Celebrity has been defined in a variety of ways. Daniel Boorstin wrote in 1975 that a celebrity was “a person who is known for his well-knowness”. In 1997, Leo Braudy defined a celebrity as an “emblematic individual”. Writing that same year, P. David Marshall, director of the Media and Cultural Studies Centre in the Department of English,
University of Queensland in Australia, noted in his book Celebrity And Power, that a celebrity was “a public individual who participates openly as a marketable commodity”. Marshall went on to say that a celebrity “allows for the configuration, positioning and proliferation of certain discourses about contemporary culture.”
Marshall argued that part of the public fascination with celebrities is that they are figures who are seen as part of the crowd but are articulated as individuals. They generate an empathy with the idea that product consumption bestows individualism and personality.
Jewellery as a product category is urgently in need of something to generate this sort of public empathy. India’s Gem & Jewellery Export Promotion Council (GJEPC) realised that some years ago and initiated the annual India International Jewellery Week (IIJW) modelled on the lines of the well-known fashion weeks in Paris and Milan. Actress Sonam Kapoor was signed on as the brand ambassador for Indian jewellery and became the face of the IIJW. She has opened the show at highly publicized launch events every year and presided over the finale at the end.
The various jewellery design and fashion houses that participated in the IIJW have, over the years revved up the public attraction of the IIJW by signing on a range of celebrities from film, television and beauty pageants to act as “show stoppers” for their catwalk events and the public face of their design offerings.
This year’s IIJW duly kicked off with Sonam Kapoor drawing media cameras at the launch event. What stood out, however, was tennis star Sania Mirza, who recently won the 2015 Wimbledon doubles championship along with partner Martina Hingis, walking the ramp for designer Moni Agarwal’s brand Zohrakshi. With powerful athletic images from Wimbledon still fresh, Mirza brought a whole new dimension to the concept of public empathy with jewellery as a product category.
Mirza reinforced the empathy connect with jewellery for the faceless masses when she stated, “I am a sportsperson but I’m a girl first. And that’s why I’m fond of jewellery just like any other girl. Being a sportsperson doesn’t mean that I don’t have desires and wishes that other women have.”
Mirza got wide media coverage in India – one of the world’s two fastest growing jewellery consuming markets along with China. She is sure to strike a chord with almost every woman – who hasn’t participated in some sport or played some game in school? With her Wimbledon image, she is able to project that empathy across borders.