Special Report Teen Screen: Teen Idols

The numbers don't lie. Teens are the next darling demo. It seems that, by the early `80s, their parents, the boomers, were having kids in record numbers and continued to do so well into the `90s. This is not a group...
January 1, 1998

The numbers don’t lie. Teens are the next darling demo. It seems that, by the early `80s, their parents, the boomers, were having kids in record numbers and continued to do so well into the `90s. This is not a group to ignore. As with their ubiquitous boomer parents, whatever this group thinks is hot will be really hot. This month, ‘TeenScreen’ checks out which celebrities they are worshiping, what sports leagues are doing to attract them, as well as a profile of a daring new one-hour teen drama on WB that depicts teenage life as it really is.

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Teens. They are one of the largest demos at the moment, and they are certainly one of the most fickle, when it comes to whom they choose to pay homage. Greg Skinner, director of Mina, a market intelligence company with expertise in the youth market, hit the streets and the Internet to find out who’s tops with teens and why.

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*The Spice Girls

These five girls are having quite an impact. The reason that they do so well with teens is that no matter who the teen is, they’ll always be able to find at least one Spice Girl that they really, really like.

*Leonardo DiCaprio

Without question, teens love Leo, and his popularity goes way beyond the cute factor. One fan says she loves him because he’s ‘awesome at his job.’ By the way, Leo, your fans want you to quit smoking.

*Ma$e and Puff Daddy

Puff Daddy is the boss and Ma$e is his newest rap music star. Puff is ‘off the hook’ (fantastic) and Ma$e is cute, and both continue to climb the charts of popularity. Fans cite three main factors: they are the best performers, they make the best music and they have the best videos. One fan captured the feelings of many by saying, ‘The day Puffy stops making music will be a cold day for everyone. Puffy, you’re my idol and the best guy I know.’ Never underestimate the power of music.

*Sarah Michelle Gellar

Teens rave for Sarah Michelle Gellar, who plays Buffy on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Why the love? Because they can associate with her in a big way; Buffy is just like any other teenager, with ordinary problems, but, best of all, she didn’t choose to be a hero. ‘I think Buffy is the best,’ says one fan. ‘She is one of my idols. We have a lot in common.’

*Will Smith

He’s funny, he’s talented and he has a legion of devoted fans. The popularity of Will Smith comes down to versatility. First, he was an extremely popular music artist (The Fresh Prince), then a TV star (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air) and now a film star (Bad Boys, Independence Day and Men in Black). He has a new album out (Big Willie Style). It seems he can’t be stopped. With plenty of fans in all realms and outstanding mainstream appeal, he’ll stay on top of the charts for some time.

*Melissa Joan Hart

After three years on Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All, Melissa Joan Hart is now the popular star of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. Similar to Sarah Michelle Gellar and her Buffy character in the nature of her appeal, her show-about dealing with heady responsibilities and situations all while just trying to be a regular high schooler-is something to which many teens can relate. Her key selling points, according to fans? Her pleasant disposition in the face of adversity and her simple ‘down to earthness.’


Watch out for Usher, the 18-year-old R `n’ B singer, hugely popular with young fans because of his baby face and crooning ability. He has stormed up the Billboard charts. Girls love him, boys want to be him.

*Rebecca Lobo

Women’s basketball is simply huge entertainment, as much as any movie or TV show. Not only is Rebecca a teen idol, she is also a huge role model. ‘I love the way Rebecca is a role model for girls like myself. I truly look up to her.’ Admired qualities: athletic ability and being at the top of her game.


Hanson is inescapable. What makes them so popular is that they are so easygoing and approachable and they’re always so happy. Upbeat melodies and good looks have given them a very large following. Like the Spice Girls, each group member has a devoted group of followers, but their enthusiasts don’t have a lot of problems moving their support around. Hanson displaces The Backstreet Boys (ever so slightly) as the flavor of the moment.

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