Only in America can the average person become a star via reality television. Now one step further: a reality television star becomes a convict who becomes a star.
Teresa Giudice is the “star” of the show The Real Housewives of New Jersey. In March 2014 she and her husband, Joe, pled guilty to bank fraud, mail, wire, and bankruptcy fraud netting them a cool $5 million (indictment here). On October 2, 2014, Teresa was sentenced to prison. Joe will also go to prison.
Now Mrs. Giudice is posing for photographs at the Danbury Federal Correctional Institute where she is imprisoned in Connecticut. The media reports on her new hairstyle, makeup alterations, and new clothing (a prison jumpsuit). The family reports having a parent in prison is difficult to deal with, and tears are often shed. Mrs. Giudice says she misses her husband and children.
The Bureau of Justice Statistics reports U.S. state and federal correctional facilities held an estimated 1,574,700 prisoners on December 31, 2013 (source). Since 2010, the female jail population has been the fastest growing correctional population, increasing by an average of 3.4% annually (study). 84% of federally incarcerated females report living with their minor children prior to being incarcerated (source). Very few of these women become celebrities with their faces on the cover of magazines. If you interviewed these families, they are sure to report they miss their loved ones. Teresa Giudice is no different than the women occupying the rooms beside her own; with the exception she makes national news.
In fairness, Teresa Giudice is not the only “celebrity” created by the media. Child molester Mary Kay Letourneau continues to make headlines, and has her own IMDb page; in 1996 she raped a 12-year-old student when she was a 34-year-old teacher. Who is to blame for this stardom status we give to people who steal, molest children, and break laws that the public normally finds despicable?
If the “stars” were not famous, the media would not seek them, for it is the media’s job to make money. The public finances the media by purchasing the papers, magazines, and watching the shows. The “stars” comply, for they make money and /or receive attention. The vicious cycle will not stop until someone refuses to comply. It is another story of making money, creating fame, and selling yourself cheap for attention.
There are people who file for loans and bankruptcy that truly need both or either. There are numerous institutions defrauded by the Giudice duo. The Giudices have children, aged 14 to five, who are now media icons and posing on the covers of magazines with their imprisoned, thieving parents. What is the message sent to these, and other, children? The same as the message sent to everyone else: there are no winners here.