Following Kanye West’s remark on “Jimmy Kimmel Live” that his girlfriend, Kim Kardashian, deserves a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, the Internet was abuzz last week with speculation, but not for long. Ana Martinez, the Walk of Fame’s longtime media spokeswoman, attempted to settle the issue quickly, telling Yahoo that the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce, the organization that doles out the stars, doesn’t have a category for reality television. Simply put, Kardashian doesn’t qualify for the honor.
It’s an easy notion to get behind. The famous-for-being-famous gadabout is not known for being particularly good at anything beyond taking flattering selfies. That her fame alone cannot earn her a place among the immortals of Hollywood and Vine restores one’s belief in karmic balance, if nothing else.
But the closer you look at the Walk of Fame Committee’s arbitrary categories and nebulous eligibility guidelines, the more you may find yourself in the unenviable position of having to defend Kardashian’s right to a star -- or at least rejecting the explanation that she is ineligible by virtue of her chosen genre. Reality television, if it can be defined at all, is incredibly broad in scope, and banning it on categorical grounds seems more like a personal vendetta by the Walk of Fame Committee than any real effort to preserve the historic sidewalk’s import.
Why does the committee not have the same prohibition on game shows or news programs? Who decides that purveyors of a major form of 21st-century entertainment are simply not deserving of sidewalk status? In response to a request for more information, Martinez told International Business Times that deciding on a candidate’s qualifications comes down to one word: talent.
“In the case of reality television, we see these individuals living their lives on a daily basis on television and leaping into instant celebrity status,” she said in an email. “The Hollywood Walk of Fame is not about a real-life diary. It’s about talent and performance.”
It sounds good in theory, but it’s not the whole truth. Journalists, for instance, have long been included on the Walk of Fame, and they’re not giving performances. To that point, Martinez countered: “They make their living with their talent in the show business arena.” But what about Donald Trump? The brusque “Apprentice” host got his star on Hollywood Boulevard in 2007. Martinez said the Walk of Fame Committee found the Donald worthy of consideration because of his producing achievements (he owns the Miss Universe Organization), and also because he’s been nominated for two Primetime Emmys and won a Teen Choice Award. It’s true Kardashian hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy (and if there’s any justice, she won’t be), but she’s won four Teen Choice Awards. At best the categorical differences between her and Trump are minor.
Trump aside, among the more than 2,500 Walk of Fame honorees are a myriad of outliers. The committee has honored three dogs: Lassie, Rin Tin Tin and Strongheart. Likewise, more than a dozen fictional characters have been honored, including Bugs Bunny, the Simpsons, Big Bird, Godzilla and Shrek. The committee also occasionally honors organizations: The Los Angeles Dodgers, the LAPD and Variety magazine all have stars. Even Vanna White, best known for turning letters and clapping along with contestants on “Wheel of Fortune,” has a star. No disrespect to Vanna, but is her inclusion really about “talent and performance”?
As if all this hasn’t deluded the Hollywood landmark enough, the Chamber of Commerce in 2010 began inking sponsorship deals with companies such as Absolut Vodka and L’Oreal, which reportedly paid about $1 million each to have special branded stars adjacent to the Walk of Fame. Taken together, the committee’s idiosyncratic exceptions to their own guidelines reveal only one possible truth: the overseers of the Hollywood Walk of Fame make their own rules. They snub Kardashian for no other reason than because they want to. While an admission to this effect would have been nice, Martinez didn’t bite. Instead she said she’d prefer to see the media stop “spinning the Kardashian name” and move on.
“We are focusing on our great line up of celebrities coming up on our famed Walk who are well-deserving of a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame,” she said. “I think it’s time to move on to the business at hand.”