exploring the darker side of paparazzi culture and celebrity fandoms

From stalkers to trolls to airport bust ups, here are some examples of when fandom got too much.

by Tish Weinstock
27 March 2017, 9:40pm

A few days ago, the Daily Mail ran a series of photographs of Justin Bieber eating a chicken and avocado salad, drinking a green juice, and talking to a girl at lunch, during the last leg of his Australian tour. They're the kind of photographs we've seen 1000 times before, from a dishevelled looking Britney Spears slurping a spiced caramel latte to a Kardashian sister leaving the gym, make-up free, and holding a towel over her face praying that no-one will see her without an Instagram filter. It's the quintessential paparazzi pic, the Sidebar of Shame porn that we all secretly get off on, typically accompanied with the kind of caption that attempts to inform the reader that celebrities are just like them!

Only they're not like us at all. Just last weekend a new picture of the Biebs emerged, taken on the same day as the others and at the same time, only from a different viewpoint. There he is again, sitting outside with his salad and juice, talking to a girl and minding his own business. But look to the left and standing just a few feet away is a flock of frenzied female fans, armed with their iPhone 5s, 6s and 7s, just staring at him like a hungry pack of hormonal wolves. It almost reminds me of that scene from Perfume, where the people of the local town become so intoxicated by the smell of Ben Whishaw's character, that they literally devour him. I mean, can the guy not eat his salad in piece?

In the age of social media, our obsession with the lives of others has never been more rampant, especially in the case of celebrities. The more we're allowed to see of these illustrious creatures, the more we feel entitled to. But what happens when this sense of entitlement turns sour? From stalkers to trolls to airport bust ups, here are some examples of when 21st century fandom got too much.

Photography Matt Jones

Lucky Blue Smith
In the summer of 2015, the fashion world fell at 17-year-old Lucky Blue Smith's feet, but it was the world of teenage fandom -- population 2.9 million and rising -- that fell hardest for Lucky. Calling themselves his Lucky Charms, hordes of hysterical girls would flock from all over the world to meet him. Think Beatlesmania turbocharged through the power of social media. In that moment he was the James Dean of the digi generation, but where James Dean embodied that old world sense of stardom, that cool air of rebellious mystery, Lucky represented a new era of all-access celebrity, where his fans knew everything about him, right down to his current location (because he routinely posted it on Twitter). Ever the heartthrob, Lucky would indulge his fans with live video chats on Vine, and impromptu fan meet-ups. But it was at one of these famed meet-ups that things went horribly awry, ending up with girls ripping his shirt, and another trying to stick her hand in a place where the sun don't shine.

Image via Instagram

Rachel Roy
When Beyoncé dropped Lemonade last year, it was as if a bomb had gone off. How could Jay cheat on Bey? Who was this side chick, Becky? And why was her hair so good? Confronted with so many unanswered questions the Beyhive decided to do some detective work on their own. Enter Rachel Roy, the former wife of Damon Dash. After posting a selfie with the caption "good hair don't care" the Beyhive absolutely lost it. And you know what they say: hell hath no fury like a Beyhive scorned on Beyoncé's behalf. Not only did they go after Rachel, hacking her Gmail and iCloud, and changing her phone number without permission, they also went after her kids, flooding their Instas with bumblebee emojis, lemons, and sexist slurs.

Photography Matthew Stone

Look, ok, we all fancied R Patz when he played Hufflepuff heartthrob Cedric Diggory in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We shed a tear when he died, and yes it hurt our hearts when he started dating K Stew. Obviously we were Team Edward, although hello Taylor Lautner. But while the obsession ends there for most normal people, a deranged few went on to racially abuse his now fiancé FKA Twigs as word of their relationship spread. Worse still, the online trolls ended up racially abusing a woman who was dying of cancer, after Twigs replied to a picture of the woman that a fan had posted. 

Prince Harry
Sure, when someone mentions i-D, His Royal Highness Prince Harry might not be the first person that comes to mind. But in the context of crazed fandom he sure does. Following the news that our fave ginge was dating Meghan Markle, Prince H fans and paparazzo seemed to lose their shit. So much so that Hazza ended up breaking royal protocol by issuing a statement which said the following: "Prince Harry is worried about Ms. Markle's safety and is deeply disappointed that he has not been able to protect her… His girlfriend Ms. Markle has been subject to a wave of abuse and harassment. Some of it has been hidden from the public -- the nightly legal battles to keep defamatory stories out of papers; her mother having to struggle past photographers in order to get to her front door; the attempts of reporters and photographers to gain illegal entry to her home and the calls to police that followed; the substantial bribes offered by papers to her ex-boyfriend; the bombardment of nearly every friend, co-worker, and loved one in her life." Suddenly the thought of being a princess doesn't sound too appealing, does it?

Photography Alasdair McLellan

Justin Bieber
Having a pack of preteens staring at you whilst eating a salad and chatting up an Australian friend is the least of Bieber's problems. From stalking him to literally chasing him, shoving phones into his face to sending death threats to his ex-girlfriend Sofia Richie, JB's harassment got to a point where he had to post the message "this is getting out of hand, if you guys are really fans you wouldn't be so mean to people that I like", before promptly deleting his Instagram.

Image via Instagram

Louis Tomlinson
One Directioners trolling any girl associated with their beloved boys is nothing new. In 2012, when i-D cover star Edie Campbell posed with the teen dreams for British Vogue, she was soon thereafter attacked online by a bunch of lovestruck pre-teens with Mrs. Styles Twitter usernames. Fast forward to just the other week, and a One Directioner has pinned Louis Tomlinson's girlfriend to the ground at LAX airport whilst he was busy fighting off the paps. Yes, they were wearing his and hers Champion x Vetements tracksuits in tourmaline blue, but that kind of violence is very much unwarranted.

Notable mentions:
- That time a Beyoncé fan sent her a menacing letter in which he accused her of being an impostor who had in fact killed the real Beyoncé.
- When Jason Luis Rivera told police he'd been best friends with Miley Cyrus for five years, when they caught him breaking into her house with a pair of scissors.
- The time when a former escort broke into Beckham's Cheshire apartment and stole all his post.
- When an Uma Thurman fan tried to seduce her by sending her sexually explicit cards and drawings depicting her death.
- Finally, and perhaps, most famously, the time when John Hinkley Jr. tried to assassinate US President Ronald Reagan…wait for it…in an attempt to win Jodie Foster's affections. Ok fine, this was last century vibes, but it was too extreme not to include.

Read: The popstars vs the papstars. Can we ever justify paparazzi hounding celebrities?


Text Tish Weinstock
Lead photography Rob Sinclair 

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