Saint Heidi

If you were an adolescent during the early and mid 2000’s, it is more than likely that you spent your free time watching a combination of The OC, One Tree Hill, and The Hills. The Hills fell into the beginning of a very long timeline of reality shows, this one specifically was aimed at young adults who had graduated from watching Laguna Beach and were ready to mature into the next phase of their TV best friends. Like every show, The Hills had a villain and a superhero. Ultimately, these roles were played, or lived rather, by Heidi Montag and Lauren Conrad respectively. Interestingly enough, both grew into successful media icons…but in extremely different ways.

Heidi Montag perfectly portrays the concept of “love to hate her, and hate to love her.” She’s so convoluted that its hard to look away. What most people probably know Heidi Montag for, besides her appearance on The Hills, is her mediocre attempt at a singing career and the extensive amount of plastic surgery she had done (ten at once, to be precise). After a careful study of Montag’s twitter, I’ve become even more confused. Is she an avid and practicing Christian? A singer? A plastic face? Ex-reality star? Housewife? All of the above? WHAT? The beauty of social media is that it gives us the reigns to write our own story in any format we choose. In these electric mediums, we can control our image and reinvent.

This was Heidi before the surgery:

This is Heidi after the surgery:

Quite the transformation. Heidi Montag might be one of the most successful individuals to completely reinvent herself, both physically and within the social media sphere. Montag has successfully used social media sites, Twitter especially and Facebook, to promote her “interests” and most importantly, herself. Liu might argue that Montag’s twitter account attempts to portray a combination of prestige and differentiation in regards to taste statements. An element of prestige is ultimately tasted by seeing that Montag has a verification checkmark on her page, meaning she has to be SOME form of important, since not just anybody and everybody can have this guarantee of authenticity on their page. Moreover, she displays a link to her album “Superficial” on iTunes. Not only does Montag make us aware of her musical “talents”, but she makes it clear that she is a devout Christian, by retweeting and tweeting bible verses and inspirational words:

On the opposite end of the spectrum, Montag also actively tweets about events she is attending and her budding social life:

What these initial images and tweets allow us to conclude about Heidi Montag is that she is: a singer with an album on iTunes, a member and active participant of the  Christian faith, and a bit of a party girl who has no qualms about first posting about Psalms and then posing in a picture with a (assumed) stripper. With such a multifaceted profile, it would be difficult to imagine who Montag’s ideal audience would be. After perusing her followers, of which she has over 1.4 million, I noticed that like her profile, her follower list is highly varied. Her followers ranged from teens to college students to single parents, even a few Christian advocates. If you were to ask Marwick and Boyd, they would argue that Montag has successfully engaged multiple “audiences”, some probably nightmare and some qualifying to fall within her imagined audience. It’s difficult to say whether or not Montag has successfully adapted and appealed to her ideal audience because its rather difficult to determine who the actual ideal reader is. Essentially, Heidi Montag is as ambiguous as is the reason for her fame. What we can conclude about Montag thus far based off her twitter account is that she is a “superficial” Christian housewife. If you were to ask someone, ANYONE, who Heidi Montag was, none of those terms would be used to describe her. More appropriately, to the outside world (meaning the non-virtual world) Montag is Lauren Conrad’s petite blonde party girl ex best friend and enemy, as well as Spencer Pratt’s romantic partner in infamous crime.

Essentially, Hieid Montag has continued her performance off stage via social media. Zizi Papacharissi has laid upon us the idea that “twitter affords a platform for condensed yet potentially rich and variably public or private performances of the self” in her article “Without You, I’m Nothing: Performances of the Self on Twitter.” This golden idea of performance on the web applies subliminally and blatantly to the twitter accounts of many celebs. Montag could be performing, probably is, but the element of confirmation will never happen. We, as her audience, will never have that backstage access to the inner workings of her social media appearance. Montag has adapted certain restored behaviors that include tweeting bible verses, what she intends to make for Spencer for dinner, as well as casual mentions and retweets of her fans and followers praising her musical work. Because she keeps doing what she’s doing though, Montag has put her audience under her spell, completely revamping herself from her TV persona on The Hills and emerging as a semi-reformed famous personality.

To further promote her argument, Montag claims “The Hills” version of her was the true villain.


One comment

  1. I think you make an excellent observation of Montag’s splintered twitter personality. As you mentioned, we have seen Montag transform from an innocent, fresh faced girl from Colorado, to a fame obsessed plastic surgery icon. Through Montag’s actions and life choices it is clear that she does not truly know who she is, or who she wants to be. This confusion is directly reflected in her twitter page. We see moments where seeks Hollywood prestige with clubbing photos and re-tweets of fan complements, and then moments of the “old Montag” seeking prestige from a more wholesome Christian community tweeting about her mom’s words of wisdom. Liu states that prestige is, “always performed so as to appeal to some group of people,” but what group of people should Montag be trying to appeal to? She was not always defined by her sexuality, and gained an original fan base of teen girls and their mothers, and then suddenly changed her image attracting, assumably, tons of men fans commenting on her body. How is she supposed to balance this split fan base, or rather split identity?

    Montag is clearly performing here and seeking prestige from multiple groups, but through her performance we do learn many genuine things about her character. We see her core values in which she was taught growing up, conflicted with the draw of the Hollywood scene. Her profile, while it may be an attempt of prestige, instead ultimately ends up being very authentic, because it directly expresses who she is.

    Is it possible to completely perform on twitter? Won’t our true selves always reveal themselves to some extent?

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