I wanted to do what my own idols did on screen or stage, or even on the sporting arena. I was pretty niave.
I didn't realise that being famous often comes at a price.
Much later, in my late twenties, I had a brief taste of fame and notoriety as an educator in Japan, promoting initiatives in equal opportunities in the education of girls, along with taking a stance for nuclear disamament and peace.
I was not alone in this role. I was one of sixteen women from Pacific Rim nations, who collectively were invited by the Retired Women Teachers Association of Japan, along with the Japanese Teacher's Union, who employed our knowledge, experience and skills, to promote these initiatives within education and learning institutions in Japan.
We were put up in five star accomodation, greeted with roses at the airport and taken on a whirlwind tour to a number of major cities, where we addressed audiences of up to 2,000 women teachers at a time.
Soon, the media was there, reporting on and publicising the initiative.
Initially, we were free to leave our hotel rooms and hotels, enabling us to explore a little of Tokyo as ordinary human beings. We marvelled at the rich plantings of pot plants outside people's tiny homes, new breeds of dogs like Akitas and the Japanese Spitz, as well as the fact that one could leave an umbrella in a stand outside a store and return to pick it up later. We enjoyed finding our way about on the Tokyo metro, experiencing a little Japanese culture and historical sites.
From our very first day in Japan, large numbers of retired women teachers would greet us with gifts and warm welcomes and we would spend considerable time posing for photos with them and currently practising educators with yet more gifts, after we had delivered our respective national educational perspectives and forum offerings.
However, the more media coverage we were given, the more certain elements of Japanese society that opposed change that may transform the order of society in relation to equal opportunities for women and girls, were strongly opposed to our presence. Such opposition was well resourced and organised and from the experience of our hosts, could resort to violence.
Security had to be tightened to protect our personal and collective safety. Our freedom of movement was no longer possible and our entourage now included body guards and security men employed, not just during our official speaking engagements, but around the clock.
Even our final venue in Tokyo had to be changed to ensure the safety of participants.
We were no longer free to explore exciting new cities in the evenings on our own terms. The organised leisure activities in Kyoto and Nagasaki were fabulous, as were the experiences of traditional and innovative interpretations of Japanese food at some truly extraordinary Japanese restaurants, but, apart from that, we were largely captive within our hotels, or on our official duties.
I did get to have one evening out with a friend of several good friends of mine, who could be trusted by our hosts, to "look after me" and ensure my safety. Our excursion was an anonymous and low key one and we enjoyed a meal at a typical Japanese workingmen's cafe that Yumi knew well. It was a fascinating experience. We were the only women in the restaurant and the men there were keen to find out what this clearly Europen women was doing dining at such an establishment in Tokyo. But, apart from that we were no longer free to explore shops, parks or local bars and eateries. I cannot imagine what it must be like, never to be able to engage in all those sometimes tedius activities anonymously and without security ever again.
We had a brief taste of paparrazi fame. To live with it is a very high price to pay for celebrity, even for a few days, let alone a lifetime. A friend I made at that conference went on to work for the United Nations and was supplied with a chauffuer as part of her assistance team. He insisted on following her and carrying her shopping on every occasion she went out for groceries and items of a personal nature. She found this lack of privacy confronting and somewhat invasive. She was highly uncomfortable with the notions of "master and servant roles", though her chauffeur was a very well meaning and dedicated man, whom she held in high regard. She felt as capable as ever to carry her own purchases and complete transactions in shops on her own.
Our international petition and plea for gender equity in education as well as being against nuclear weapons led us to meeting a range of political figures, from the mayors of the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and other survivors of the atomic bombings, to the Prime Minister and Secretary of State. Many of our activities were unforgettable and gave us privilleges an ordinary visitor could never experience in a lifetime. We were made exceptionally welcome, but our limited freedom of movement and need for around the clock security was a sobering taste of what life must be like for anyone who finds themselves " in the public eye"!
The benefits of popularity are undeniable. Some people cope well with it, but others clearly struggle with what it means and their degree of "entitlement". Some find fame and celebrity at a tender age, with little exposure to life lessons that ensure they maintain realistic life expectations. Winning and ongoing success is never gauranteed. They make mistakes that will follow them for the rest of their lives and colour other people's perceptions of them. Lleyton Hewitt is a case in point. Thesedays he has mellowed into a true gentleman of tennis, but many people continue to hold on to perceptions of him as a young "spoiled brat" who found dealing with losses on court difficult due to his early meteoric rise to success and titles at the US open and Wimbledon.
Thankfully, some individuals are strong enough to put things into perspective and continue along a path of personal enrichment and challenge. Shirley Temple made a successful transition from child star to international diplomacy, but to what extent did Michael Jackson's fame at a tender age skew his reality and life expectations?
Other celebrities exploit their fame and the power that accompanies it to pursue dubious and frequent sexual liasons and even defy social and sexual taboos. Rolf Harris seems a case in point here. Exploitation of innocent children is perverted and dispicable. It is abuse, not only of power, but of celebrity and the access it brings to impressionable and naive young people, anxious to please their idols!
Then of course, is the tragic case of Diana, Princess of Wales, literally pursued to death by an unrelenting paparazzi!
When Kylie Monogue was diagnosed with breast cancer, whilst catching up with family in Melbourne, the news saw the international media camped outside her parents home for weeks on end. This caused problems and inconvenience, not just for Kylie and her immediate family, but even to neighbours wishing to access their own properties. It was a media circus, instead of a time for appropriate compassion and empathy.
By now, I hope I have convinced you not to audition for that reality TV show?
By all means go for it; just be prepared for the consequences and life changing nature of fame and celebrity. Go in with your eyes open to its negative and limiting consequences, as well as the benefits that come with being held in esteem by members of general public.
Fame does not make anyone a better person than their neighbour, or, more deserving of accolades and adulation. The most loved celebrities are those that retain their humility and gratitude for what life has laid open to them!
Remember those close to you, or in your employment, deserve affirmation and adulation for all they contibute to enrich your own life, organisation, or workplace. In some ways, everyone deserves their share of fame and celebrity on the home and work front; be generous with affirmation!