How I was almost famous
I started my short stint as a tv talk show host with a problem– I didn’t recognize many Bosnian celebrities. It’s that cultural mindbender– even when you go to England, where they speak the same language and we share so many cultural references, they have ‘celebrities’ that we’ve never heard of. (As AD memorably said–“He can’t be that famous if I’ve never heard of him”.)
My job was to interview our well-known-to-a-Bosnian-audience guests. I resorted to Google to find out why they were famous. What I hadn’t expected is that the show could make ME (almost) famous as well.
Without further ado– lessons I learned by being almost famous.
Manage fame, or it manages you.
My first interview, with tabloid Dnevni Avaz, was a breeze. I joked around and soaked up the attention. But when the article came out, I was horrified. I was portrayed as a man-hungry wannabe starlet with a taste for famous guys, with the joke of the article being “although she’s not always sure who the famous guys are”. Later when conducting an interview with an applicant as a Princeton alumna, the applicant mentioned that he had googled me and found that same article. So here’s the link to that one.
For my next interview I was much more circumspect and the journalist fortunately had a more intellectual bent, including asking which Bosnian cities I would like to visit and about my taste in music. I was amused to see later that he invented a quote where I compared a Bosnian musician to Kurt Cobain. (I think I have never mentioned Kurt Cobain in my entire life…) For my third interview, I insisted on written questions and answers.
Know your audience; ignore everyone else.
The other funny thing was being “recognized”, after the show started being broadcast. A little old lady at a tiny restaurant in the middle of nowhere, when I happened to stop during a road trip, wanted a photo of us together on her cell phone. When my colleague mentioned “his American co-worker” to his cousin, living in a small town in northern Bosnia, the cousin immediately said my full name and surname, which is an impossibility for many of the Bosnian people who actually know me in person. I loved that small town people were watching the show– it was meant to be funny and silly, something to cheer people up. Although the show had many flaws, the most criticism came from people who didn’t watch it. Haters gonna hate. One friend, a talented poet, who had joyfully ripped the show to threads, including reporting gleefully that I was listed in stately Sarajevo daily Oslobodjenje’s “week’s biggest losers” feature, was thrilled when, due to a celebrity cancellation, I asked him to be a guest on the show. In studio A, the biggest television studio in Bosnia. “So when are we taping?” Yeahhhh.
I have to say I did learn to recognize many more Bosnian celebrities after 10 weeks of the show. But the people I liked the most were the ones who were on the other side of the camera; later I’ll tell you about some of them, who became my mentors.
P.S. TV shows are expensive so you usually don’t get to choose your audience. An interesting thing about blogging is that you can curate your readership…