Lessons from Anna Nicole and Britney

Americans have long been fascinated with successful individuals. Before movies and Hollywood came into existence, Americans gladly devoured gossip about the lives of celebrities, the rich, and the famous. It shouldn’t come as a surprise then that the recent death of Anna Nicole Smith and bizarre behavior of Britney Spears have made the headlines of The Drudge Report and have been the subject of countless stories from more “serious” news organizations like CNN, ABC News, and Fox News.

Though at the amount of news time dedicated to Spears and Smith has many rolling their eyes, I don’t think the coverage of them is necessarily a bad thing.

News stories of Spears and Smith are popular is because they contain life lessons that are easy to understand. The lives of these two women illustrate the importance of making good decisions and that money and success does not insulate one from misfortune or the consequences of one’s actions.

Smith’s rags-to-riches tale reads like Shakespearean tragedy. Smith dropped out of high school and married at 17. Her climb to the top began after she posed for Playboy. She used that exposure to launch a successful modeling career and a brief stint as a widely-panned actress. Smith regained the limelight when she married billionaire J. Howard Marshall though she denied it was for his money. After the billionaire’s death and a bitter and lengthy court fight – one that has yet to be resolved – ensued over his inheritance.

In November 2006 Smith gave birth to a daughter only to have her 20-year-old son from her first marriage die in her hospital room three days later from an apparent drug overdose. Then, unexpectedly, Smith passed away three months later at a casino hotel room at the age of 39. The cause of death is still undetermined.

Smith’s story illustrates that beauty, money, and fame are no guarantee of happiness and good fortune.  Despite worldly success she never could keep her passions in check and now a string of men, eager to share in Smith’s wealth, claim to be her daughter’s father. Smith’s untimely death reminds us of our own morality and the importance of living our life to its fullest potential. For the men who admired her buxom body, the lesson is that there’s more to consider in a woman than how she’s packaged.

Unlike Smith, Spears rose to fame and fortune after years of hard work in the entertainment industry. Her effort finally paid off when her hit single “…Baby One More Time” became an international success. Spears released more albums and sales and a Grammy awards followed and she became one of the most successful female artists in American music history. She used her fame to nab several lucrative endorsement deals, a movie, and a reality television show.

Despite her success, Spears seems unable to make wise choices. Her poor decisions have lead to the bottoming out of her career and people questioning her maturity. Despite being the mother of two young children, she maintained a late night partying and alcohol fueled lifestyle and has been in and out of rehab (she’s back in at press time). Most recently she was seen getting tattoos and shaving all the hair from her head.

Overnight her poor decisions have propelled her from a pop music sensation to the butt of jokes on late night TV. Her recent actions may have doomed her music career and quite possibly custody of her two young children.

Parents often complain when their daughters look to people like Spears as role models. But there aren’t many young girls who want to be like her now. Her recent tattooing and head shaving incident have left many aghast and few wanting to imitate the pop princess. When her face is splashed across computer and television screens across the world, it’s a great moment for parents to use Spears recent actions and fall from grace as a teaching tool.

Though the media is sometimes excessive in its coverage of Smith and Spears (the story about the fight of Smith’s body, for example, is getting moldy) that doesn’t mean there are lessons to be learned from pop culture icons. If anything it’s that we’re not immune from the consequences of our actions.

That lesson is one more “serious” news stories fail to portray.


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This essay was originally published on FreeCapitalist.com. You can read all of Abel's FreeCapitalist essays here.