Is Celebrity Culture Dead? These 8 Surprise Social-Media Stars Beg to Differ

While 2020 has opened our eyes to far more profound injustices at the heart of Western society, one of the less-expected liftings of the veil was endured by the world of celebrity. As many around the world struggled to make ends meet or care for sick family members during the pandemic, platitudes from celebrities in their Beverly Hills walk-in wardrobes noting that “we’re all in this together” had a tendency to go down like lead balloons.

“Is the age of the celebrity over?” asked the BBC, while a headline in The New York Times declared that “celebrity culture is burning.” In the words of The Guardian, “the coronavirus crisis has exposed the ugly truth about celebrity culture and capitalism.” While Patient Zero was undoubtedly the video led by Gal Gadot, featuring a coterie of actors and musicians singing John Lennon’s “Imagine”—“one pandemic at a time, please” read a memorable response on Twitter—a backlash to once-beloved celebrities such as Ellen DeGeneres, Madonna, and Vanessa Hudgens saw posts that might usually be perceived as humorously out of touch appear infuriatingly tone-deaf instead.

So have celebrities truly, irrevocably lost their shine? Not so fast. If there was one bright spot in the vast satanic chasm of darkness that was 2020, it was the handful of famous faces (some of whom you might not have thought about in a while) who, while getting to grips with the complexities of social media, provided the kindness and comic relief we all needed. Here’s to the unvarnished celebrity eccentrics that achieved surprise stardom this year—and got us through lockdown.

Dionne Warwick

She may be a late contender for the honor, but after Dionne Warwick took over from her social-media team last month, her pithy musings on pop culture and brilliantly witty clapbacks have made her the newly anointed queen of Twitter. Her delightfully chaotic streak of tweets began with a post making people aware she could see them adding her songs to their Spotify sex playlists, before asking Chance the Rapper why he needed to include rapper in his stage name and questioning the unusual spelling of The Weeknd’s moniker. But all’s well that end’s well, and Warwick has now joined forces with Chance and The Weeknd for a charity single to help feed the hungry this festive season. A heartwarming Twitter tale for the ages.

The actor and writer Leslie Jordan may be best known to the passing viewer as the nemesis of Megan Mullally’s character, Karen, on Will & Grace, but his lengthy career as a character actor has made him one of those faces you always know, even if you can’t quite remember from where. During the height of quarantine, however, Jordan finally became the star of the show. Posting regularly from his hometown of Chattanooga, the actor’s lisping Southern drawl and sassy screwball humor saw him reach more than five million followers on Instagram in a matter of months and become a much-memed source of lockdown joy. In Jordan’s own words, “It’s exhausting being viral!”

January Jones

Given January Jones’s famous role as the icy, put-together housewife Betty Draper in Mad Men, you might expect her to be similarly uptight IRL. Not so: Over the course of the year, the actor has proven herself to be one of the most charmingly bonkers (and bracingly candid) figures in Hollywood, whether it involved cavorting around her house in LED face masks while joking that she’d lost her marbles or making a “human stew” in her bathtub. The most recent viral post from Jones? A video of her playing with a pair of Barbies accompanied by a brilliantly bizarre narration of their conversation. January, never change.

Mandy Patinkin

If you still needed proof that celebrity dispatches from home could be strangely endearing, look no further than Broadway legend and Homeland actor Mandy Patinkin. While holed up in his upstate New York farmhouse with his wife of 40 years, Kathryn Grody, Patinkin began posting lockdown videos with a surreal touch of humor that quickly became Twitter hits. A particularly memorable clip saw Patinkin grappling with how to post a video of his wife singing as his son narrates and becoming confused by the acronym GIF. “Gosh, it’s fucked?” Patinkin suggests, as his son bursts into laughter. It’s a slice of wholesome family life we have all been craving during a lonely year.

Stanley Tucci

While you might recognize Stanley Tucci from his memorable turns in The Hunger Games and The Devil Wears Prada, true Tucci-heads will know that the actor is also something of a gourmand, with two cookbooks to his name that pay tribute to his Italian heritage through his love of the country’s cuisine. And during lockdown, Tucci has been delivering insights into his cooking process at home in London, as filmed by his wife, Felicity Blunt. (Yes, of that Blunt family: Emily introduced Tucci to her sister after they filmed The Devil Wears Prada, in the most obvious case of matchmaking goals we’re yet to see.) My personal favorite? Tucci showing us all how to make the perfect Negroni—shaken, not stirred, natch.

Isaac Mizrahi

“I cannot face another pair of yoga pants,” yelped Isaac Mizrahi from his New York flat during the first weeks of lockdown, in a video he then posted to Instagram. “Seriously, I need structure!” Anyone who has watched the iconic fashion documentary Unzipped will be closely familiar with Mizrahi’s particular brand of flamboyant wit, and so it goes without saying that he took to sharing confessional videos like a duck to water. His lament over the monotony of work-from-home dressing was, as the kids might say, a mood.

Isabella Rossellini

Supermodel, memoirist, onscreen muse of David Lynch, and…sheep farmer? It’s Isabella Rossellini we’re talking about here, the iconic Italian-American actor who has found zen on her farm in upstate New York. And if you weren’t checking in on her menagerie of animals during lockdown—my favorites include Pinocchio the dog and O’Keeffe the Lincoln longwool sheep—then what were you doing? Cooped up in my flat for months on end, the window into the good life provided by Rossellini’s Instagram account gave me the dose of the great outdoors I was so deeply craving.

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