When I woke up this morning and checked Facebook Trends before even getting out of bed (as a young millennial woman is wont to do), I discovered that Priyanka Chopra is the latest participant in Vogue’s “73 Questions” series.
I consumed the video immediately. I learned that Priyanka loves cheeseburgers, recently binge-watched The Crown, keeps hot sauce in her bag, would totally shave her head for a role if it wouldn’t get her in trouble with Pantene and can do a great ditsy American accent.
Her 1,000-watt smile is ever present as she waltzes around her NYC apartment. She belts out lines from Taylor Swift’s “I Knew You Were Trouble.” She laughs at her own jokes, but not in an obnoxious way. I would like to know what lipstick she was wearing.
The 12 minutes of footage amounted to an extremely pleasant viewing experience, as do all the “73 Questions” videos. I think I’ve watched every single one. So have millions of other people. Priyanka’s “73 Questions” interview already has over 1 million hits on YouTube. Emma Stone’s has over 7 million. Selena Gomez’s has over 8 million. Kendall Jenner and Taylor Swift’s both have over 10 million, respectively. The whole concept of the series is tailor-made to capitalize on the intersection of the internet’s thirst for shareable soundbites and our cultural thirst for identifying exactly what makes a celebrity “relatable.” Cue Reese Witherspoon performing a backflip on her kids’ trampoline.
Although the questions vary from video to video, they all fall under the umbrella of classic ice breakers designed to make it seem as if these Hollywood A-listers are opening up like beautiful clam shells:
What is the most absurd nickname someone has ever given to you?
What is something about you that you wished more people focused on?
What karaoke song would you sing where you don’t need the monitor?
What’s the funniest thing you’ve ever read about yourself on the internet?
The videos are clearly intended to give off a vibe of impromptu spontaneity — a genuine, ad hoc unearthing of the subject’s personality quirks — but at the same time, they don’t try to hide that there is some degree of preparation, or rehearsal, involved. During Emily Ratajkowski’s video, Joe Sabia, the series director and man behind the camera, quips, “This interview could use a soundtrack. Can you play a record that has your favorite genre of music?” Ratajkowski conveniently happens to be standing in front of a record player.
Sabia once told The Huffington Post, “We try to make [the videos] seamless…In no way are we going out and saying up-front that we do this spontaneously. Of course there is a level of preparation that is involved, but by no means do I feel that takes away any sort of genuineness.”
I do think the heavily staged bits can come off as a bit forced, and many of the celebrities over-rehearse their answers to a noticeable degree (memorable exceptions include Sarah Jessica Parker and Lupita Nyong’o), but the series still retains its entertainment value by nature of the fact that it is essentially delivering a Buzzfeed-style listicle in a high-impact visual format with a big celebrity name attached. The formula is impeccable, not to mention a fascinating reflection of exactly what makes social media and pop culture tick. I hope they’re still being made by the time North West reaches an appropriate participation age. That one’s gonna go bonkers.