Journal of Southern African Studies vol:35 issue:3 pages:541-555
Media celebrity, or public status achieved through mass media, is a particular kind of social distinction that appears in most contemporary societies. It is difficult to predict what qualities define celebrity, since the associations conjured up by their names, and the meanings attributed to them, differ from one social context to another. Empirical research is needed in order to understand how celebrities' reputations are construed. This article focuses on the reputation of television actors in post-Mobutu Kinshasa, a city where charismatic Christianity predominates within the public imaginary. The public identity of Kinshasa's television stars, audience reactions to artists' performances, and collective evaluations of these mass-mediated public figures are informed by culturally-rooted approaches toward imitation and the mediation of charisma. This article argues that in order to understand the social and cultural dynamics of media celebrity, we need to examine how, in a given society, connections between mimetic representations and moral authority are perceived.