Wednesday, October 7, 2015

From Anna to Maria

To be young, blonde, leggy, and the WASP standard of beautiful is a valuable combination of commodities to be possessed by a woman in this country, a near guarantee for no less than fifteen minutes of fame. Add being reasonably talented at something to the mix, just about anything will do, and the sky is the limit for such a blessed individual. For the past several years, one of the most prominent stars to fit this description was the promising tennis player, Anna Kournikova. By reaching the semifinals of Wimbledon in her first time out at the prestigious tournament, greatness appeared to be her destiny. Over the next few years she became one of the most recognizable people in the world, photographs of her appearing every which way one could turn. It seemed that at least half of the internet was dedicated to her lovely likeness. The media fawned over her every move. Endorsements were tossed her way like beaded necklaces at a college girl on a New Orleans balcony during Mardi Gras. Minor movie roles followed logically, because if one has proven to have screen presence, the bigger the screen the better. I suppose if Anna was halfway able to carry a tune, a record deal would been inevitable as well. All she needed to do to maintain her stardom was be young (and she certainly had ample days of youth ahead of her), remain attractive (and it didn't appear that her Lolita style looks would be going out of style anytime soon), and win the occasional tennis match. A major championship or two would have cemented her legacy and kept her as the apple of the fickle media's constantly gazing eye for years to come.

As it would turn out, Anna Kournikova's time in the sun was far more fleeting than expected, her promise of the variety that is never quite realized. The championships she was supposed to win never materialized. This didn't matter much at first. Although critics who want sports celebrities to actually earn their popularity bitterly complained and maliciously teased, Anna's beauty was enough to sustain her immense popularity. Instead of receiving press for winning trophies, she instead garnered it for activities such as the famous men she dated. On the court, the Williams sisters took over dominance of tennis where Anna's friend and sometimes doubles partner Martina Hingis left off, grabbing ownership of just about every major tennis championship. Off the court, Anna Kournikova ruled. Her rivals were not so much Venus and Serena Williams as they were pop stars such as Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. Rather than winning multiple tournaments, or even just one, she instead claimed the most attention from sponsors and magazines and professional celebrity fawners in spite of this. Fans, and let's face it, by fans I pretty much just mean guys who lived up to the definition of the word fanatic, flocked to Anna's matches for an up close look at her game, though tennis had little to do with what her true game was. Tournaments were not so much opportunities to win prize money and knick-knacks for the mantel as they were convenient locations for Anna to stage her entrances, and her increasingly early departures.

It was not merely her desire to soak up the limelight that impeded Anna Kournivoa's progress with racquet and ball, though her peacock tendencies certainly didn't help her game much. Injuries plagued the starlet's final years on the tennis tour, eventually forcing her out of the game for good. Anna Kournikova was no longer a professional athlete, but she was still a star. She merely needed to find something else to exhibit talent at. Problem was, she didn't have any other especially strong suits.

I wouldn't worry too much about her though. I suspect that her fifteen minutes are far from up. Anna Kournikova is famous, and being famous is now officially a career in this country. She merely needs to change her role models. Instead of trying to be a dominant tennis player such as Martina Navratilova, Anna can instead follow the illustrious footsteps of those who are famous simply for being who they are, such as Paris Hilton to give an example. Perhaps Anna will join Paris and Nicole Richie in the next season of The Simple Life. Then again, Anna and her agent will no doubt insist that she be the sole star of whatever vehicle she next chooses to ride. And like Paris Hilton, Anna can always gain some extra notoriety by the trendy act of appearing in a sensual videotape with her boyfriend. That just happens to Enrique Iglesias, son of Julio and a pop star, so their relationship gives Anna additional street cred, if the street happens to be Hollywood Boulevard. No doubt the pairing of those two would give the Paris tape plus Tommy Lee canoodling with Pamela Anderson a run for their money. No, I definitely wouldn't spend too much time being concerned over the downfall of Ms. Kournikova.

But there are still those who want their sex symbols to be sporty, fans who want the objects of their affection to be famous for something other than being famous. These people have needs, and their needs must be met. Right on cue, Maria Sharapova steps into the picture. She is the personification of youth, blondness, legginess, and the WASP standard of beauty. She even shares being from Russia in common with Anna, so comparisons are inevitable. As for talent, Maria appears to have an abundance of it. So much so that she won her opening match at this year's Wimbledon tournament, and then her next match, and then her next. She kept on winning until she was in the Final against Serena Williams, and then somewhat improbably, Maria Sharapova won again, won the whole damn tournament. So now, like Anna before her, she is the cat's meow, the media's favorite pin-up girl. A star has been born, and it remains to be seen how long this particular one will shine. On the court, Maria has already surpassed an entire career's worth of accomplishments by Anna Kournikova. Off the court she still has a way to go, but that red carpeted path seems custom paved for her to gracefully travel.

Will Maria be lured by the appeal of maximum magazine covers, celebrity relationships, and constant mention of her name in gossip columns? Will she instead choose to dedicate herself to tennis and prove that her Wimbledon triumph was no fluke, but rather, a harbinger of great things to come? Or will she somehow manage the neat trick of balancing both sides of her fame? However things turn out for Maria, one thing is for certain. All eyes will be on her.

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