note that the most famous people in the world aren’t necessarily the most talented or intelligent.

A quick glance at Hello magazine’s website bombards you with news about Kate Middleton, now to be immortalised in wax (of the Madame Tussaud variety, rather than being  mummified alive in candle wax).

Not that Kate isn’t talented or intelligent. She might be. Who knows? Who cares? Not “Hello” readers: they’re more interested in whether her ring matches her dress.

The point is, sometimes it appears that pretty people get all the luck, and are more likely to be famous too. But is that quite true? Economists Olivier Gergaud and Victor Ginsburgh set out to find out, using the Forbes magazine Celebrity 100 list which ranks the world’s most powerful celebrities, and data from the E-score celebrity index, which uses surveys to gather information on whether people see various celebrities as talented, beautiful, intelligent, wacky etc etc.

According to the results, intelligence and talent are more important than beauty in determining celebrities’ income. Yes, intelligence and talent. More important than beauty. Can it really be? Run your eye down the most recent list. Note Britney Spears at No.6.

Are our perceptions of how intelligent or talented other people are influenced by how good-looking they are? Probably. Olivier Gergaud and Victor Ginsburgh’s paper even refers to research that shows that the way you look can strongly influence your job prospects. So, survey responses on celebrities’ intelligence and talent probably aren’t very good measures of their actual intelligence and talent.

Which is why I’m not believing the conclusion of the paper until I see some IQ test results.

The full paper is here.

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