Why are modern spiritual icons absent in celebrity studies? The role of intermediaries in enhancing Mother Teresa’s advocacy in India and Australia prior to the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize

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There is increasing consensus amongst scholars from various academic disciplines that the influence of celebrity culture on our lives is compatible to the function and impact of religion prior to the Enlightenment. Notwithstanding the growing body of literature on the correlation between celebrity culture and faith, so far little has been written on how they affect each other. The absence of spiritual icons in celebrity studies is also noticeable. This study explores the interrelationship between religion and celebrity culture by focusing on Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta and Melbourne during the 1949-1978 period. By the time the 1979 Nobel Peace Prize turned the nun into a global luminary, she was already a celebrity largely because of continued media interest in her work despite lacking a ‘newsworthy’ private life. The article also examines the role of some of her little-known and hitherto unknown supporters in constructing her image as a spiritual and humanitarian icon. The study concludes that the interconnection between Mother Teresa’s personal life, especially her spiritual darkness, and her ministry, her collaboration with the media, and the contribution of intermediaries in enhancing her advocacy collectively illustrate why religious celebrities should no longer be sidelined in celebrity studies.


Original languageEnglish
Number of pages16
JournalCelebrity Studies
Early online date12 Feb 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Feb 2019


  • Celebrity studies, modern spiritual icons, media, Mother Teresa, intermediaries, celebrity advocacy, spiritual darkness

ASJC Scopus subject areas