But that was thirty years ago, when they used to have a show
Now it's a disco, but not for Lola
Still in the dress she used to wear, faded feathers in her hair
She sits there so refined, and drinks herself half-blind
She lost her youth and she lost her Tony,
Now she's lost her mind!"
She was one of the most famous performers of her time. But now, her days in the spotlight are long gone. She's over the hill. A joke. A "Where Are They Now?" trivia question. A White Dwarf Starlet: like stars in outer space that have ceased to burn and are now glowing only with residual heat from their active years.
But she still yearns for the adoration she received during her time as the It-Girl and believes her big comeback will happen any day now. She tends to live in a run-down mansion full of memorabilia of her lost golden years, wears moth-eaten Outdated Outfits from her great hits, and still expects everyone to recognize her. She refuses to believe she's too old to play Ophelia, and still insists she's not old enough for Gertrude.
This character is nearly Always Female, for some reason. Maybe it's because a woman in this position is more likely to draw sympathy than a man, or maybe it's because this fate befalls women a lot more in real life than it does men. Many women find it difficult to get work in the entertainment industry once their beauty fades and they're overlooked in favor of the latest pretty young thing, whereas a male performer can find gigs for as long as he can remember his lines, even if he burns out, loses his looks to the ravages of time, and/or becomes a parody of himself.
Like actual stars in outer space, sometimes the White Dwarf Starlet can go nova - burst in new brightness - if the character indeed does manage to get a role in a hit movie, TV show, or play (even a minor role that's well remembered), or releases a comeback album.
Contrast with Silver Fox.
- Astro City
- Looney Leo is a living cartoon character who used to be a major movie and television star, but now spends his day as a restaurateur and living novelty. While he's somewhat used to his life now, he used to be much worse off, having spent time as a homeless drifter after his career faded, made worse by a romantic liaison where the girl turned out to be underage. On top of that, he was haunted by memories of his lover and his three nephews back in the cartoons he came from, people who never actually existed.
- Then there's Charlie Provost aka Quark. He used to be Starfighter's sidekick until he went out of control, forcing Starfighter to depower him. Nowadays, he's an alcoholic wreck, bitter over the loss of his powers and living off money earned from convention appearances.
- Batman villain Basil Karlo—the original Clayface—is conceived as a male version, a former horror film star who's been left behind by changes in the business.
- Fading 1960s actress Danke Schoen in Lori Lovecraft bears many of the hallmarks of this trope, although she seems better adjusted than most examples: possibly because her career was very successful (she won two Oscars) before fading into obscurity, and possibly because she has the ace in the hole of being able to use magic.
- In The Order (2007), Anthem is a washed-up actor and friend in long standing of Iron Man's. How bad is he? Not only had he sunk into depression and become a severe alcoholic, he was resistant to the idea of a comeback because he felt he didn't deserve it. Luckily, he got better before the series began.
- The original Silk Spectre, by the time 1985 has rolled around. Subverted in that while she's lost her beauty and her following (and never got the actress career she wanted), she is happy in retirement, with no wish to take up adventuring again, only to reminisce about her glory days and live vicariously through her daughter (whom she raised and trained to be Silk Spectre II) a bit.
- Captain Metropolis is a borderline male example, clinging to his heroic past and trying to organize a new team in the late 60s, despite the fact that where he was once dashing and handsome, he's become a neurotic, paunchy mess whose prejudices have come to the fore.
- Nite Owl, Hollis Mason, is surrounded by his memorabilia and tells his only friend and successor Dan Dreiberg the same old heroic stories. In Mason's case though, he retired voluntarily after the debut of Dr. Manhattan, figuring that with a literal superman, the world didn't need him anymore.
- Wonder Woman Vol 1 villain Bedwin Footh is an aging stage actor who is becoming more and more bitter as he stops getting leading roles and costumed heroes start taking up more of the newspaper's print than theater. He considers himself among the best actors to have ever lived and becomes violently jealous that others are getting more attention than him.
- Despicable Me 3: Back in the 1980s, Balthazar Bratt was the star of a TV-series about a preteen-supervillain that got cancelled after he reached puberty (which invalidated the show's basic concept). Unable to accept the end of his old show (along with being apparently being unable to find a new job), he becomes his character in real life and tries to reproduce his character's crimes, despite the fact that he's middle-aged by the events of the movie.
- Lady and the Tramp: Pound dog Peg is implied to be this; apparently, she'd been performing in shows, and her sultry behavior combined with a worn-down appearance reinforce the impression. Being voiced by jazz singer Peggy Lee helps, too.
- Sing gives us Nana Noodleman, a former singer and stage actress. Both Buster and Mike express surprise that's she still alive and when the former goes to see her, her mansion is filled with posters and pictures of her in her youth and she wears what appears to be the outfit from her theater days. She also reminisces about the old days when the Moon Theater was "a palace of magic and wonder" and bluntly blames Buster for its downfall.
- Nana's ultimately a downplayed example; while she does reminisce about the old days, it's only because Buster brought them up—she never expresses a desire to return to her career, nor does she seem to care about whether anyone recognizes her. While her mansion is filled with memorabilia, it's in good condition and she's apparently still very wealthy.
- Male example: Igor Metzger from The Crying of Lot 49, a Former Child Star turned Handsome Lech.
- The Doctor's mother in the Eighth Doctor Adventures novel The Blue Angel comes across like this.
- The Heroes of Olympus: Beryl Grace, the mother of Thalia and Jason, was described as a '80s TV starlet who constantly performed stunts on the tabloids that eventually ruined her career. After Zeus/Jupiter left her for the second time, she turned an alcoholic and abusive to her children before dying in a car crash a year prior to the events of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
- Mission to Zyxx: Sentient spaceship The Bargarean Jade was an A-list holofilm star in her younger years. She occasionally tries to work her way back into showbiz and loves to show off her classic movies to the crew, as well as gossiping about all the famous people (and ships) she knew in the old days.
- Fairest Cruelest: The Queen struggles with the fact her spotlight is stolen by the young Princess Delilah, and confused by the princess's attitude towards her
- Mission to Zyxx: The starship Bargarean Jade, in her younger years, was an A-list holofilm star. She occasionally tries to work her way back into acting and loves to show off her classic movies to the crew, as well as gossiping about all the famous people (and ships) she knew in the old days.
- The Thrilling Adventure Hour: Averted in the short-lived segment "Desdemona Hughes, Diva Detective", where the eponymous protagonist is a former Silent Movie star turned detective. Despite having had a long career in the spotlight until the talkies came along, she is never seen moping about having lost it but relishes in her new line of work.
- Where Are They Now? depicts the once glamorous Jessica Rabbit as a morbidly obese fast food addict.