Feature

Start-ups sprinkle stardust over wishes, and mint money

They have set up websites through which fans and brands can get celebrities to indulge them 

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More than 2,000 rhinestones shimmered and sparkled on Marilyn Monroe as she let out a deep sigh before breathily singing ‘Happy Birthday to You’ to John F Kennedy for his 45th birthday. She thanked him for all the battles he had won and for dealing with America’s problems ‘by the ton’. It was not the best poetry but the former US President seemed so pleased with the whole performance that he said he could retire from politics, now that he had been wished in such a “sweet and wholesome way”.

Sixty years after Monroe sang for Kennedy, we live in a world more starstruck than ever. Today we engage with celebrities more intensely, with artistes talking to us every day, even every few hours, through Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat. We know what workouts Shraddha Kapoor likes, which party Priyanka Chopra is attending that evening, how sunlight falls in Alia Bhatt’s balcony and why Anushka Sharma’s pet lab is sad. They have come to occupy a liminal space of celeb-friend. Therefore, a birthday or a congratulatory wish from them (even without rhinestones and Monroe) carries shimmer and warmth. It can make a person’s day.

An enterprising few have tapped into this opportunity and, as recently as late 2019 and early 2020, start-ups have set up celebrity-engagement websites. Through these websites, you can choose a celeb (like you would a cake) and ask for a personalised message to be delivered through them. A voice or a video rec

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