Welcome to the World of Personalities in the Entertainment Industry

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Egos, Suspiciousness, Interpersonal
Difficulties, Deceitfulness & Attention Seeking:

Welcome to the World of Personalities in the Entertainment Industry

There are an array of personality dynamics and characteristics that one will encounter when working in the entertainment industry. As with most personality traits, they can be viewed on a continuum where they are benign and work in the person’s favor all the way up to becoming destructive and pathological when they are exhibited in an extreme fashion. Personality traits not only impact the person himself, but all of the people he becomes involved with.

The personality structure of an individual develops early on in childhood. Personality traits and characteristics are exhibited as a pattern of long standing behaviors and internal experiences, which can present in one or a combination of the following areas. First, personality traits can consist of the way a person thinks, which impacts how the person interprets or perceives himself, others and events. Second, personality characteristics can consist of an emotional component, which is how a person expresses his feelings. Third, personality traits can deal with interpersonal relationships and how a person gets along with others. And, lastly, personality traits can deal with a person’s ability to control his impulses and delay gratification.  Personality traits also tend to be inflexible, carry across a wide range of social/interpersonal situations and may lead to significant distress in a variety of social, work and other areas of functioning for the person (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000).

It is not atypical to see that entertainers tend to present as quirky, idiosyncratic and charismatic. The nature of the industry, in and of itself, calls for a particular type of individual.  But with all of the personality traits we encounter, it is important to be aware of how they reveal themselves along with when they can be useful as well as become destructive. We will review several of the common personality traits and characteristics that are readily apparent in the entertainment industry along with providing examples to assist the reader in understanding the dynamics of them as well as how to become insightful when these traits become over the top and pathological. Keep in mind that each person who exhibits some of these traits may not fit into one category and can have a variety of these personality traits.

Paranoid Personality Traits

Individuals with paranoid personality traits are often suspicious and distrustful of the motives of others. They tend to interpret the motives of others as harmful, believe that people are trying to deceive them or misinterpret the meaning of what people are saying to them (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000). In the entertainment industry, having some of these traits is not necessarily a negative thing and can help people avoid being taken advantage of, which can lead to unfortunate outcomes such as losing a lot of money and being made promises that are never kept. For example, before an entertainer or musician signs with a manager, it is important to do your research, be diligent and ask questions.  Please do not assume that everything the manager says is accurate and truthful. If a manager is closed off to being open to everything you want answered and gets annoyed or frustrated, then that is a tell tale sign that some manipulation may be going on. On the other hand, when these personality traits become extreme, it can lead to serious interpersonal problems, difficultly establishing any kind of trust in people and the belief that people are only out to harm them.  For example, it will be extremely difficult for a band to be able to stay together if a member continues to have trust issues, feels that other members are trying to exploit him or becomes enraged when he perceives the motives of others as an attack on his character.

Borderline Personality Traits

Individuals with borderline personality traits present with a significant pattern of instability in interpersonal relationships, intense emotions and problems with self-image along with a tendency to display traits of impulsivity. These individuals have intense/unstable relationships where one moment they love you and the next they hate you, fears of being criticized or abandoned, disturbances in their identity/sense of self, intense mood swings, impulsive and self destructive behaviors (such as overspending of money, alcohol & drug abuse, suicidal behaviors and other reckless behaviors) and chronic feelings/displays of anger (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000). Although a higher percentage of females display these characteristics, they are also present in males. There is not really a productive component of having any of these traits. A fan with these traits who befriends a musician in a band, which she looks up to will immediately develop an intensely close relationship where she idealizes the musician. The fan may want to help out and provide support by promoting the musician and his band. However, the musician may not see or have the same intentions of developing the close relationship that the fan expects. When the fan is not getting back in return what she anticipated (such as the band member calling her, getting together with her, etc), the fan is likely to become enraged and feel abandoned. As a result of this perceived rejection, the fan may verbalize or engage in self-destructive behaviors in an attempt to make him feel bad and get the relationship back to where she wants it to be.

Antisocial Personality Traits

Individuals with antisocial personality traits engage in behaviors where they disregard and violate the rights of others. These individuals perform acts where they violate laws, deceive others for profit or personal pleasure, lack remorse and can be irritable and aggressive (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000). Many people in the entertainment industry present with some varying degree of these traits. These traits can often been seen in managers and business persons. Entertainers who are empathic and care about others, may use these traits such as exaggerating their relationship with an big name acquaintance (without saying this specific person can help him or another person out) by saying that he knows the person better than he does, if he feels the person’s name holds some weight.  Is this deceitful?  Yes, the person is exaggerating the truth. But in this scenario, he is not trying to take advantage of another person or violating the rights of the other person he is talking to. On the other hand, it is unfortunately all too often that one will run into persons who display the extreme aspects of these traits. These tend to be successful managers, business persons and attorneys. For example, an amateur band may be approached by a manager who is interested in signing them.  The band is so excited that a manager is taking an interest in them and only looks at the notion of ‘we are going to get signed.’  The manager then starts using these traits to lure the band in, make promises that are probably not all going to come to fruition, asks for a lot of money (as without money the manager can’t do anything) and in the end will display no remorse or empathy when the band walks away empty handed.

Narcissistic Personality Traits

Individuals with narcissistic personality traits present as grandiose, have an excessive need for admiration and lack empathy. These individuals feel that they are extremely special and unique, have an exaggerated sense of self importance, are self-entitled, inter-personally exploitative, display arrogance and believe that others are envious of them (American Psychiatric Association [DSM-IV], 2000). The interesting aspect about persons with these traits is that despite them appearing to be highly self-confident and special, many of them actually have an extremely fragile sense of self, which can begin to fall apart at the slightest attack by someone on their self-worth. The entertainment industry is wrought with people displaying these traits from CEOs to musicians to actors and the list goes on. Let’s not confuse self-confidence with being arrogant and grandiose. Having some of these traits such as being confident in one’s abilities and enjoying being admired are important to being successful and thriving in an industry that is challenging and will chew you up, then spit you out. Actors and musicians need some of these traits as they enhance their performances and ability to draw the crowd in.  On the other hand, narcissistic personality traits in their severe form can be seriously destructive to the person (even though they are not aware of their deleterious effects) and those around them. The classical example is what musicians describe as Lead Singers Disease (LSD). Lead singers who display these traits to the extreme must have everyone admire them, show others how important they are, are arrogant, haughty towards others and will inter-personally exploit others by yelling at them and degrading them when their every need and demand is not fulfilled. It is unfortunate to see many entertainers who have been self-destructive to themselves and careers by letting these traits get out of control. Anyway how many bands have we seen fall apart as a result of LSD? Case closed!


American Psychiatric Association (2000). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (Revised 4th ed.). Washington, DC: Author.

Kerri Edelman, Psy.D. is a Clinical Psychologist, Contributing Magazine Writer, Singer-Songwriter and Radio Talk Show Host of The Kerri Edelman Show.  For more information on Kerri Edelman and her music, please visit www.kerriedelman.com and to listen to her radio show, visit www.blogtalkradio.com/kerriedelman

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