Katherine Webb achieved Internet stardom in a roundabout, awkward way, but career coaches say the incident could propel the beauty queen onto bigger and better ventures.
College football stirs passions, but usually not the kind Brent Musburger expressed when he waxed poetic about Webb’s appearance on Monday night during the University of Alabama’s victory in the BCS title game.
For Webb, Miss Alabama USA 2012 and girlfriend of Alabama quarterback A.J. McCarron, the attention and a subsequent apology from ESPN for Musburger’s remarks turned into a social media blowout, with her number of Twitter followers spiking to more than 254,000 from a little over 2,000.
Webb easily could take advantage of her overnight fame as a springboard to celebrity status, and she wouldn't be the first. "Baywatch" star Pamela Anderson was discovered back in 1989 during a BC Lions football game in Vancouver, when a camera scanning the crowd projected her onto the Jumbotron. Other fans’ reaction, plus her lucky choice of a Labatt T-shirt, landed her a gig as a spokesmodel for the beer, and the rest was history.
Webb should ask herself, “What does she want to create?” said Elene Cafasso, founder and president of executive coaching firm Enerpace. “Does she want to parlay this into her own business?”
Webb has already gotten at least one offer. Donald Trump tweeted, “We are going to ask Katherine Webb to be a judge at the Miss USA Pageant coming up in Las Vegas.”
In an interview with TODAY's Matt Lauer on Wednesday, Webb said she was “flattered” by Musburger’s comments and didn’t find them derogatory, but she seemed eager to deflect the spotlight. “I’m honestly really shocked,” she said. “We need to draw back our attention to who the real winners are, and that’s, you know, the Alabama football team.”
“That’s not surprising, even if you like the attention,” said James Bailey, psychologist and professor of leadership at George Washington University. “It could be a little overwhelming” to get this kind of social media-fed notoriety, especially since Webb had no control over the situation.
So far, Bailey said Webb displayed a measured response to the hype and was probably figuring out what to do next.
Career coach Brenda Griffin agreed. “It did come out of nowhere. She was just at a football game,” she said. “What she’s doing, I think, is preparing herself for more.”
At 23, Webb is familiar with being in the public eye thanks to her pageant participation, and that could be an asset, according to an article about overnight fame written by Northeastern University associate psychology professor C. Randall Colvin. “People who possess a well-formed and mature identity will be less likely to succumb to the pitfalls of fame and instead might use their fame to benefit others,” he said.
“Doing good for others...my objective for all this media madness,” Webb tweeted.
Webb could take Trump up on his offer and become more involved in the pageant world, or she could lend her fame to Alabama’s football program. “I’ll do whatever I can to help the team out and support A.J.,” she told Lauer. Griffin said Webb could parlay her Twitter fame into a platform for advancing a cause or interest close to her heart, or she could use the interactivity of the Internet as a kind of litmus test.
“A good way is to tweet about various topics and see what kinds of responses you get,” Griffin suggested. “You can measure engagement in that way, to see what people are really interested in.”