Hollywood’s red carpets are expanding to welcome the celebrities of the digital age, and yet there’s still not enough room.
The exponential growth of social media over the past two decades has created a new breed of star: the influencer. Most recently, the surge in TikTok’s traction amid the COVID-19 pandemic has simultaneously brought a sizable group of influencers into the ring spotlight. As content creators have established their influence in this evolving digital space, major entertainment studios have placed them on the guest lists of some of the industry’s most important occasions – from star-studded Marvel movie premieres to the prestigious Academy Awards. While the surge in influencer attendance at these red carpet events demonstrates Hollywood’s keen understanding of the rapidly changing media landscape, it still doesn’t signal a fully inclusive path into the notoriously restrictive entertainment industry.
Influencer participation can range from simply taking pictures along the carpet to conducting interviews with the evening’s guests of honor. For example, TikTok creator Drew Afualo, who first found her feet on the app with her reaction content, recently moderated the press ahead of the Oscars and spoke to celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis and Dwayne Johnson. While viewers may initially question the involvement of influencers in these historic industry events, their presence appears to be a well-calculated move by their organizers, as evidenced by the 1.5 million views Afualo received for just one of her aforementioned Oscar videos has accumulated. Social media stars have a deep understanding of their platforms and audience interests, making their role as red carpet mainstays an effective way to promote projects to their devoted fanbase.
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A common criticism among viewers is that the influx of influencers at these events has diminished the concept of celebrity. However, creators like Reece Feldman prove their involvement can actually change the connection between movie stars and fans. Feldman gained popularity on TikTok by posting behind-the-scenes footage during his time as a production assistant on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, but now creates content for multiple premieres and awards shows. By encouraging celebrities to take part in the platform’s biggest trends, he’s amassed over 70 million likes and shown users a lighter-hearted side of the seemingly intimidating industry. Hollywood stars’ newfound relationship skills are helping to captivate audiences and underscores the appeal of increased influencer attendance at these events.
While engaging influencers on those big red carpets is an obviously successful way for major studios to reach a young and engaged audience with an otherwise disconnected side of show business, this phenomenon still points to flaws in the entertainment industry as a whole. The expansion of content creators beyond social media represents a new route to Hollywood glamor, but it’s still not fully accessible.
On the one hand, longtime fans of influencers like Juju Green have certainly found joy in following the progression of their careers from living room TikToks to events as significant as the Oscars. But while content creator participation is meant to provide a sense of belonging and connection to these prestigious occasions, they remain marketing events at their core. As such, it’s difficult to fully detach her invitations from Hollywood’s roots of exclusion and view them solely as a victory for the underdog.
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Platforms like TikTok and YouTube have played important roles in launching the careers of creators who would otherwise be underrepresented, but Hollywood isn’t showing the same level of investment in accessibility. Their recruitment of influencers for red carpet content is driven more by advertising prospects than a desire to elevate marginalized voices across the board, as most participants are already established powerhouses on their platforms. While not necessarily an issue in its own right, Hollywood, with its history of discrimination, is responsible for increased inclusion that the opportunities provided have not fully met.
Ultimately, the success of content creators on red carpets at film premieres and awards shows illuminates a new relationship between the entertainment industry and viewers in the digital age. The rise of platforms like TikTok brings new meaning to celebrity culture as conveyed through the effective expansion of influencers into major media spaces. However, this new trend still hints at Hollywood’s famously closed doors, indicating the need for further inclusivity.
As studios continue to thrive putting stars on the Walk of Fame from the “For You” side, they should also look to widen the narrow path into Hollywood.