Back in 2014, a survey in the UK showed that children's top choice of "job" when they got older, was simply to be "famous." I recently stumbled upon an article about this and it seems that it's an ongoing trend, with the steady rise of reality TV making it seem very easy to become famous for... Well, not much. So, I thought I'd try my hand at writing a story all about a child's desire for fame - and what's really important.
This story is also available as a podcast.
"I Want To Be FAMOUS!"
Lily-Beth Adams was the only girl called Lily-Beth in her whole school. And she liked it that way. Her friends told her that Lily-Beth sounded like a celebrity name. And Lily-Beth liked that, too.
"I want to be famous," Lily-Beth announced over breakfast, one morning. "I'm famous at school already, because I'm the only girl called Lily-Beth. But I want to be famous everywhere."
Her mother frowned, turning away from the lunchboxes she was packing for Lily-Beth and her little sister. "Famous for what?" She asked. "You're probably not the only Lily-Beth in the whole world, so if you want to be famous, you'll need to choose a talent to focus on."
Lily-Beth blinked back at her. "I'll just be on TV or something," she said. "Like those people who have cameras following them around all the time." She took a final mouthful of her cereal and nodded. "And then I'll be famous, and nobody will mind that there are other girls called Lily-Beth in the world, because I'll be the most important one."
Her sister, Elsie, wrinkled her nose. "But how do you get on TV in the first place?"
"Someone will discover me," Lily-Beth replied, swishing her long, golden hair. "Someone will see me and decide I have what it takes to be famous."
Her mother sighed. "It's really not that easy, you know. And it's important to have a back up plan. What if nobody ever... erm... 'discovers' you? If you want to be famous, you'll have to think a bit harder about what you want to be famous for."
So, Lily-Beth thought about it all day long. By the end of the day, she had decided that she would become a famous popstar. "I'll have a number one smash hit," she told her mother and sister, as they walked back from school that afternoon. "And then I'll perform it on all the TV shows and I'll be in every magazine."
There was just one small problem. Lily-Beth was tone-deaf. When she sang, she sounded like a cat coughing up a fur-ball.
Her mother tried to be tactful. "Are you sure singing is what you want to be famous for?" She asked, gently. "I'm sure you've got other talents..."
"You can't sing in tune," Elsie said, deciding her sister needed to hear the truth. "So you can't be a popstar."
"Well, Dad always says there are popstars who can't sing in tune, but they do something in the studio to make them sound better..." Lily-Beth protested.
"Yeah, but when they sing live, Dad always turns the sound down on the TV," Elsie reminded her. "You can't be a popstar who never sings live anywhere, surely?"
Lily-Beth went to bed that night, feeling cross and a bit sad. She loved being the only Lily-Beth at school. She loved feeling like she was special, because of it. She sighed. She'd have to think of something else to be famous for...
The following morning, Lily-Beth made another announcement at the breakfast table. "I've decided to become an actor. I'll be in all the biggest movies and I'll win awards and I'll be really, really famous."
Her mother smiled. "That's a nice thought, dear," she said. "And I'm happy to send you to a drama club if you're really interested in acting, but..."
"But you hated being in the school Christmas play," Elsie interrupted. "You said all those people staring at you made you feel so nervous, you forgot all your words. Remember how Mum and Dad had to persuade you to do it at all?"
Lily-Beth grumbled under her breath and ignored her sister. "Mum, I can learn to be amazing at acting, can't I?"
Her mother gave Lily-Beth's shoulder a squeeze as she handed her her breakfast. "Like I said, if you're really interested in acting, I can speak to Mrs Thornton about you joining the school drama club. But you should do it because you really want to, not because you want to become famous as a result."
Lily-Beth rolled her eyes. "But what's the point in just being yet another person doing something? I don't want to fade into the background. I want to be famous!" She pushed her chair away from the table and rose to her feet. "Fine, if I'm not famous for acting, maybe I'll be famous for dancing, instead." She spun in a circle and tried to do ballet, like she'd seen on TV. But Lily-Beth had two left feet and she soon went crashing into the kitchen table with a bump.
Elsie tried to smother a giggle, whilst their mother checked whether Lily-Beth was okay. "Why is it so important to you to be famous?" She asked, helping Lily-Beth back into her chair.
"Because I like feeling special," Lily-Beth sighed. "I love being the only girl with my name in the whole school. It means everyone knows who I am and I feel like I stand out from the crowd. I don't want to grow up and lose that feeling."
Her mother smiled. "Oh, sweetie," she explained. "You don't have to be famous to have those feelings!"
Lily-Beth frowned back at her. "What do you mean?"
Her mother turned to Elsie. "Elsie, tell your sister what you said about her, last night when I was tucking you into bed."
Elsie blushed a little. "I said I want to be just like you."
Lily-Beth stared at her. "Why?"
Elsie shrugged. "Because you're funny and clever and interesting. People don't all know who you are because you're the only girl called Lily-Beth in the whole school. They know who you are because you speak to everyone and you're so friendly. They know who you are because you make everyone smile."
Lily-Beth chewed her lower lip for a moment. "But next year, when I go to secondary school, it's going to be a much bigger place and there's no way that everyone will know who I am. I won't feel special, anymore."
"Maybe not everyone will know who you are," her mother replied. "But you will always be special. To your sister and to your dad and me, and of course, to all of your friends. Remember that old saying: 'To the world, you might be just one person, but to one person, you are the whole world.' Well, you're not just the whole world to one person, you're the whole world to lots of people."
Lily-Beth smiled for a moment. "But... What about being rich and living in a fancy house and being in magazines?"
Her mother chuckled. "You know what the most important thing in the world is, Lily-Beth? That you're happy and healthy and you have a roof over your head. It doesn't have to be a fancy roof. It doesn't have to be a posh house that people look at in magazines. It just has to be a home. And you'll always have one here."
Lily-Beth gave her mother and sister a hug. "I suppose just being plain old me isn't so bad," she confessed. "Maybe I don't need the whole world to know who I am, as long as the people who matter never forget me." She glanced at the clock on the wall. "Come on," she said. "We ought to get ready to leave. I really don't want to be late for school."
Her mother grinned. "You've never been late for school," she said. "In fact, you're never late for anything. You're always on time!"
Lily-Beth smirked as she grabbed her bag. "I know," she giggled. "In fact, you could say I'm famous for it."