In late October I went on a quest to find a friend who wanted to see Lewis Capaldi play Royal Arena in Copenhagen in early March on his Broken by Desire to Be Heavenly Sent tour. I messaged 2 people who declined due to travels before my go-to gal from university happily agreed, exclaiming: “oh, he’s so lovely, and he’s so funny!”

While I completely agree that his funny demeanour and self-demeaning jokes sometimes almost overshadows his music (but still not quite, in my humble opinion,) it did make me think. Every now and again I’ll open Instagram and see yet another semi-viral clip of him saying something inappropriate on live television or whine about hating the gym, and most of the comments will be about not particularly liking his music, but loving him. It has made me question how much likability nowadays is ruled by relatability as opposed to the unreachable god-status that some celebrities thrived off not too long ago.

People used to watch “Keeping up with the Kardashians”, “the Simple Life” starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie and all of the countless spinoffs of “The Real Housewives of…” because it was a window into a world that truly did not belong to us mortal creatures. It was a reality so far away from ours. People are still watching “Real Housewives” and they still follow Kim, Khloe and Kylie but these people are far more criticised now for their lifestyle then they were just 5 years ago. Could it be that people no longer want to escape into curated Instagram feeds and scripted reality TV, portraying lives of luxury that they could only dream of? Has relatability become the new black?

No. Not quite.

Well, yes – it has. But not necessarily recently.

Celebrities like Jennifer Lawrence and Amy Schumer made relatable their brands in the mid-to-late 2010’s. For Lawrence, her relatability arguably started during the 2013 Oscar’s when she famously tripped up the stairs, going to get her statuette. What followed was an array of inebriated and/or embarrassing anecdotes, the reveal of drunken alter ego ‘Gail’ and her reaction to meeting anyone more famous than herself. British singer Adele often spoke candidly about her stage-fright, her heartbreaks and her love of London, garnering fans not only through her talent and her songs, but also through her humour and her ‘say-it-as-it-is’ persona.

On the maybe-not-as-green-anymore side of the grass, Kylie Jenner was recently criticised for the number of balloon-decorations at her daughter Stormi’s 5th birthday party. The 25-year-old posted several pictures and stories on her social media accounts, sharing the lavish decorations that included several balloon-arches and a giant inflatable head, resembling her daughter. Several people took to social media to voice their concerns, mentioning the mess it might have been for cleaners to deal with afterwards, the toll it might have taken on our planet and the safety hazard that latex balloons have on young children, who might choke on them.

The switch from loving the unobtainable lives of these celebrities to finding it boastful and disrespectful might have started as early as the mid-2010’s, possibly even beforehand, but it certainly grew exponentially during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. While the world did collectively go into a lock-down state, working- and middle-class people still had to work, most in less-than-desirable conditions and many on the frontlines in hospitals, supermarkets and educational institutions. Celebrities ranting on Instagram Live about the pandemic and the imposed lockdown from their million dollar mansions only highlighted the massive divide between famous people and non-famous people, in a time where everyone was preaching about unity. Highlights included Ellen DeGeneres, who was already under fire at the time for allegedly mistreating staff, joking about self-quarantine feeling ‘like being in jail’, a straight-faced, possibly intoxicated, Vanessa Hudgens saying “yeah, people are going to die, which is terrible, but like… inevitable”, and, of course, the video.

On March 18, 2020, Gal Gadot, star of Wonder Woman, posted a 3 minute long video on Instagram of herself and approximately 20 of her famous friends singing a rendition of “Imagine” by John Lennon. The video was made with good intentions, hoping to boost morale during the beginning of the pandemic, but fell completely flat, displaying out-of-touch singers and movie stars and seemed, at best, cringey. What it ultimately showcased was the massive divide between celebrities who were bored at home but, ultimately, very comfortably, and the common people, who were either struggling to make ends meet due to not being able to work, or put at risk of contracting COVID due to them having to work.

It makes sense that the effects of the pandemic would steer people towards celebrities who appear more relatable, but it also doesn’t. Ultimately, we know that celebrities do not live like us. They don’t have the financial struggles that we might or our lack of power and influence. But just because that might not be the case, doesn’t mean that their lives might be that different from ours. Recently, actress and model Julia Fox posted a video of her New York City apartment on social media, showing off the studio flat that doubles as a bedroom, living room and playroom for her 2-year-old son. The video of her messy and clearly-lived-in apartment garnered praise on Instagram, with people commenting that it felt nice seeing their own living spaces mirrored in a celebrity’s. Despite knowing that Fox could easily live in something much bigger and extravagant, it displayed the high cost of living in New York City and Fox’s humble nature, showing her lack of need for something more than a roof over her and her son’s heads.

In September of 2022, Capaldi revealed he had received a Tourette’s diagnosis, and received a lot of applause, especially from people who also had the syndrome. Later, he posted an Instagram story, sporting nothing but an oversized white pair of Y-fronts, sent to him by his label in a much too big size, poking fun at himself and his overweight body, saying he would “never have sex again” whilst owning said pair of underwear. He further commented on people’s reaction to his diagnosis, saying that some had called him an ambassador for Tourette’s and asked them to “gaze upon your ambassador… other people with Tourette’s – I am your leader.”

Capaldi has poked fun at his size since he emerged on the stage in 2019, often making overtly sarcastic remarks about being attractive, telling Graham Norton in 2020 that his tour selling out before the release of his album was all due to his “raw sex-appeal.” Capaldi’s current relatability may stem from his openness about a syndrome that many people struggle with, but he has always seemed to be ‘one of us’, due to his self-deprecating humour, his openness to sharing embarrassing anecdotes and the fact that he still lived at home with his parents during the first 2 years of his fame. Paired with the fact that he hasn’t changed his behaviour since he first emerged, still showing no signs of being a world famous popstar has allowed people to view him as a funny Glasgow boy, who’s generally well-loved, despite his music perhaps not being.

While god-like celebrities, such as Kanye West and Beyonce have ruled the world for decades, we have seen a change in celebrity culture over the past few years. In an age where anybody with a camera, a YouTube account or an Instagram feed can become famous, it’s important for people to feel connected to the people they look up to and perhaps see themselves in them. In an age where everybody can become a celebrity, relatability is all the rage.