Editor’s Desk: Feeling old when an influencer can cause a fan stampede and event shutdown

Headshot of Kate Campbell
Kate CampbellGeraldton Guardian
Influencer Anna Paul.
Camera IconInfluencer Anna Paul. Credit: Anna Paul/Instagram

Mark it down. Sunday, August 28 was the day I officially felt old.

If my increasingly aching joints, panic-inducing strands of grey hair that pop up between hair salon visits and an impressive ability to fall asleep on the couch before 9pm on Friday nights weren’t already telltale signs, the final nail in the coffin was an “influencer” I have never heard of.

Anna Paul, whose presence at a fan meet-and-greet in Perth’s Hay Street mall sparked chaotic scenes, forcing police to shut it down due to the massive, bigger-than-expected crowd. Fans crammed in like sardines, some collapsed. It seemed to be the millennial equivalent of Beatlemania — but it didn’t involve a pop star like Harry Styles, Shawn Mendes or Olivia Rodrigo.

I remember what it was like being a teenager and fawning over my favourite actors and singers (Leonardo DiCaprio, Alanis Morrissette, Nirvana, Dieter Brummer from Home and Away, Keanu Reeves in Speed, to name a few). Teenage fandom is an addictive, hormone-riddled adrenaline rush.

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But Anna Paul is a millennial type of celebrity. Most teens these days would get more excited about their favourite influencer on Instagram or TikTok than a singer or actor.

And what I found interesting in the Anna Paul stampede was most of the fans present were young girls and women. I couldn’t see many guys’ faces in the crowd. Even more curious considering she makes a lot of her money from her OnlyFans account, which includes raunchy content.

So what does this say about the current state of celebrity culture? Maybe teens, and girls, of today gravitate to people like Paul because they feel more relatable.

Back when I was a teen, it was the unattainable that made a celebrity crush or being a fan so special. I couldn’t even comprehend what it would have been like to meet my fave celebs back in the day. A non-functional, blubbering, dribbling mess, I would guess. To teenage me, those celebs existed in a different dimension.

In this day and age, Paul’s meteoric rise to fame could be anybody’s. She was a Woollies check-out chick from a low-income family who started out on social media lip synching on TikTok and vlogging. The 22-year-old Queenslander now ranks in the top 0.02 per cent of OnlyFans earners in the world and had 7.1 million followers on TikTok alone, lives in the lap of luxury in a Gold Coast mansion and drives around in a Lamborghini.

Paul is the millennial equivalent of a reality TV star. Famous for being famous — and talentless except for their lucrative ability to market themselves.

I’m afraid many young girls out there aren’t dreaming of being the next big pop star or movie star or even aiming for a worthwhile career that requires education and training. They’re dreaming of being the next mega-millionaire influencer.

Just look at how many teens refuse to put down their phones, are in constant selfie mode and would rather watch TikTok videos than any movie or TV show. We might have reached the shallow end of the celebrity culture pool.

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