Meeting Your Heroes

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I bet everyone can think of someone that they would like to meet. Just the other day, I watched a video of Miley Cyrus supporting an alternate method other than culling wolves, and I wanted to meet her. Just to see someone famous as normal as the everyday people that I see, removed from their sets and environments and placed into my world.

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I followed the Sochi 2014 Olympics through media. I, like so many other Canadians, rooted for the gold medal favourite. It felt like I had intimate knowledge with HD footage of the events and in depth interviews and really, the positivity of the games seemed magical. It made me feel positive; it wasn’t until later that I realized how politically stricken the event was, and worked-to-death athletes who even themselves couldn’t predict the gold medal winner. So to see them today seemed like an impossible event, breaking all the laws I thought I knew about how the world worked.

I got to the venue early, excited despite not being able to find any friends to go with. People thronged all around, chatting animatedly with their friends, more or less overexcited. To other people, too, seeing somebody famous that they only knew through TV was magical. As evidenced by the giddy reactions, no one really knew what to expect when the two athletes finally appeared on stage. No one clapped loudly. If you only see people on TV, you probably aren’t used to clapping for them. The speech commenced, and I alternately wished they would be more casual or suspended my disbelief. The show, though, went on regardless-right in front of me.

The older brother was just as funny as he was in his videos, and the younger brother was pretty much the same as he was in videos as well, speaking through his snowboarding rather than his words. Their task, to inspire us, was old news to most of us; their story had been through the media so much. Overcoming adversity and “expecting challenge” came through as the main theme, interspersed with personal anecdotes. Surprisingly, it was brotherly love that stole the stage and made the audience clap. The hour felt like 15 minutes.

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Afterwards there were pictures and poster signings. I waited at the back of the line with someone I had just met who had also been alone. It was an unlikely match in my opinion. I felt like I was being more judgemental though, more vocal than usual, by token of being at a very media/promotion conscious event. You can go so many routes, all of them set out for you: be the fan, be the insider critique, impressing others, or be nobody at all, confused with your own feelings about meeting your heroes. The olympic medalist is obviously an exceptional person whom we could all learn from, but it was his brother that I really wanted to hear, because I had heard him speak before. On a screen. I felt I “knew” him better, and so that was the experience I was looking for. While others I had no doubt followed the Olympic medalist, I felt the greatest gift in meeting his medalist in humour but not Olympic medalist brother.

Famous people are real people. Media personalities are real people. In order to make money, people need to brand themselves and have a positive media presence, and accepting that is something you learn when you meet someone who is famous. Like customer service, it’s just etiquette and also a social script. How would you feel if you walked onto the bus every morning and instead of saying Thank you, you awkwardly didn’t know how to act around a member of the public? Although it’s weird, and seems to put an edge on meeting your heroes-even everyday ones-at the end of the day, you met your hero, period. Real people meeting real people. What’s inauthentic about two people meeting? How could you walk away as if you were just staring at a hero on screen?

But my favourite memory is still the one of seeing and hearing them talk, and walk in front of me, as normal as everybody else I know, in the school I know, in my world, where everything is magical because hard work makes anything possible.

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