Aspirational vs Relatable: Which Side Are You On?
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In the red corner we have, weighing in at a svelte and 6-week-yoga-retreat-in-the-Maldives, 8 stone and 2lbs (which includes the gifted Gucci bag)… Linda…Luxury… Lifestyle.
In the blue corner, stands the nation’s sweetheart, weighing in at a ‘jolly and lovely’ humble stone and kind lbs (which includes 4 bursting, Primark bags)… Racheeeeeeel Relatable.
Two very distinct types of influencers, celebrities and regular people who are constantly pitted against each other – in the media, online and in all areas of society.
We all know a Linda Luxury, whether she’s an A-List Hollywood star, who instead of pretending to visit Kenya every 2 months to help feed starving children, she’s rolling around parties, events and catwalks wearing the most extravagant outfits with probably a serious case of RSI from lifting up her diamond encrusted finger to sip a Fuji water.
We’re obsessed with her. We snap, ‘YASSS QWEEN’ every time she speaks in the 3rd person and is more Mariah than Mariah. We envy her lavish holidays to the Maldives and we revel in rumours of her divaish behaviour (did you hear that she tells her management to warn people not to look at her?).
Then there’s a Rachel Relatable. She effs too much in interviews and spills copious amounts of coffee down her brand new Primark PJs and ugh, she fell flat on her face at her last award ceremony.
We are equally obsessed with her. We comment, ‘SAME’ on every Insta post she writes with those oh-so relatable captions. We cry when we hear she’s been proposed to because we’re so glad she’s found someone to love and we GIF the life out of her award ceremony gaffs.
But often we pit Linda vs Rachel in a way that suggests one is better than the other.
‘We love you because you DON’T have a Gucci bag.’
‘We need more people like you who are real.’
‘You should be way more successful than you are because at least YOU don’t rely on your looks.’
‘My life is normal so I don’t want to see someone just being normal.’
‘I want to see someone out there succeeding and affording big houses and badass holidays.’
I took to Twitter to find out what types of influencers, celebrities and well, PEOPLE others prefer and I was met with a range of responses that went from one end of the spectrum to the other.
Some insisted that ‘relatable’ role models were better because their lives were more real, whilst others argued that they looked up to ‘aspirational’ role models because they show their lifestyles in a real, sometimes achievable but often fantastical, way.
But there was something that clicked as I was reading responses and as people pitted one side against the other…
This battle has never really been between Relatable and Aspirational, between JLo and JLaw, between the prom queen and the band camp reject – it’s always actually been between honest and genuine vs fake and fantasy.
Most of my responses stated that they preferred ‘relatable’ role models because they saw themselves in them – in what they wore, where they went or how they achieved their success.
On the other hand, others argued they preferred ‘aspirational’ role models because they inspired their lives and gave them a pedestal of designer bags, first class flights and giant mansions to work towards.
It could be as simple as, ‘different strokes for different folks’ HOWEVER who’s to say that someone who presents as ‘aspirational’ hasn’t actually come from nothing, styled their Gucci with a Greggs or speaks openly and honestly about their struggles?
In the same way as someone who appears to be ‘omfg super relatable’ actually hides the fact they come from an extremely privileged background and can spend thousands on high-street wares because of someone bank rolling them.
SO WHAT DO WE EFFING MEAN BY RELATABLE?
For some it means, warts and all, no filter, no censor and possibly twatting about a Primark trying on silly sunglasses for fun.
For others though, we must accept it means someone with money, using it to lead an expensive lifestyle.
Because we ALL come from different view points and backgrounds and to be relatable it just means that the person who looks at you sees some of you in them.
CLARITY IS RELATABLE
Upon reflection and following on from these discussions, it made me really understand why we have the role models we have.
Often those who are now aspirational rose from being SO RELATABLE that they became extremely successful.
Perhaps different people have different starting points in life. If someone (me) came from a council housing, can’t-afford-Nikes-for-school-so-ShoeStretcher-will-do, Iceland 3 for 2 dinners background, we may look to those people who came from similar backgrounds who we feel like we could be mates with.
Others may come from backgrounds where they are used to consuming a more lavish lifestyle and will always pick LK Bennett over TK Maxx. They may feel like they could be mates with a more aspirational star.
The key has and has always been – clarity. Honest and genuine over fake and fantasy.
People look up to those who are honest about who they are.
If you’re more Maccy Ds than Maccy Jacobs then own it.
If you’re more Versace than Very catalogue, fabulous – admit it.
But relatability doesn’t work without clarity. People can see through faux-relatability (omg guys I just spilt my Elan Cafe £7 latte down my £65 Ted Baker top – ugh silly me) just as easily as they can see through 3 rented Range Rovers and the receipts from sending back your £1000 ASOS Haul.
RELATABILITY IS RELATIVE
Above all else we need to remember that we are sentient adults who can make decisions about the media we consume.
What we choose to consume is no one else’s business. Who we choose to look up to is our choice and ours alone.
And do we really need this divide? Is one type of role model better than the other? Do we need to put down one to boost the other? Can we just get rid of the ‘relatable’ and ‘aspirational’ labels as if one person can’t be both things (or NEITHER)?
Especially when we realise this…
RELATIBILITY IS RELATIVE
It stems from where you’ve come from, where you are, where you’re going, your personal tastes and what you’re feeling IN THE MOMENT.
Yes, I watch, follow and pick my friends because they are similar to me – working, young professionals, similar backgrounds, VILE SENSE OF HUMOUR and a penchant for pepperoni pizza but you can bet your arse I’m bingeing on ‘MOVING TO A NEW MANSION’ vlogs, living for Madonna stories about her washing her toes in caviar and liking 6 million pictures of a luxury jet.
So hopefully we can decide not to pick sides. Moving forward, we can choose our role models for different things. Not just for what they have, what they look like or how they shop but maybe we can have role models who are honest, clear and respect their audiences enough to be truly them – relatable, aspirational, who gives a fuck, just real.
*AND IF OUR ROLE MODELS COULD USE THEIR PLATFORMS FOR A BIT MORE ‘GOOD’ THAT WOULD BE FAB TOO, OK, ENOUGH, I’M GOING…
Let me know your thoughts in the comments, over in my Insta DMs or on Twitter.
Photography by bae Kaye.
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