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Teen Idol

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"'And I'll root, toot, shoot myself to fame
Every kid alive is gonna know my name
An overnight phenomenon like there's never been
A motivated, supersonic king of the scene"

"I'll be a teenage idol, just give me a break
I'll be a teenage idol, no matter how long it takes
You just don't know what it means to me
I'm gonna find myself a place in history
A teenage idol, that's what I'm gonna be".
Elton John, "(I'm Going To Be A) Teenage Idol", written for his friend Marc Bolan (T-Rex).

An entertainer who is idolized by teenagers, preteens, and young adults.

People have been declared teen idols for as long as being a teenager has been recognizednote . Many, but not all, have been specifically groomed for this purpose. They generally have several things in common:

  1. Either they are teenaged themselves when they first become stars, or they are in their twenties and can pass for teenage with Dawson Casting (or both).
  2. They are attractive and photogenic, often becoming the target of the Celeb Crush (Beauty Equals Goodness, right?).
  3. They act, sing, or both. It tends to be both if their managers have a say in it. Their talent is irrelevant to being a Teen Idol in the first place, but it makes a difference about whether they're Vindicated by History.
  4. They create a Periphery Hatedom for anyone not a teenager, and, of course, some teenagers will react in disgust at being pandered to.

The most basic way to tell if a celebrity is truly a Teen Idol is by whether they wind up in magazines aimed at the teenage market (like Sassy, Tiger Beat, YM, Seventeen, and Teen People) and by whether they become a poster celebrity. It should be emphasized that Tropes Are Not Bad and many idols, particularly musicians that legitimately wrote their own material, gain critical defenders as time goes on.

Often, if the teens of the era have a social conscience, a Teen Idol will be the way The Man Is Sticking It to the Man.

This trope commonly overlaps with the Idol Singer, although not all teen idols are singers. See also Boy Band, Girl Group, and Teen Pop.

Not to be confused with the Meg Cabot novel Teen Idol (though it is about one), or Marina Diamandis' song "Teen Idle" (though Marina is given to playing with the trope).


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    Anime and Manga 


    Live Action TV 
  • Farrah Fawcett during her Charlie's Angels days.
  • Nina from Just Shoot Me! was said to have been this in her former days as a model. She would frequently run into men who had had a poster of her on their wall as teens.
  • The Dukes of Hazzard with John Schneider and Tom Wopat (Bo and Luke) for the girls, and Catherine Bach (Daisy) for the guys, although only Schneider was the only actual teenager when the series began (Schneider was 18, while Wopat was 26 and Bach 25).
  • The Brady Bunch:
    • Barry Williams, who played oldest son Greg, began getting his fan mail — most from teen-aged girls — relatively early, but it really started picking up midway through the 1970-1971 season when his voice deepened to its adult pitch and he physically matured. (FWIW, Williams was an aversion to the rule that the kids only matured physically and otherwise at the start of each new season; his happened during the second season, all the others followed this basic rule.) Incidentally, the only episode where Greg is truly presented as a teen idol — and then, only briefly — is in a scene in "Adios, Johnny Bravo," where a bunch of paid teen-aged actresses mob Greg and tear off all his clothes during a photo shoot for the (intended) first Johnny Bravo album.
    • Williams' co-star, Maureen McCormick (Marcia) became a teen queen during the fourth season, when she really started getting hot. Chris Knight (Peter) finally developed his following in 1973, just as Year 5 got underway.
  • Step by Step:
    • Although oldest teen star Staci Keanan was supposed to be the designated teen queen of the series — and at least in the early going it was this way — by 1995 her popularity was completely eclipsed by co-star Christine Lakin (who played youngest daughter Al Lambert), once she entered puberty, became completely hot and became the apple of many young men's eyes (and those in their late teens).
    • In contrast — and as an aversion to rule that the oldest teenage boy character being a family sitcom's designated teen idol — Brandon Call never came close to achieving true teen idol status, and the followings of Angela Watson (middle daughter Karen, who fancied herself as the teen queen of the family) and Christopher Castile (who in the later years of the show was a teenager) were modest at best. Sasha Mitchell, who was in his mid 20s when the series started, was the one who got the most fan mail from teenaged girls.
  • The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet: Ricky Nelson, who parlayed his TV fame into a legitimate music career, and carried on his family's tradition (Ozzie had been a huge star as a bandleader in the 1930s and '40s).
  • Seven-Of-Nine in Star Trek: Voyager. While a part of the fandom hated her for being Ms. Fanservice, she still had a sizable following.
  • Several Power Rangers, to most people when they think of the Pink Ranger they think of Amy Jo Johnson's Kimberly.
  • Deanna Troi.
  • David Cassidy of The Partridge Family. Interestingly, he's one of the few real-life Teen Idols who was also portrayed that way on the show. And Susan Dey for the others.
  • The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries:
    • Shaun Cassidy, half-brother to David. His singing career never quite got in the way of solving mysteries.
    • His co-star, Parker Stevenson, also had a sizable teen following & teen mag status.
  • The Monkees, for both their music and TV Show.
  • All three of the brothers on Here Come the Brides, although Robert Brown was way up at the top end of the Teen Idol age range. Most teenaged girls were enamored of Bobby Sherman, but some preferred David Soul (which turned out to be a wise choice). Bridget Hanley (the youngest bride) was the female Teen Idol from the same show.
  • Practically all of the Disney Channel's teen actors since 2002. Most of them are also Idol Singers.
  • Nickelodeon's now catching up to Disney Channel too, with 2 starting ones:
  • How I Met Your Mother: Robin Scherbatsky eventually reveals that she was a teen popstar known as "Robin Sparkles" back in Canada. She's incredibly embarrassed about the whole thing and tries to keep the truth from her friends in America.
  • Brian Austin Green.
  • Johnny Depp on 21 Jump Street (though it bothered him).
  • All of the stars of High School Musical, especially Zac Efron.
  • Ali Larter was clearly intended to be the pinup of choice for hetero males from Heroes, but Hayden Panettiere turned out to be the one teenage boys and not only boys (and more than a few post-teenagers went fornote  Well, All Guys Want Cheerleaders...)
  • Jason Bateman during his days on The Hogan Family (the series originally known as Valerie).
  • Patty Duke with her self-titled sitcom. She later found modest success in more dramatic fare.
  • Wonder Woman: Leif Garrett guest starred in "My Teenage Idol Is Missing".
  • The CW has a profitable sideline in this field.
  • Jonathan Taylor Thomas, who played Tim Taylor's son Randy on Home Improvement, became one once he hit puberty and turned out to be really handsome, earning the show a substantial Periphery Demographic of teenage girls who would watch the same show as their fathers for very different reasons.

  • Death of a Pop-Idol, a short story, has Johnny, teenaged music sensation!... Also a suberversion: He quits because he can't stand the whole thing.
  • Welcome To Wonderland: The second book, Beach Party Surf Monkey, has Aidan Tyler, one of the co-stars of the movie being filmed at the Wonderland. As Gloria finds out, he's quite difficult to work with.

  • Paul Anka became an idol at the age of 14 and had a massive teenage fan base all throughout The '50s and '60s.
  • Frankie Avalon (also in films, frequently with the previously-mentioned Annette Funicello)
  • The Bee Gees:
    • Particularly in their pre-disco stage of their career (late '60s and their rise to stardom to the early '70s).
    • The Gibbs' youngest brother, Andy, was also a teen idol in the late '70s. Unlike post teen pop of the '60s and later, Gibb's music made as a teen still gets heavy oldies/classic hits airplay — especially "I Just Want to Be Your Everything," his ultra smash from 1977 — due to his music being substantially and stylistically different from peers such as Shaun Cassidy, Bobby Sherman, etc.
  • Debbie Harry from Blondie.
  • Britney Spears was this in the late '90s/early 2000s
  • The Beatles.
  • The Beach Boys.
  • The Rolling Stones were this in the United States during The British Invasion.
  • Chris Brown was one in his early career (2005-2009), prior to his domestic abuse incident with Rihanna
  • The Cowsills
  • The DeFranco Family, especially youngest sibling and lead singer Tony DeFranco.
  • Elvis Presley.
  • Fabian.
  • Pat Boone. (yes, that one.)
  • Tommy Sands.
  • Roy Orbison
  • Neil Sedaka.
  • Bobby Rydell
  • The Partridge Family
  • Bobby Sherman.
  • Tommy Sands.
  • Gary Lewis. (Jerry Lewis' son)
  • Jimmy Clanton.
  • The Lennon Sisters, though they achieved this status on a smaller scale, via the Lawrence Welk television series.
  • Debbie Gibson.
  • Tiffany.
  • Madonna
  • KISS was considered this during the late '70s, based on the way in which the group's merchandise was originally marketed.
  • Cheap Trick.
  • New Kids on the Block.
  • T-Rex, in England.
  • Ricky Nelson. His sons, Matthew and Gunnar (who performed as Nelson), also became teen idols for a time in the early '90s, extending the family tradition to a third generation. As patriarch Ozzie Nelson had No. 1 hits on the Billboard charts in the late 1930s/early '40s, and Ricky followed with his string in the late '50s/early '60s, Nelson became one of the few multi-generation families to each have No. 1 hits, turning the trick in 1990 with "(Can't Live Without Your) Love and Affection."
  • Frank Sinatra was arguably the original teen idolnote . This was in the '40s and '50s.
  • The Jonas Brothers, part of the Disney music marketing.
  • Allstar Weekend.
  • The Jackson 5, and Michael Jackson the solo singer when he was in his teens. The "King of Pop," incidentally, was one of the few teen idols who parlayed his teen stardom into a career in adulthood, and to say it was successful would be a gross understatement.
  • Taylor Swift
  • Alanis Morissette (We do not talk about that.)
  • Restart
  • Justin Bieber
  • Leif Garrett, who actually started his career as an actor but got into music full-time in the late '70s.
  • Donny Osmond, his sister Marie, and the rest of the Osmonds. Both Donny and Marie (who recorded together as teenagers) would each have huge hits as adults in the '80s, both as solo artists or in Marie's case, with various duet partners. Marie's success came primarily on the country chart, with her solo No. 1 hit "There's No Stopping Your Heart," and duet No. 1's with two fellow ex-pop stars: Dan Seals ("Meet Me in Montana") and Paul Davis ("You're Still New to Me"); Donny returned to the pop chart's top 5 with "Soldier of Love" in May 1989, and had another top 15 hit with "Sacred Emotion" toward the end of the summer 1989.
  • Cody Simpson
  • Greyson Chance
  • Wham! in the '80s.(George Michael would also be a British Teen Idol at first as a solo singer).
  • New Edition in the beginning.
  • Hanson.
  • Shaun Cassidy
  • The Bay City Rollers are probably the Trope Codifier in the UK, if not the Trope Maker. Unlike most examples they had enough creative control to go through several changes of lineup, fire their manager, fall out spectacularly over Creative Differences and eventually split into two warring factions and start suing each other.
  • One Direction
  • The Monkees certainly count due to their artificially composed nature, yet they're also known for gaining a lot of respect from both musicians and music critics.
  • *NSYNC was this in the late '90s/early 2000s. Justin Timberlake during his time in the band and as he transitioned to a solo career.
  • Backstreet Boys were also this in the late '90s/early 2000s (albeit more in the late '90s).
  • Lesley Gore was 16 when her debut "It's My Party" went to #1. After attending college in 1965, she started a modestly successful adult career with the entirely self-written comeback album, Someplace Else Now, in 1972. She remained on the oldies and cabaret circuit while recording the occasional album until her death in 2015.
  • Australian singers/actors Kylie Minogue and Jason Donovan used to be teen idols back in the late 80's-early 90's, but then they grew up and moved on.
  • Eminem, from 1999-2005, somehow ended up becoming one, attracting a huge fanbase of mostly young teenage girls. During this period he was marketed as something of a Subverted Kids' Show version of an idol, making surreal and subversive appearances on TRL, working the Teen Pop sound into his violent and button-pushing songs, and writing satirical Anti-Role Model songs in which he encouraged his young fans to take up drugs, kill people and commit suicide.
    They say I'm suicidal - teenagers' newest idol
    C'mon, do as I do, go ahead, get mad and do it! Just pull the plug!

    Real Life 
  • Pin-up girls of World War II (and onwards) fame.
  • Many a Page Three Stunna, but most notably Samantha Fox, Linda Lusardi, Melinda Messenger and Keeley Hazell.
  • The Janoskians, an Australian comedy troupe who fit the boy-band mold except for the fact that they aren't a musical group.
  • Magcon, a group of teenage social media stars who first got their attention on Vine. Their popularity is already starting to rival that of One Direction, and one of their members, Shawn Mendes, shot to the top of the iTunes chart in a day.
  • Barack Obama got this treatment in the viral video "Crush on Obama" by the YouTube artist ObamaGirl. See more on that other wiki. He later remarked that he didn't have a response himself, but that his daughters felt teed off by it.

Alternative Title(s): Pin Up Girl