Role models – whether they are celebrities, community leaders, or even our own parents – act as sources of inspiration to both young and old. But our role models are not superheroes. Scandals involving public figures regularly come to light and sometimes people fail where we wish they’d succeed. Students from Beijing BISS International School spoke about their idols, whether they are living up to their expectations, and if we even need them at all.
Do you have any role models?
Sana: Yes, definitely. Without them I wouldn’t know what’s right or wrong. Role models give me an idea of how I should act in life. My role model is my dad. He’s very responsible and organized and that’s what I’m always trying to do.
Sally: There is a very famous Korean author called Han Bi-ya. She had a stable life but all of a sudden she decided to leave everything behind to travel the world and pursue her dreams.
Yuan Yuan: I actually don’t have a role model. Instead, I look at the people in my life and there are always certain qualities to them which I admire and I try to follow those.
What qualities do you find inspirational?
Sana: A positive attitude is the main foundation. Also, hard work and commitment.
Sally: Risk-taking. I’m a very realistic person, I want to go to a great college and get a great job, but on my deathbed I don’t want to look back and think "I should have done that."
Yuan Yuan: I don’t judge a role model as much by their personality as by their actions and the way they respond to certain situations.
Do you look for different qualities in female and male role models?
Yuan Yuan: I don’t think the qualities are different. When I was younger, I always liked the movie Mulan, because Mulan was strong and she was the one who rescued herself. I think it’s good for women to have strength and men to have sensitivity.
Sally: I’m not stereotyping but there are different qualities to each sex that I’d like to adopt.
Kanchana: For role models, I believe that no matter male or female, they should have courage and confidence. If you don’t believe in yourself, how do you expect other people to believe in you?
Do role models really influence our beliefs and behaviors?
Sana: Isn’t that what role models are for? I would be influenced by my role model if he had qualities that were realistic and could easily relate to me.
Kanchana: It depends on the level of your maturity. You have to take what you get from [your role model], make it your own, and then work hard at it.
Sally: At the end of the day, if I look back at my decisions and beliefs, I don’t think [role models]influence me that greatly. I’m the one who is making the choices.
Why do you think some people look up to celebrities and athletes?
Yuan Yuan: Because they are famous and talented.
Kanchana: First of all, you’ve got to admit that you want to be one. Another reason is that celebrities are there to be looked upon. Their journey and how they overcame their difficulties are inspirational.
Do you think celebrities should be role models?
Sana: If their actions and way of living are positive. But a lot of celebrities have a dark side, and we don’t know about it because the media doesn’t show it.
Kanchana: It depends on who you are and what inspiration you need. For example, Eminem would not be a good inspiration for a suburban kid.
Yuan Yuan: It depends on who the celebrity is. They should be role models only if they deserve it.
Are famous people failing as role models?
Kanchana: It depends on what they do with their fame. For example: Angelina Jolie, I don’t like her at all, but she’s adopted many children and I admire her charity work.
Sana: It depends on the celebrity but overall, yes [they are failing]. Athletes and celebrities are two different things. Celebrities are in this totally made-up world, whereas athletes have to put in a lot of work.
Sally: In general, I think they are failing. But they are at a disadvantage because gossip magazines are there to expose all their dirty little secrets. Other people who are not celebrities may have those faults but nobody will ever know.