Growing up in the early 2000’s, I was raised on competitive reality TV that saw slumping celebrities pitted against each other for a meagre shopping budget, and I loved it. It was the era that gave us Celebrity Big Brother and it’s survivalist cousin I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here!, and as a nation we lapped up every disgusting bushtucker trial and embarrassing diary room breakdown. With millions of viewers and a cash prize also on offer, they were the perfect scheme for stars looking to rejuvenate their careers or simply keep themselves in the spotlight. Over the years we’ve seen big names from Take That singer Mark Owen to Caitlyn Jenner all submit themselves to humiliating challenges, dietary and hair restrictions (straighteners are what weirdos use, after all) and the gruelling company of other, ruthless celebs. Now in 2020, after a string of singers, TV stars and comedians, I’m a Celebrity crowned it’s first influencer, Giovanna Fletcher, as its winner, proving once and for all that influencers are true celebrities and are as big, if not bigger, than their mainstream counterparts.
Throughout the show, Giovanna made a name for herself as the mum of the group, offering hugs and teary confessions freely. Armed with an open and honest personality that served her well as the host of the popular blog and podcast series Happy Mum, Happy Baby (on which she once interviewed Kate Middleton), her appearance on I’m A Celebrity is just another accolade in a long list of career highlights. But despite having built up a respectable parenting platform, YouTube channel, publishing several novels raising three children, and having over a million more Instagram followers than her fellow finalist Jordan North, she was still not the bookies favourite to win. Something I’m sure they’re now kicking themselves for.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen influencers successfully infiltrate popular TV shows. In 2019 vlogger Saffron Barker finished in sixth place on Strictly Come Dancing, while YouTuber Joe Sugg reached the final of the show the previous year, setting a new standard for influencers across the online world. Both of their series were well received, with over 10 million average viewers for each, giving them the chance to impress and endear themselves to a whole new audience. Crossing over to mainstream media also opened more professional doors, with Joe announcing in 2020 that he would be starring in his first serious acting role as a struggling musician in the BBC One drama, The Syndicate. Not bad for someone who started out on YouTube as a makeup doll for their sister.
The biggest advantage of recruiting influencers for TV are the loyal subjects that happily follow them. They are almost guaranteed to bring in new, often younger viewers, something TV bosses are desperate for. According to a 2019 report by research agency Childwise, only 10% of young people watch the majority of their programmes on a TV, so it’s vital that in order to ensure their survival these broadcast services find a way to appeal to younger generations. Hiring and casting influencers in the latest TV shows and series could help with that. These social media stars have spent years cultivating a following that diligently follows their every move. The power and sway they have means that they will make the headline of any paper and be the talking point of the internet, because that’s what celebrities do. Of course Giovanna Fletcher was crowned the queen of celebrities, she had already built up a kingdom of millions.
By Lucinda Diamond, food and travel reporter for CORQ.