It’s the golden age of the celebrity apology. Celebrities have the upper-hand when it comes to saying sorry, because they benefit from what psychologists call the “halo-effect.” We tend to generalize “greatness”—as though greatness on the sports field or the movie set is an indicator of personal morality.
When a celebrity breaks that contract, we’re shocked—the case of Tiger Woods is a classic example. But we’re also all the more likely to forgive them. We love celebrities because we want to be like them. We love them even more when they prove to be just like us.
Celebrity publicists have a list of keywords when it comes to writing apology speeches. “Heartbreaking” is a favorite, along with“disgusting.” First, suggest that you’ve been wounded by your own actions. Second, talk about the deed as though it was committed by a disobedient imaginary friend or a badly trained dog. Third, suggest that fame is a burden. You might be great at dancing on stage in a rhinestone bikini, but being a famous person has never been your strong suit—you’re still learning the ropes of mass-exposure.
If that doesn’t fly, try deflecting attention by exposing (or inventing) another crime you’ve been hiding from the public. While the critics run to the chocolate drops, hide the steak up your sleeve. Vulnerability is the key to transforming exposure into heroism. Finally, thank your friends and family for their support during this difficult time. This might not be an Oscars acceptance speech, but there’s no harm in blurring the boundaries.