Cameo: The business of fame

On the Cameo app, celebrities will do your personal bidding. Just be careful what you wish for.

by Robert Jeffery

Chuck Norris fixes his camera and stares straight ahead. “One time, Chris Fox tried to punch me,” drawls the action movie legend, in his trademark baritone. “It felt like a cool breeze on a summer’s day. Your kids wanted to tell you you’re a great dad… Happy Father’s Day!”

Norris’s film work dried up a decade ago and his most lucrative commercial deal nowadays is with a gun manufacturer. But there is one place he finds a consistent audience – Cameo, a website that enables the public to pay for personalised messages from the great and good. And so, for £337, the star of Lone Wolf McQuade and Missing In Action will toast a loved one’s birthday or commiserate a friend who’s lost their job.

Founded in 2017, Cameo has captured the zeitgeist during coronavirus as consumers, starved of real-world experiences, seek out a piece of virtual celebrity stardust. There are more than 30,000 famous faces on the platform; by mid-2020, they had recorded one million messages ranging from cheery 10-second greetings to heartfelt vocal performances.

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