While many take time off during the annual Labor Day weekend, some brazen hackers were recently hard at work stealing very private photos from a host of top celebrities, Tiger Justin Verlander and girlfriend/model/actress Kate Upton among them. Should they have known better? Could they have avoided the situation? How should they have responded? What does it portend for their careers, moving forward? WDIV-TV Channel 4 covered the story (see it here) featuring our perspectives. Yet a lot was left on the cutting room floor. Allow me to elaborate.
As for the first two questions, we all have to concede the fact that, with reality TV and social media, we have become a very voyeuristic society. We like to take pictures and movies and show them (sometimes aimed just at our significant others). What we all also must realize, however, is that the technology that supports those tendencies is far from secure. If Target or the federal government can be hacked, so can our cloud-based phones. Celebrities, further and as we see over and over again, are targets for exploitation – whether out of jealousy or for monetary gain. While we all have to be careful what we post in public or shoot in private, the rich and famous have to be even more so. Because once ‘it’ is out there – social media spreads it like wild fire.
How should Verlander and Upton have publicly responded? I suggested on TV that they took a page from the playbook of actress Jennifer Lawrence, herself a compromising photo victim in recent days. Her representatives talked about working with the authorities to investigate and, in time, take legal action against the perpetrators. Had these celebrities gone back to social media or held an unnecessary press conference to address the issue, it would have been akin to an arsonist watching from afar as fire crews worked to extinguish the blaze. Why give these hackers more satisfaction by seeing their victims react?
I was also asked by Channel 4 (again see cutting room) whether either Verlander or Upton would be affected sponsorship/pitchman-wise. I replied that I doubted we’d see the Tiger ace shilling for Disney World or Cracker Jack anytime soon but wouldn’t be surprised if he popped up in a vodka or sports car commercial down the road. I presume Upton will also be fine, as the majority of her career success has already been based on sex appeal.
In the end, the entire situation had to be for the young couple very embarrassing, although not career-damaging. It is just a hard lesson once again underscored: Public celebrities do not have private lives. For better or for worse, if you are in the limelight, learn that lesson and think before you act – even behind closed doors.