Celebrities are made, not born. Popular celebrities are made popular by the attention granted to them by the mass media companies who offer selective television, movie, radio, and internet exposure. Extremely popular celebrities remain popular well after their time in the spotlight has passed; they become cultural icons (see VH1's list if you don't know what I mean).
Most celebrities, however, fade into obscurity as their TV shows eventually get cancelled, their albums fall of the charts, their movie roles dry up, and they are replaced by newer faces.
The internet (surprise, surprise) has changed some of this though. Now, even if there are no longer huge legions of, say, Hayley Mills fans, all it takes is one dedicated fan to start a website about Hayley Mills that will attract enough people to form a fan club, and even if she only has 50 die-hard fans in the world, that's more than enough to sustain a vibrant community. (I bring up Hayley Mills, not because she has no fans, but because I am indeed a fan of hers. I grew up watching a lot of the old Disney live action movies.)
Even more interesting is the way that the internet is used to create celebrities. Some people who aren't in the public eye except through the internet become famous (such as well-known bloggers and website maintainers), but I'm actually talking about people who are on TV or in movies who become famous even though they were meant to be forgotten--the unmarketed and anonymous bit players who take on cult followings.
Some of you probably already know about The Blonde Girl from the Old Navy Commercials and That Pepsi Girl.
Those two blogs are examples of fans creating new objects of desire by appropriating mainstream media messages/images for their own use. Furthermore, their extreme engagement with the media has empowered them in interesting ways.
The bloggers themselves have become minor celebrities by virtue of their being extreme fans--experts in fields that they singlehandedly created. Whether or not their intent was to became famous, having a lot of fans visiting their blogs allows them to do a better job of compiling information about the two women, which further contributes to the bloggers' fame and expertise.
Even as Pepsi and Old Navy are benefiting from their activities, the bloggers are able to use Pepsi and Old Navy (without being affiliated with those companies) for their own gain, empowering themselves in a way that is quite different from the traditional means that most citizens use to distinguish themselves (university degrees, high paying jobs, expensive luxury items, etc). Some people would say that it's a waste of time, but I think it's kind of cool.
Unlikely celebrities on my radarAnyhow, that's enough theorizing from me. If you really want to hear more of my ramblings on this subject, look around my website for other things I've written, or wait until next year which is when my dissertation on fan cultures will be completed. For now, here are some unlikely celebrities you might not have heard of before. In both cases below, the women were already well known on their respective TV shows, but fandom on the internet and elsewhere elevated them into cult figures.
Christel is an announcer on "News Japan", a news show on Fuji TV. She appears to have quite a large fan following (in Japan, especially). She is originally from France and speaks French fluently in addition to Japanese, so I assume that she is partly French.
Here are some links of interest:
http://funapon.info/chri/ (A website devoted entirely to screencaptures of Christel's daily newscasts)
News Japan Program Info
Google Image search of Christel's name in Japanese
A movie file of Christel Takigawa on TV
Samantha is the host of "Great Hotels" (and some other shows) on the Travel Channel. Described as "perky" and a "Travel Goddess", her upbeat personality and charm quickly won over viewers and made her the highlight of the show for many people (even though the show is about hotels).
Travel Channel :: Samatha Brown
First Un-Official Samantha Brown Site
Finally, I have my own favorite unlikely celebrity, but she's not quite a celebrity yet: The Bacardi Silver Girl
See the ad here: http://www.visit4info.com/details.cfm?adid=14983&type=coolad&startrow=1
I think she looks like an anime character, almost. What's her name, and why hasn't anyone made a webpage/blog about her? Or if someone has, please let me know (I don't have the time to make one myself). =) By the way, I don't like Bacardi; in fact, I don't drink (alcoholic beverages).