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The word celebutante is a cross between celebrity and debutante. A debutante is defined as a young woman, usually over 18 who comes from a wealthy family. She is often introduced to the social scene through a debutante ball and is thus considered eligible for offers of marriage. Today, the word debutante more commonly applies to young women who will inherit fortunes, and is less about offers of marriage.
The curious combination that results in a celebutante can actually have several possible meanings. It usually applies to young women expected to inherit a fortune, like Paris Hilton or Nicole Richie who have become celebrities because of their riches, and not necessarily because of demonstrated talent. On the other hand, young actresses like Lindsay Lohan who have given excellent performances in the past and are sitting on pretty fortunes may also be considered a celebutante.
The celebutante is the party girl, the “it” girl, and a constant subject of the media's attention. Marriage enters little into this equation, though many a celebutante has quickly married and quickly divorced. Money is more important than class because the celebutante must maintain a style of living that celebrates heavy spending, appearing at paparazzi covered, red carpet events, and in general, performing most of her life in front of the media.
Unlike the traditional debutante, the celebutante tends to derive more fame from misdeeds than from good ones. Partying to excess, having graphic home videos accidentally and/or intentionally released depicting sexual behavior, and conducting public fights or feuds are all in keeping with the celebutante lifestyle. As well, many of the best-known celebutantes have arrest records for driving under the influence (DUI).
Sometimes a celebutante will participate in reality shows, especially those who do not have a defined talent like acting or singing. Attempts to act and sing by those who come by their money through inheritance are often met with extraordinary scrutiny and criticism, some deserved, and some not. However, since virtually anyone can be a reality show star, participating in a reality show is a legitimate means to accruing more fame, as well as adding to one’s fortune.
The term celebreality has been coined to define the celebutante and others who gain fame through participation in reality shows. Actors also will often participate in reality shows to gain more face time before the camera. Many actors have inspired second careers, or at least more fame through many of the reality shows that now employ actors. Examples include Celebrity Weight Loss, Dancing with the Stars, and Breaking Bonaduce.
For the celebutante, sometimes shows are created. This is the case with Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie’s The Simple Life. With enough fame, the celebutante may endorse lines of cosmetics, clothing or other products.
The life of the celebutante appears to take its toll. Many are criticized and despised. In early 2007, Nicole Riche, Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan all entered rehab for drug, alcohol and/or eating disorders. Sadly these consequences tend not to discourage continued efforts to amp up the fame of these modern, exaggerated Holly Golightly figures, both instigated by the celebutantes’ agents, and by the paparazzi that seem obsessed with them.