Surviving Fame

Jenna Lewis Likes Attention

For most of her 22 years, Jenna Lewis, a single mom and aspiring actress, has been waiting for her 15 minutes of fame to begin. Correspondent Steve Hartman reports.
Six weeks ago it happened. Lewis debuted on the CBS show Survivor. She left her kids with her mother to go off and vie for a million-dollar prize. For Lewis, fame is just as important.

"I'm hoping by the last episode people will be, like, 'Oh yeah, that's her,'" she says.

Survivor is slowly starting to turn into stars its contestants - even the losers, who get kicked off the island and end up on late-night TV.

Apparently, many people want to be famous this way. "We received, I think 6,200 three-minute videotapes," says Mark Burnett, the man behind the show.

One of those who made the cut was Sean Kenniff, a 30-year-old unmarried neurologist from Masaapequa, N.Y. "It's just beyond my wildest dreams," he says about appearing on the show.

He left behind a thriving medical practice and headed off for 39 days of hard-core, real-world survival - more or less. Everyone was allowed one luxury item. Some people took toothbrushes; Kenniff took a razor.

Kenniff is also having his brush with fame. One fan found his home number and left him a message telling him how attractive she thought he was.

Does he worry about his privacy now? He says no. "The reality is if I walk out of my house and I see the National Enquirer rummaging through my garbage, that would just be a dream come true," he says.

"It all boils down to what we all really knew when we were 3 years old, which is: We all crave attention," says Professor Bob Thompson, who runs The Center for the Study of Popular Television at Syracuse University.

He has a theory about the show, and others like it. "Used to be, the only people who could be famous were people who were really good at something," he says. "Now all of a sudden with cable and all these other kinds of things, there is another option. You can get famous, you just have to pay a price. And if that price isn't talent, it may be your dignity. It may be your privacy."

The trend seems to be spreading.

In Holland last year, a show called Big Brother was a big hit. One house was populated with 10 contestants and dozens of cameras. Bart outlasted everybody and became famous in Holland.

But he didn't leave happy. "I've been on television 106 days, which was enough for me," he says. "Being bothered and losing one's privacy is the toxic waste that comes with all the great stuff that comes from being famous."

But Lewis likes the idea of strangers coming up to her and talking to her.

"For some strange reason I've just always loved the attention I get from other people," she says. "I've always been the person that if you want a good answer, talk to her. She'll talk your ear off."

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