October 5, 2022
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ColumnsPopped Culture

Column: Timothée Chalamet and Zendaya are the latest “it” celebrities

All celebrities are famous for a reason, whether it be for their talent, their money or their scandals. However, there is one group of celebrities that occupy a very special place in public consciousness — “it” girls and “it” guys.

There isn’t a concrete definition of what an “it” girl or guy is, but it can be boiled down to a couple of crucial components. Generally, they are considered to have major sex appeal and they typically have personalities that audiences find endearing. While these “it” girls and guys may be popular for other reasons like their talent or influence, they tend to be memorable and it’s this appeal that is a major reason for their popularity. 

But who exactly qualifies as an “it” girl or guy? They can be actors, models, fashion icons, musicians or royalty—virtually any kind of celebrity goes. Hollywood and the music industry, however, tend to have the most identifiable “it” girls and guys. 

Actors like Channing Tatum, Robert Pattinson, Audrey Hepburn and Marilyn Monroe, and musicians like Britney Spears, Beyoncé, Justin Timberlake and Elvis Presley all embody what an “it” girl or guy is — they were or are considered to be abnormally attractive, they embody or define the beauty standards of their respective eras, and they were talented enough to be launched into superstardom.

Every few years or so, the public shifts between who is “it” and who isn’t. While someone like Channing Tatum may have once been the Hollywood heartthrob of the post-“Magic Mike” 2010s, he has since been replaced by other, more current “it” guys over the years. Currently, I think the most definitive “it” guy of Hollywood is Timothée Chalamet. 

Anybody who follows pop culture in any capacity should know that name. Chalamet earned his fame with the film “Call Me By Your Name,” a movie that made a serious mark on pop culture. Since then, the actor has been popping up everywhere from “Beautiful Boy” to the “Little Women” remake to the recent “Dune” remake. He’s even been cast as a young Willy Wonka in the upcoming origin film “Wonka.”

As for this generation’s current “it” girl, I think it’s fairly obvious who is embodying that role right now. That person is none other than former Disney star Zendaya. She was a childhood star, but she’s maintained her influence in Hollywood with movies like “The Greatest Showman,” the Marvel Cinematic Universe Spider-Man films and “Dune” in which she plays Chalamet’s love interest. She’s also had her fair share of success in television, specifically with her role as Rue in “Euphora,” becoming the youngest person ever to win an Emmy. She’s become an icon, embodying everything audiences associate with beauty, grace and talent. Just look at how the internet reacted when the actor rolled up to the Met Gala in a light-up Cinderella ball gown.

These two actors are either who people want to be, or who people want to be with — sometimes even both. They’re just modern recreations of the Monroes and the Presleys of our cultural history. And while it seems that the role of an “it” girl or guy is fairly harmless — merely a person for fans to feverishly pine after for a few years — I fear that there is a dark side to this pedestal. 

There is an inherent tragedy to being an “it” girl/guy. For the most extreme cases, think of Monroe, Amy Winehouse, and River Phoenix. All of these celebrities were considered the “it” of their time, and each one of them died early and all of them due to drug overdose or alcohol usage. Additionally, more recent “it” celebrities like Lindsay Lohan and Spears also have had publicized struggles with mental health and addiction. Needless to say, there seems to be a common, unsettling thread connecting many of these “it” celebrities. 

This is not to say that celebrities like Chalamet and Zendaya are doomed to end like the “it” celebrities before them, but the pressure of becoming not only famous, but the cultural icon of one’s generation, can’t be an easy thing to shoulder.