BCM241

Ethnographic Research Project – Jeffree Star: A Fandom of the Opera

In attending the Jeffree Star Princess Polly live event, I hoped to convey the characteristics of this particular fandom and demonstrate how the online persona of a social media influencer can often times be different to that of their real-life personality. This was demonstrated through my personal conversion from previously having no interest in Jeffree Star to becoming a huge fan of the YouTube sensation.

 

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BCM241

The Specifics: My Ethnographic Research Project

Now it is time to delve into the specifics of how I plan to conduct my ethnographic research. Firstly, I decided to focus on one beauty guru in particular, in order to easily conduct research relating to a specific fandom. I have chosen to focus on Jeffree Star, who isan American internet celebrity, makeup artist, entrepreneur, and musician. He is also the founder and owner of Jeffree Star Cosmetics, of which, he subsequently promotes on YouTube, where he has amassed more than 10 million subscribers and over 1 billion views, as of 2018.

My choice to focus on Jeffree Star was cemented when my best friend invited me to attend an event, ‘Princess Polly Live Ft. Jeffree Star’. This event was an exclusive 90-minute live beauty event, featuring international makeup icon Jeffree Star, with guest appearances by Australia’s biggest YouTube sensations Michael Finch, Sammy Robinson & Cartia Mallan. Hosted by Ash London, the on-stage performance gave beauty lovers an insight into the world of Jeffree Star with an intimate 20-minute Q&A session, along with a live panel discussion and makeup challenge. Tickets were $80 each and 236 ticket holders had the opportunity to meet & greet Jeffree Star.

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Before being invited to the event, I was not a fan of Jeffree star. Not for any particular reason, I simply had not been exposed to his YouTube videos as much as my friends had, however, I still knew who he was and was aware of his makeup brand and the type of content he produced. Thus, I thought attending the event would be a great idea for my ethnographic study.

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I was inspired by a past project in in BCM241 that focused on fandom produced by Kristin Campbell, and as such, decided to use video and audio as my platform to present my findings. When I attended the event, I took my camera along and shot vlog style clips, keeping with the theme of YouTube beauty gurus. I included clips of myself, my friends, other fans, the products and merchandise available to purchase at the event, as well as exclusive clips from the Q&A session with Jeffree Star himself, in which, he discussed his social media success, which I thought would be perfect to include in my video.

Now that I have attended the event and filmed a variety of footage that shows the type of fandom surrounding Jeffree Star, I plan to sit down and film an autoethnography to include in my video. In this autoethnography, I will observe the footage and reflect on what I saw and experienced at the Princess Polly event. I also plan to reflect on my own attitude towards Jeffree Star and the other youtubers and discuss how my views of particular influencers have changed since experiencing them in real life as opposed to online. I will also interview other fans to gauge different perspectives.

Conclusively, I will produce a vlog style video that draws conclusions based on the fandom surrounding Jeffree star, and how it is, he managed to build such a large following, by way of social media. The video will include footage from the event I attended, as well as my own opinions and observations. I will also interview my friends who attended the event who were fans of Jeffree star prior to the event, in order to find out what it is that attracts them to someone who has made a living purely by posting videos on YouTube.

BCM241

The Rundown: My Ethnographic Research Project

I have always been interested in fashion and beauty together with the lifestyles of those I aspire to be like. Typically, icons worthy of our aspiration are recognised celebrities inclusive of Beyoncé, Britney spears, Leonardo DiCaprio and the like. Though, with the proliferation of social media, it seems people do not have to be generically famous to retain a substantial following.yt_1200-vfl4C3T0K
Since the age of 10, I have been a frequent user of the social media platform; YouTube. I am ‘subscribed’ to countless individuals who post videos ranging from makeup tutorials, fashion look books and first impressions of products, to simple vlogs that narrate the content creator’s daily activities and allow me to virtually follow them around, experiencing their day to day lives.

YouTube’s ‘beauty community’ is made up of individuals who create videos relating to all things fashion, beauty and lifestyles. While this is a niche selection of videos, as compared to the endless amounts of content available on YouTube, the popularity of these types of videos and this community as whole, has grown rapidly over the past few years. This has inspired me to carry out an ethnographic study relating to the fandom surrounding social media ‘influencers’, specifically those who are a part of the YouTube ‘beauty community’.

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Recently it occurred to me that, not only do I watch individual’s videos on YouTube, I also follow these ‘influencers’ on other social media platforms and allow them to saturate my Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook. This is what led me to the idea for my ethnographic study. I wanted to decipher what it is that labels someone a social media ‘influencer’, what the criteria is and how it is that these people who post YouTube videos and promote brands via social media have a following as big as generic celebrities such as Kim Kardashian or Kylie Jenner.

Through my ethnographic study, I hope to explore how it is that ‘self-made celebrities’ who began their careers by posting YouTube videos, have managed to accumulate such a large following and fan base. I wish to focus on these fans and I also wish to explore how the idea of the typical ‘Screaming female fan’ often described as ‘fanatic’, has been subverted, when it comes to fandoms surrounding homosexual and transgender beauty gurus, which takes away the concept of hysteria created by girls who long to be romantically involved with their male celebrity crushes.

Fan content around makeup is among the most lucrative because of makeups core relationship to consumption cultures, branding and structures of capital. Branded makeup products used in the videos of beauty gurus and the consumption surrounding them, indoctrinates fans into both the ideologies of fandom and postfeminist consumer citizenship (The Routledge Companion to Media Fandom). The same can be said for fashion, but I question how youtubers and social media influencers can become notable by posting vlogs, that consist of clips of what the induvial had for breakfast, their morning routine, them hanging out with friends and other typical every day activities, that I myself am guilty of being interested in. Often, these content creators are ordinary people, not unlike myself. Often these people are the same gender, same age and have the same interests and lifestyle as me, so what is it that makes them special enough to be labelled an ‘influencer’ and consequently have their own fans, and what is it that drives these fans to be dedicated to seemingly ‘ordinary’ people?

About me

About me

Hello,

My name is Shaneese Royal and I would like to personally welcome you to my blog.

This blog consists of all the work I have completed as a Communications and Media student at the University of Wollongong Australia.

I major in journalism and, as such, both communications and journalism work features on my blog.

In my personal life, I enjoy all things fashion, photography, videography, travel, friends and family.

For any enquiries, please don’t hesitate to contact me at:

Email: Shaneese.royal @ yahoo.com.au

(All other social media handles can bee found on the side bar of my blog)

BCM241

Love Me Tinder, Love Me Sweet

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“Love me tender, love me sweet, never let me go. You have made my life complete and I love you so.”

Oh, how the world has changed since 1956. The year that Elvis Presley released the chart topping, ‘Love me tender’. The 1950’s saw the concept of love and relationships romanticised and intimacy consisted of courtship and hand holding. Today, we have become acclimatised to ‘screened intimacy’, with the proliferation of the internet and social media, making way for the rise in popularity of online dating as a preferred method of meeting ‘the one’.

The growth of the internet and various social media applications has transformed the way, in which, we initiate and maintain personal relationships. Messages, photographs, videos and texts can all be exchanged through cyberspace, in an effort to impress the recipient in the hopes of scoring a date. The process of finding and encountering romance is fundamentally different to the ‘love me tender’ days, as new forms of media allow for individualised needs to be met, in terms of a preferred way to meet and pursue new people.

With 20,000 new downloads each day (Wortham, 2013), Tinder has, arguably, become the most popular dating application with over 10 million daily users, looking for that special someone. The name itself, together with the bonfire icon that accompanies the brand name, insinuates that once users have found a match, sparks will inevitably fly and ignite the fires of passion.

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This insinuation, however, was not the result of my most recent Tinder encounter. Upon matching on Tinder, myself and ‘he who shall not be named’, began conversing via the applications messaging system. We then continued this conversation on various other social media outlets, inclusive of Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. After chatting online, on and off for a couple of months, we finally decided it was time to bite the bullet and meet up, face to face (dun dun dun).

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Upon arrival to our date location and meeting each other for the first time, it was clear that there was, however assured by the name and icon of the Tinder application, no spark between the two of us. After the initial date, we both agreed not to see each other again, although we have remained friends till this day (online that is).

This experience, to Elvis Presley, would surely, have seemed otherworldly, meeting someone initially online, with chemistry flying across text messages, to having absolutely no chemistry at all in the real, physical world. This auto ethnographic recount of a failed tinder date has informed my thinking about how we understand the concept of screened intimacies and why people feel more comfortable conversing online as opposed to in person. It has also prompted me to ponder on why it is it may seem as though there is chemistry between two people in an online setting, but when tasked with meeting and maintaining conversation in the real world, this is evidently not the case.

To my failed tinder date, I thank you for being my muse for this blogpost, for without you I would have never known awkward silence like I did that day.


References 

Sumter, S 2017, ‘Love me Tinder: Untangling emerging adults’ motivations for using the dating application Tinder’ Telematics and Informatics, Vol. 34, No. 1, pp. 3-7 

James, J 2015,’ MOBILE DATING IN THE DIGITAL AGE: COMPUTER-MEDIATED COMMUNICATION AND RELATIONSHIP BUILDING ON TINDER’ Vol. 1, No. 1, pp. 1-21

David, G 2016, ‘Screened Intimacies: Tinder and the Swipe Logic’ Social Media and Society, Vol. 1, No.11, pp. 1-5

BCM241

Bambi: A Cinema Experience

My mother’s cinema going experience, at my age, was extremely different to that, of my own. Back then, going to the ‘pictures’ was all the rage, while these days, there is a vast decline in cinema attendance due to the proliferation of television and movie streaming services. This decline can also be attributed to pirating and the trend of illegal downloads of all things media and entertainment.

Swedish geographer, Torsten Hagerstrand developed the time geography model as a way of gaining perspective on spatial and temporal processes and events such as social interaction, ecological interaction, social and environmental change, and biographies of individuals. The model consists of three constraints inclusive of capability constraints, coupling constraints and authority constraints. Each constraint seeks to explain limitations on peoples experience with particular spaces and can be used in relation to the weeks topic of cinema.

When I asked my mum to relay her most memorable cinema experience as a child, in an attempt to conduct an ethnographic study, she recounted her childhood, living across the road from a drive-in cinema. She told me the story of her and her friends slipping underneath the gates of the drive in and setting up camp next to one of the speakers, on a pole, and watching the movie. While this was a sweet anecdote, I opted to ask her about another experience she recalled of the cinema. One that wasn’t illegal.

Bambi was the first movie my mother remembers seeing at the cinemas. At 8 years old, my mother was taken by her own mother, on an hour train trip to the cinema in Parramatta. This hour train trip relates directly to Hagerstrand’s authority constraints which includes location. These days it takes me ten minutes to get to my local shopping centre, which also happens to be home to my local movie theatre.

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In relation to authority constraints, she (my mother) remembers a very strict no talking rule, and while she remembers advertisements showing before the film, she doesn’t remember any ads prompting viewers to turn off their mobile phones, like we see in the cinemas today, as they simply didn’t have mobile phones back when my mum was a child.

In regards to capability constraints, mum said the movies were expensive and she was only able to attend as a treat, every once in a while. This is quite different to my experience of cinema going, as I attend the movies quite often and not as the result of any particular occasion.

Finally, focusing on coupling restraints, mum recalls the movies not being open very late, “definitely not as late as they are these days”. She also said the scheduling was less frequent and the movies only showed once or twice per day.

As for the experience of the movie itself, let’s just say there were tears when (SPOILER ALERT) Bambi’s mum died, and mum now claims to be traumatised by the movie.

So, it seems, Hagerstrand’s model is applicable to any space, inclusive of the cinema space, of which, has changed dramatically since the good old days of Bambi screening once a day and having to take an hour train trip, only to cry and never want to watch the movie again.


References 

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Death, Defibrillators & Disney

In 2015, two days before Christmas, Shania Gavin made the call to emergency services and watched on, as her boyfriend began compressions on her mother, whose heart had stopped beating. Now, three years on, Shania recalls the traumatic details and tells of the experience, her emotions and how her life has changed. Shaneese Royal, UOW Multimedia, reports.

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Picture: Shania Gavin and Melissa Eades enjoying their celebratory holiday in March 2018

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 Banal hospital walls replaced nativity scenes and glistening lights, while incessant beeping granted life to lifeless bodies, medicated into slumber. The excitement of Christmas had been pushed aside and festivities had long since been forgotten, as expected in sterile wards where patients and families grapple with concepts of life and death.

Sat in a chair beside the bed that encased her mother’s unconscious body, Shania Gavin spent Christmas of 2015 at Sydney’s St Vincent’s Hospital. At the age of 40, Shania’s mother Melissa Eades was induced into a coma, as doctors attempted to stabilise her, following a series of heart attacks on 23rdDecember 2015. Overwhelmed with emotion, Shania held her mother’s hand, speaking to her softly, hoping she could hear.

“I felt silly, but I just told her she was going to be okay,” she says.

Shania and her boyfriend Joel were nestled up on the couch with the opening sequence to The Nanny Diaries coursing through the television, when the sound of Shania’s phone ringing interrupted the tranquillity.

Melissa asked Shania to find an alternate way home, since, upon returning from fitness boot camp, she didn’t feel well enough to drive.

“Mum had always been overly independent. She never asked for help from anyone, so that’s what alerted me. I instinctively knew something was wrong,” Shania says.

Melissa, sounding sicker than Shania had ever witnessed, hung up the phone.

Thoughts racing, frightened tears streaming down her face, Shania pleaded with Joel to take her home. Rushing, Shania threw her belongings in the back seat and Joel began the short but worrisome drive to 29 Larapinta Crescent.

With her aunty already at the house, Shania helped to get her mum into the shower. Initially they assessed her body for spider bites, completely oblivious to the severity of the situation and the events that would ensue. Out of the shower and into bed, Melissa complained of aching wrists and pain in her jaw. Symptoms of which, were unknowingly overlooked in the early stages of the night.

Meanwhile, in the next room, Shania told her boyfriend he should leave. She didn’t want him to be bored and thought it pointless for him to stick around. No sooner after Shania had entered the bedroom, after curing Joel’s boredom by putting on a movie, her aunty was whisking Melissa out of bed and into the car.

“My aunty said we were taking her to the hospital. She told me to lock up the house and grab some pyjamas, we’re leaving right now,” Shania says.

Caught off guard, Shania did as she was told, following the entourage outside and locking the door behind her.

She speaks of the impending events calmly now, composed as she stirs her coffee and dunks her strawberries in melted milk chocolate, raw emotion rearing its head every so often. Her polished recount of the imminent threat to a bond between mother and daughter is a testament to Shania’s strength and unfaltering resilience, only revisiting the past for my own indulgence.

“They left before Joel and I,” she begins.

Shania and her boyfriend, overcome by concern and uncertainty, grew more confused when, minutes after leaving the house, her aunts car pulled up to the curb. In an instant, the door flew open and screams of ‘call the ambulance’ rang out into the twilight.

The bag she had packed for her mother dropped to the floor, as she rushed to the car, Joel hot on her tail. Opening the door and reclining the passenger seat, the pair tried desperately to gain a response. Failing to detect a heartbeat, the rise and fall of a chest, or the escape of a single breath from Melissa’s lips, they pulled her out of the car and onto the lawn.

“Joel and I learnt CPR at school, so that’s what we did,” she says.

Implementing her education in first aid, Shania instinctively and momentarily began administering CPR before distress cocooned her, and Joel, without hesitation, took over. Grasping the severity of the situation, tears welled up in Shania’s panic-stricken eyes and hysterical sobs shook her body.

“She can’t die. That’s all I was thinking,” she says.

Her mother’s eyes rolled back into the depths of her skull. Her tongue began to swell until it blocked her airways. The discoloration of her skin was striking, illuminated by the street lamp above, that pierced the unnoticed and growing darkness. Melissa had died.

“My mum, the most important person in my life, was in front of me, not responding. She was dead,” she says.

Still, Joel continued compressions, unwaveringly dedicated to the preservation of a life, until two ambulances arrived. Ripping open her shirt, they shocked her heart. In the minutes succeeding her death, ambulance officers restarted her heart three times, her pulse stopping and starting, fitful, like the traffic lights ignored by the ambulance en route to save her life.

Dying three times and surviving is an extraordinary feat, but, by some stretch of a miracle, Melissa was revived. It seems ‘third time lucky’ isn’t folklore after all.

After having relayed a story of such unimaginable trauma, Shania, still, stirring her coffee and dunking her strawberries, on account of our dessert filled meeting, draws in an elongated breath.

“Reliving that must be hard,” I say.

“I’m fine with talking about it now,” she responds, and I am undoubtedly convinced by her affirmation.

Two weeks later, Mellissa was roused from her induced coma, disoriented and lacking memory of the ordeal.

“She had a hole in her Aorta, so not all of the necessary blood was getting to her heart, making it weaker and weaker over time,” Shania says.

Having recently quit smoking, lost weight and generally living a more healthy and active lifestyle, Melissa felt as though she was in her prime.

“At the time, I had no idea anything was wrong, but now that I know the symptoms of female cardiac arrest, the signs were there,” Melissa says.

In the eight months following the initial heart attack, she experienced multiple heart attacks in her sleep. These episodes were documented by the defibrillator implanted into her chest, sending signals all the way to Switzerland for analysis of the spikes in activity within her heart.

“I remember waking up some nights and feeling like a horse had collided with my chest” Melissa recalls.

In January of 2017, Melissa received a heart transplant.

“Within two weeks of being put onto the transplant list, mum was told to pack her bags because she was getting a new heart” says Shania.

Melissa was one of the first recipients of Heart in a Box. A revolutionary medical advancement which allows the donor heart to continue to beat throughout the transport process. So, it was, she laid on the operating table before her new heart had even arrived at the hospital. Her surgeons waited, ready, for the call that told them to pick up their scalpels.

“It ended up going really well,” says Shania, not touching on how she must have felt knowing there could be the possibility of losing her mum again.

In the first year following her heart transplant, Melissa’s life was plagued by doctors’ appointments. Now, she’ll attend check-ups for the rest of her life, unable to avoid the downing of fourteen medications in the morning and thirteen in the evening, for these medications are her life line.

“Some days are good, some are bad. I constantly worry about getting sick, because if I get an infection, my body can start to attack my heart. Its seen as a foreign object, something that doesn’t belong,” Melissa says.

When I asked Shania about her appreciation of Joel and his efforts in saving her mother, she said, “I’m so grateful. If it wasn’t for him, she wouldn’t be here. He doesn’t understand how much he did for her, because of him she gets a second chance. He’s the reason my family isn’t broken.”

On 31stJanuary 2018, Melissa was cleared of any issues with her new heart. Now, she could take her daughter on the long-awaited trip of a life time, to Disneyland California. The pair celebrated Melissa’s new heart and lease on life with the perfect trip for two girls obsessed with Mickey Mouse.

“I have realised life is short and I don’t want to put anything off until tomorrow,” Melissa says.

“Mum has a whole new perspective on life. What happened lit a fire under her. She doesn’t want to die tomorrow without saying she did something spectacular,” Shania says.