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| by Romer Cherubim

( April 19, 2014, London, Sri Lanka Guardian) For decades, we have been fascinated by the lives of the rich and famous. We have taken an interest in developments in their personal and professional lives, tracking every move. We are so engrossed in some of these individuals that we feel we know them almost as much as our own families and friends. But where does this interest come from? Why do we have such an affinity for these people, bordering on obsession?

It is a given that we tend to relate more to people with whom we have something in common. However, our interest in celebrities is much more than this. It is rooted in our own humanity. As human beings, each of us has his own strengths and weaknesses, destined to experience tragedy at some stage of our lives. Our curiosity with these personalities stems from this as we see ourselves in them.

It is therefore no coincidence that the celebrities for whom we have the most affection are the ones, who are not short on talent, but also have flaws or a tragic element to their lives or both. We call these people icons and they live in our memories for ever.

For example, who can forget Marilyn Monroe? This woman was a gifted actress and the embodiment of sex appeal. However, she had a troubled childhood and an unstable personal life. She was married twice and struggled to find the love she deserved, reportedly thinking that her good looks were an impediment to finding a long term relationship with a man. If press reports are to be believed, Marilyn also had a substance abuse problem, a drug overdose allegedly causing her premature death. For many, Marilyn was the first of our modern icons.

Then, there is Princess Grace of Monaco. Born Grace Kelly, this Oscar-winning actress had poise and beauty. She cut short her distinguished career to take residence in Monaco as the spouse of Prince Rainier of Monaco. The now Princess was the model mother/wife, raising three children. Like Marilyn however, she died far too young and in tragic circumstances, the victim of a car crash while at the wheel in the hills of Monaco.

More recently, we remember Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana Spencer, as she was then and aged 20, married HRH Prince of Wales. On marriage, she became HRH Princess of Wales. It was, as a member of the British Royal Family, that HRH Princess of Wales really flourished. Captivating others with her charm and beauty, HRH Princess of Wales was an international sensation. HRH Princess of Wales championed worthwhile causes; broke the stigma associated with AIDS and had fashion designers all over the world, fighting for her to wear their labels. Like Marilyn however, she had an unhappy married life as her marriage with HRH Prince of Wales ended in divorce. The end of the marriage brought with it the loss of the title “HRH” and the Princess then became Diana, Princess of Wales. Diana, Princess of Wales died in a car crash in Paris at the age of 36.

These three women have talent and beauty in common. What however makes them icons? The modern definition of the word “icon” is a person “worthy of veneration” or “representative of a particular idea”. There is though a more traditional definition of this word. An icon is also “a devotional painting of Christ”. It is arguably this definition, to which we should pay more attention when thinking about conferring iconic status on a person.

Marilyn Monroe, Princess Grace of Monaco and Diana, Princess of Wales all had untimely deaths. Like Christ, they are not present with us in the flesh. Surely, this is what makes us revere them more.