How to be an uncelebrated celebrity

Being a South African celebrity is a bit like being a blowfish in a goldfish bowl. Your audience has a seven-second attention span and you’re responsible for inflating your own ego. And once your fans have fed off you, they feel mildly poisoned.

When did celebrity become a synonym for notorious? The grotesquely inane “celebrities” we’re lumbered with in this country have forgotten that the word “celebrity” is supposed to indicate that you’ve achieved renown in some way. And not by having your labia photographed leading you out of the back of a limo, either. A way which actually adds value to the world that you’re feeding off like a remora.

A case in point is the unlikely named Crystal Arnold, who is apparently a SuperSport presenter. Crystal (it would feel a little creepy talking about Arnold’s breasts) made what she terms a “career choice” by electing to “grace” the cover of South African Playboy magazine. Again, her words.

In what world is appearing topless, for free, in a magazine that’s doomed (the circulation of the United States edition of Playboy dropped 34% last year), a way to further your career as a sports presenter? Is this how Naas Botha made it onto the small screen?

It would be fine if Crystal was doing it because she likes getting her tits out for the lads. Hey, your body, your life, no person should be telling you what you can or can’t do with your own body. But when your nudity is dressed up in the spurious legitimation of faux feminist liberation it becomes an insult to the many women who have fought so that Crystal can have the right to show her body whenever she wants to.


The reason Crystal is appearing topless in Playboy is apparently a revolutionary one. To liberate all the cute intellectuals of the world.

“I have ventured into this opportunity… because I believe in the statement an empowered woman can make through both intellect and the physical. I think beauty and brains need not be seen as separate entities, both should be celebrated in every woman. Like Beyoncé sings: ‘Who run the world — Girls!'”

Wow, Crystal, what an insight! You can be clever AND beautiful. Belgian philosopher Luce Irigaray thanks you, as do the other feminist girls. How is it empowering to make the cover of a magazine by doing it for free? Surely stripping your top off on live TV to protest the fact that there’s actually a reality programme called Lady Rugga would be more intelligent?

Celebritydom isn’t about having people discussing what an idiot you are, or what wise nipples you have. It’s about doing something that gives you renown with longevity. When they told you burning your bra was a sign of liberation, they didn’t mean doing it in a bar full of leering men.

The irony, of course, is that in the world of televised sport, where coverage is heavily skewed in favour of male sport, this should be a good career move. But it’ll never make you celebrated.

  • Follow Chris on Twitter @chrisroperza, or visit his blog chrisroper.co.za

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    Chris Roper
    Chris Roper

    Chris Roper was editor-in-chief of the Mail & Guardian from July 2013 - July 2015.

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