Hot List 2011: Snooki
By Noah Michelson
Once, not long ago, fame required talent. That was the deal. You had to be able to act, or sing, or write, or, at the very least, be wickedly attractive in order to get and keep the world's attention. These days, anyone can become famous for just about anything. Sixteen years old and you're knocked up? Here, have your own reality show. Rich, delusional, and prone to catfighting with other women who are just as brutish as you are and who happen to share your plastic surgeon and your zip code? You get your own show, too. And let's throw in the chance to record a sloppy, heavily vocoded dance single while we're at it.
But no one has turned being famous for nothing into a career -- and stolen our hearts along the way -- quite like Nicole 'Snooki' Polizzi. A self-described 'meatball' with a thing for juiceheads, spray tanning, and pickles, Snooki's goofy, affable, and most often drunken performances on three seasons of MTV's Jersey Shore have earned her an arrest for public intoxication, a black eye from a fellow bar patron, and an hour of our uninterrupted attention every Thursday night. She and the rest of her roommates have also won MTV its highest ratings for a series since the network launched nearly two decades ago.
Off camera, Snooki has been able to parlay her Seaside notoriety into a New York Times best-selling book, a rocket-riding cover of Rolling Stone, and a speaking tour that recently made headlines when she was paid $32,000 for a two-hour appearance at Rutgers University -- $2,000 more than Nobel prize'winning author Toni Morrison received for giving the commencement speech at the school this May.