Moriah Krawec shudders at the thought of most modern socialites.
As she wrote in a column earlier this month for The Post student newspaper, “My mind conjures images of Hiltons and Kardashians, wealthy women who have only really contributed sex tapes and guilty-pleasure reality shows to our culture.”
The Ohio University freshman argues Paris, Khloe, Kourtney, Kim, and others of their ilk can learn a lot from the practices of 19th-century heiress Alva Belmont — a socialite of her era.
Kim Kardashian and Kanye West attend the NBA game between the Denver Nuggets and the Los Angeles Clippers at Staples Center on December 25, 2012
“Belmont established a settlement house focused on teaching marginalized African-American women about suffrage and led a congressional union devoted to passing the 19th Amendment,” Krawec wrote. “She led hunger strikes, and once women could finally cast ballots, she insisted that her followers would not vote until men began to abandon political parties. . . . Unlike today’s best-known heiresses, Belmont made a significant difference in the world.”
In the Q&A below, Krawec briefly expands upon her current socialite criticisms and Belmont backing. She also praises one modern woman of means as embodying Belmont’s values.
Q: To ensure everyone’s understanding, how do you personally define a socialite?
A: A socialite is a rich and famous heir. The ‘heir’ part is fairly important in my opinion. I wouldn’t consider an actor to be a socialite, simply because most successful actors make it on their own. Of course, there are always celebrities like Kate Hudson with star-studded families, but I wouldn’t consider her an heiress based off of fame alone.
Q: What is it about modern socialites that turns so many people off?
A: Today’s socialites are renowned for being wealthy by chance. When people think of them, they think of Kim Kardashian’s made-for-TV wedding or how Paris Hilton’s chihuahua was the subject of an unauthorized book.
Q: Why is Alva Belmont a good role model for modern socialites to follow?
A: Because Belmont didn’t start off as a suffragette. For most of her early life, many people who knew of Belmont thought she seemed snobby. Later on, Belmont used her influence to fight for women’s voting rights. Her story reminds us that there is always time to do more good.
Q: Why do you think socialites should attempt to make a difference? After all, simply being rich and famous isn’t a requirement for helping others.
A: While socialites aren’t required to help society, their wealth and fame make it much easier for them to change the world. They have more funds to donate, but the real power of the socialite is in their celebrity status. Face it, people idolize celebrities. We pay attention to what they do and what causes they support. Although she’s not a socialite, one example of how celebrities affect the world is Rihanna. There’s been so much debate over her abusive relationship with Chris Brown. She gets a lot of criticism of her personal choices, but that’s because people are watching her every move.
Q: Is there a modern socialite out there who students might turn to for inspiration?
A: One modern socialite with a similar story is Nicole Richie. Much like Alva Belmont, Richie came from a wealthy background, and she got everything she wanted as a child. After she gained more fame from her appearance on “The Simple Life,” Richie concentrated on charity work, with a focus on environmental and children’s issues. More socialites should follow in her path. You can always change your public image.
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