How Celebrity Role Models Affect Teens' Self Image

Following Celebrities... A BEAUTIFUL Decision?

By Andrew Kim and Jonathan Chen

Sixteen year old John Lee looks at himself in the mirror. He studies his body along with his face and thinks he is extremely ugly. He looks at the television and a popular celebrity appears on the screen with a beautiful face and body. He then compares that person to how he looks. He says to himself, "Why am I so ugly? Why am I so fat? I want to be beautiful!"

John has now realized that he is beautiful the way he looks right now and lives a fun and healthy life style. Today, many teens are how John used to be and get strongly affected by celebrities. Popular celebrities are always shown on the covers of magazines and on television for teens to view. They look glamorous and beautiful, causing teens to want to be like them.  Many teenagers look up to these role models but most of these popular "beauties" affect teens negatively. Children with low self esteem get affected especially strongly. They go through extreme measures to become thin and are afraid of gaining weight.  Teens also think that by becoming thin they will look beautiful and become popular.

"Teens should appreciate the way they look already and be grateful. Many children who face hardship and live with poverty aren't even able to look ‘cool' if they wanted to." says Jake Lee, an eighth grader at I.S.25

Why They Follow Them

Many teens have low self esteem and become quickly swayed by the celebrities' looks. Teens become influenced by the celebrities to make themselves ‘look better'. So many times they forget that they are beautiful the way they are. They want to look perfect.                       

Either their nose is too big or they're not skinny enough. These small imperfections cause teens to look at the celebrities and envy them. They strive to lose that extra three pounds, but end up losing more than enough. If something cannot be done to make that tiny imperfection better, it leads to dangers, such as suicide.

According to the National Eating Disorder Association, 42 percent of first- through third-grade girls say they want to be thinner, and 81 percent of 10 year olds are afraid of being fat. Even at very young ages, children get influenced by celebrities.  A spokesman for The National Eating Disorder Association stated, "The average American woman is 5'4" tall and weighs 140 pounds. The average American model is 5'11" tall and weighs 117 pounds". Furthermore, "Most fashion models are thinner than 98 percent of American women."

            Many models and celebrities are underweight and face dangerous health issues because of eating disorders. For example, a Brazilian model, Ana Carolina Reston, died at the age of 21, weighing 88 pounds. She had anorexia nervosa and was extremely underweight. These are the people many teens want to follow and portray. The celebrities and fashion models cause teens to think extreme dieting is normal when it is actually very dangerous.

-Underweight celebrity, Nicole Richie at the beach

The Consequences

            In a recent study by the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry (AACAP), as many as 10 in 100 young women suffer from an eating disorder.  Many teens, especially girls, starve themselves and think that is the correct way to diet. They lose a tremendous amount of weight and risk the possibility of becoming very sick. They do not follow a healthy diet and lifestyle, but all they care about is losing weight and ‘looking better'.  Two major eating disorders teens face today are anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

            Anorexia is an eating disorder that causes people to have the fear of becoming fat and having a distorted body image. People with anorexia believe they are fat even if they are underweight. This causes death because it leads to not eating and finally, starvation.

According to recent studies made by the South Carolina Department of Mental Health, 95% of those who have eating disorders are between the ages of 12 and 25, 50% of girls between the ages of 11 and 13 see themselves as overweight and 80% of 13 year olds have attempted to lose weight

Some popular celebrities that have suffered from eating disorders are:


  • Paula Abdul
  • Justine Batemen
  • Karen Carpenter
  • Nadia Comaneci
  • Susan Dey
  • Jane Fonda
  • Tracey Gold
  • Elton John
  • Jamie Lynn-Sigler
  • Cherry Boone O'Neill
  • Barbara Niven
  • Alexandra Paul
  • Princess Di
  • Lynn Redgrave
  • Kathy Rigby
  • Joan Rivers
  • Jeannine Turner

Bulimia is an eating disorder that causes people to reject food that they've already eaten. People with bulimia fear that the food they ate will make them gain a great amount of weight, so they induce vomiting.

-Graph showing the percentages of different age groups with Anorexia Nervosa


Some teens become so depressed because they cannot accept the way they look. This can lead to drug and alcohol abuse. It may also lead to suicide if the teens have extremely low self esteem.

A Solution?

Dr. Steven Green says that there are two components necessary for self esteem: the confidence to think, learn, choose, and make decisions and self respect. It is said that if you play sports, it boosts your motivation and self esteem because when you play, you are focused on winning and having fun rather than looking ‘nice'. Playing sports gives people confidence and boosts their motivation.

"I think it is a good idea for athletes to go around schools and tell children that they are beautiful just the way they are", says Jonathan Chen, an eighth grader at I.S.25

-Highly motivated NBA basketball player, Kobe Bryant enjoying himself as he plays basketball

Athletes are full of self esteem because their main goals are to have fun and win, instead of trying to look beautiful and glamorous like celebrities. That is why it is great to have professional athletes as role models, rather than ill and ‘beautiful' celebrities.

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