What Writers Can Learn From Reality TV Stars

Tom Matsuda

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Since the dawn of the millennium, reality TV stars have steadily become the norm for modern age celebrity. Nobodies like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian became household names just by being seen in the media. Both used social media to expand on this to become emblematic of kind of fame that would become normalised in the years to come. Nowadays, through their social media platforms everybody is a star in their own curated versions of their lives.

Whilst many tout their polished profiles, salacious selfies and perfected product placements as hallmarks of their success, there is one thing that is often undervalued in the key to their success.

Moreover, it’s something that every writer can use to appeal to their audience. It’s a tool that will humanise your writing and allow the reader to emphasise with your struggles. It’s something called vulnerability.

When Kardashian matriarch Kris Jenner sealed the deal with E! Entertainment for their reality show, she urged her children to do one thing.

“You just have to be real and raw and show everything” she advised.

In hindsight, Jenner now believes that this was the key to the success of the show. Whilst this initially meant that their arguments, family antics and even arrests were shown in their full glory, it also served to humanise them to their audience. When Kim Kardashian received backlash for her 72 day marriage to Kris Humphries, the painful fallout was shown in full complete with tears and torn hearts. Whilst Kardashian’s crying is often paraded online as a meme, it also served to deflect the haters by showing the very human reality behind the headlines and earn ratings in the process.

Moreover, there is no question that if it weren’t for the very public nature of Caitlyn Jenner’s transition it is unlikely that such attention would have been awarded onto trans rights and issues. No matter what you think of Caitlyn Jenner, her transition captured the world’s attention and serves as a further example of how important vulnerability is in carving out your own brand.

It’s a tool that the Kardashians have utilised time and time again to cultivate an audience. It can be seen most recently in the meme-friendly fight that sisters Kim and Kourtney had. Whilst this was widely made fun of online, the full length version reveals the place of pain that this came from.

If there is one lesson writers can learn from this is that public performances of vulnerability garner attention. This is why it’s not a mystery to me that my most successful pieces are the ones where I’m most vulnerable. It was only when I started to be honest with my emotions in my writing that I started to gain views and impressions.

In an online world where we’re all shouting for attention more than ever, we should look to the purveyors of the attention economy for notes rather than vilify them. Write like you’re a reality star and you’ll see audience connection skyrocket no matter who you are.

It’s time that we writers stopped being so snobby and started being honest with ourselves about what kind of content works. Being publicly and uncomfortably vulnerable like a divorced Kim Kardashian crying on screen could be what’s missing from your writing. This is key if you want readers that not only gobble down your articles but also feel like they understand you. Harness that and you’re on your way to carving out an audience that not only sees you as human but also relatable.

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British-Japanese writer from London. Words in OneZero, Human Parts.

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