Celebrities’, athletes’ responsibilities as role models


Edith Rubio/The Cougar

For a lot of students, college is a time of self-discovery. While this is mainly an introspective task, it’s difficult to do without an example to follow.

This is where the guidance of role models can be an invaluable help.

Kinesiology junior Victor Mainwaring said he thinks that having a role model is an important part of growth, especially in his own life.

“The biggest influence outside of my parents would be my martial arts instructor,” Mainwaring said.

“He really helped influence me and shape me into a very virtuous person. He helped teach me a lot of life skills and values that I think (are) necessary for any human being to be a good person.”

A good role model exemplifies the behaviors and qualities that will lead a person to be happy and successful. Young people or those struggling to find a path for their life can follow a role model’s example in hopes that it leads to a similar outcome.

As celebrity culture becomes an increasing part of people’s lives, children and young people often look up to young, attractive, successful entertainers and celebrities as figures to aspire towards. Simply by being in the public eye, they become role models for young people.

According to a survey by the Association of Teachers and Lecturers, 60 percent of primary school teachers in the United Kingdom said their students aspired to be famous athletes, 58 percent said their students aspired to be pop stars and 37 percent said their students just wanted to be famous for being famous.

A study by Girlguiding UK of girls aged 7 to 21 in the United Kingdom found that celebrities and reality TV stars were an especially important source of ideas and expectations among the teenagers included in the study. The report also noted the role that these celebrities can have in normalizing certain behaviors among young people.

The rich and famous can have extravagant and sometimes destructive lifestyles while seeming to suffer little consequences compared to the average person.

After seeing this kind of behavior among celebrities, Mainwaring said he thinks their influence on young people is mostly negative.

“I’m not going to name any celebrities, but I think there are influences out there right now that are famous that really shouldn’t be, and they influence a large group of today’s youth,” Mainwaring said. “There are some that aren’t necessarily good (role models), and a lot of kids look up to that. As a result, it creates this gross culture in today’s youth.”

However, Mainwaring said he thinks it is a mix, with good influences existing among famous people as well.

“Since we’re in Houston, a big one (would be) J.J. Watt. Everybody looks up to J.J. Watt … I think he’s a terrific role model for kids,” Mainwaring said.

Athletes have long been figures of idolization as the epitome of physical health and strength; however, the arrest of Ray Rice for the assault of his wife, as well as many other recent cases of violence and crime committed by athletes, has led some to question whether athletes are good role models.

Still, some celebrities have stated that they don’t want to be role models, nor do they feel it is their responsibility.

According to the New York Daily News, actress and singer Demi Lovato is one celebrity who has at one point felt that she didn’t ask for this responsibility. However, she said she has now grown to accept that responsibility.

“I (used) to get frustrated that just because I wanted to sing, I was automatically expected to be a role model,” Lovato said. “But I had to grow up and realize that no matter what I do, I’m going to be somebody’s role model.”

This responsibility can also be experienced by ordinary people that aren’t in the spotlight. The future of today’s youth may indeed benefit from adults and any potential role models adopting the mentality that someone else could be looking up to them.

Those in the public eye have an enormous ability to influence youth and model the behavior, attitudes and values necessary for youth to live safely and grow up into virtuous people.

Opinion columnist Eileen Holley is an English literature senior and may be reached at [email protected]

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