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By Jazzmine Freedom

Not all of us love celebrities, but many of us do. For reasons we can’t explain, it means a lot to us when we see one in person, whether on accident or not. A recent brush with fame has me thinking about this quite a bit. Here’s what happened:

My friend Leigh and I decided to go shopping in downtown Santa Fe last weekend. We hadn’t eaten before we left, and naturally, we were pretty hungry. A woman in a boutique had given us directions to a pizza place, but because we’re terrible with maps, we were having some trouble finding it. Our hunger and determination to find the pizza kept me preoccupied, and as we walked, I looked down at the map and continually asked questions.

We approached a young couple pushing a baby stroller, but I took no notice. Leigh stopped talking as we passed them, but I took it as a sign that she was concentrating especially hard on finding the pizza and continued inspecting the map and asking questions. But when we reached the end of the street, Leigh glanced back at the couple and said excitedly, “Do you know who that was?”

I shook my head and she told me that it was Spider-Man. I didn’t know what she meant at first, but when she repeated it, I realized that she meant Tobey Maguire, the actor who plays Spider-Man. I glanced back at the couple, trying to wrap my head around the idea. I didn’t fully believe her until she called to tell her mom, who confirmed that Tobey Maguire is indeed filming a movie in Santa Fe. I then decided it was probably the most frustrating thing that’s happened to me all year.

But why is that? Would my life have been any different had I recognized him? Probably not. Would he have remembered me, among thousand of fans? Definitely not. Would I even have tried to greet him? I doubt it. So why should it matter if I recognized him or not? What is it about the silver screen that makes otherwise ordinary people somehow remarkable? How is passing a famous actor any different from passing a neighbor? Seeing celebrities doesn’t really affect our lives any more than meeting ordinary people.

And yet, ask anyone about brushes with fame, and they will jump at the opportunity to tell you about them. I tested this theory by telling people about my almost run-in with Tobey Maguire (and yes, I jumped at the opportunity to tell it) and was proved right. Something about people changes when they talk about seeing celebrities in person, some little light inside sparks up.

Perhaps it’s because celebrities are people that everyone recognizes, but no one really knows. Because they are so widely known and yet so mysterious, it often feels like they are on some higher plane. Seeing them in person makes us feel like we are on this plane also, like we are part of their world. It’s a flawed perception — after all, they are only people and there is no higher plane, but even so, it’s nice to feel like some of their glamour may just rub off on us.

Jazzmine Freedom, a Robertson High School senior, is an intern with the Las Vegas Optic.