Lily-Rose Depp

Which Pop Stars Inspired ‘The Idol’? References to Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Madonna and More

Which Pop Stars Inspired ‘The Idol’? References to Britney Spears, Selena Gomez, Madonna and More

It’s only been a few weeks since “The Idol” premiered, but HBO’s new series has already intrigued the pop culture zeitgeist.
“The Idol,” which sees Lily-Rose Depp in her first major television role, follows Jocelyn, a troubled pop star who finds herself in a twisted romance with a club owner and cult leader named Tedros (played by The Weeknd).

While Levinson maintains that “The Idol” isn’t based on “any particular pop star,” it hasn’t stopped viewers and, in some cases, the show’s writers, from comparing Jocelyn to real-life icons such as Britney Spears and the Weeknd’s ex, Selena Gomez.

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“The Idol” opens as Jocelyn poses nude for an album cover photo shoot. Her team briefly contemplates whether she should take off her hospital bracelet, insinuating that Jocelyn was admitted to a mental institution, or possibly rehab. “Mental illness is sexy,” insists record executive Nikki Katz (Jane Adams), and the bracelet stays on.

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Lily-Rose Depp in “The Idol.”


Fans of Gomez were quick to point out similarities between Jocelyn’s photo shoot and some of the “Rare” singer’s previous cover art. In promotional photos for her single “Bad Liar,” Gomez is depicted wearing a hospital bracelet. Meanwhile, Gomez was photographed nude for the cover of her 2015 album, “Revival.”

Gomez, who had been in the hospital receiving treatment for lupus, wore the bracelet at the direction of photographer Petra Collins.

In her Apple TV+ documentary, “My Mind & Me,” Gomez opened up about spending time in a mental health facility. Ahead of her stay, she canceled her 2016 Revival Tour due to anxiety and depression. Similarly, in “The Idol,” we learn that Jocelyn canceled a world tour following the death of her mother.

Gomez dated The Weeknd in 2017, leading some viewers to speculate that “The Idol” is based on her career. During a press conference at Cannes Film Festival, The Weeknd explained that Jocelyn is partially inspired by the “experiences of other artists that [he’s] witnessed,” but he never mentioned Gomez by name.

Princess of pop

There are a few things viewers instantly recognize about Jocelyn: she’s beautiful, she’s famous and she’s fresh off the heels of a breakdown.

In the first episode, Vanity Fair writer Talia (Hari Nef) visits Jocelyn as she prepares for her comeback. Ahead of their interview, Talia notes the singer’s “referential” choreography, which is later described as “an homage” to Britney Spears. In the same scene, it’s made clear that Jocelyn’s mental breakdown is reminiscent of Spears’ personal struggles.

Lily-Rose Depp in “The Idol.”


“What Britney and Jocelyn have gone through is really unique, but ultimately universal,” notes Jocelyn’s publicist, Benjamin (Dan Levy).

We later learn that Jocelyn, like Spears and Gomez, began her career as a child star. Spears got her big break on “The Mickey Mouse Club,” while Gomez became a household name after starring in “Wizards of Waverly Place.”

It’s also been speculated that Spears had some involvement with “The Idol.” In a 2021 Instagram post, she mentioned filming a movie with the same title, though it’s unclear whether she’s actually referencing the HBO show. Additionally, Spears was photographed with Levinson and The Weeknd in 2022.

“Like a Prayer”

The Queen of Pop, Madonna, is also referenced in “The Idol.” In the pilot, Jocelyn first encounters Tedros during a night out at his club. “Like a Prayer” blasts through the speakers, insinuating Jocelyn’s likeness to Madonna as an edgy pop superstar, as well as the religious nature of Tedros’ cult.

In the third episode, Jocelyn’s friend and creative director, Xander (Troye Sivan) asks Tedros, “When was the last truly nasty, bad pop girl?”

Lily-Rose Depp in “The Idol.”


While not a direct reference to Madonna, the line recalls her groundbreaking and often controversial career, including the “Like a Prayer” music video, which saw major backlash from religious groups. Her risqué video for “Justify My Love,” which came out only a year later in 1990, was banned from MTV for its explicit material.

Madonna is involved with “The Idol.” She collaborated with The Weeknd and Playboi Carti on “Popular,” which appears on the show’s soundtrack.

Other inspirations

Depp has revealed that Jocelyn is inspired by a number of other celebrities, ranging from singers to actresses. In an interview with W, the actress revealed that “[She] was also thinking about Beyoncé, Mariah [Carey] and every huge pop star of our time” as the basis for Jocelyn’s character. “I wanted Jocelyn to be the kind of woman who can dominate a room,” Depp continued. “Someone who doesn’t ever shy away from their sparkle.”

While speaking to Entertainment Tonight, Depp also pointed to cinematic inspirations for Jocelyn, including actresses of both old and new Hollywood. “We actually drew from a lot of other influences that are not pop stars,” she explained. “We thought a lot about Sharon Stone in ‘Basic Instinct’ and the Gene Tierneys and Lauren Bacalls.”

Chanel RTW Spring 2022

Chanel RTW Spring 2022

It was flashback time for photographers at the Chanel show, which was staged in a replica of the Carrousel du Louvre, the cavernous venue that hosted many Paris Fashion Week shows in the 1980s and 1990s.Snappers were grouped around a raised runway for a high-energy show that brought to mind late creative director Karl Lagerfeld’s supermodel extravaganzas in the ’90s. Models flipped their hair, jutted their hips and winked as they paraded in graphic swimsuits, logo-patterned dresses and tweed suits in a throwback palette of lilac, pink and yellow.

While some had a field day with the brief, others were visibly less comfortable vamping it up. The prize for Most Winning Smile went to Jill Kortleve, while Mariam de Vinzelle won for Most Dramatic Hair Toss, and Louise de Chevigny for Best Use of an Accessory, for her deft way with a chiffon stole.

With the Grand Palais undergoing renovations, Chanel switched to a temporary replacement venue near the Eiffel Tower for its first runway show with an audience in 12 months. The dark, cramped setting afforded less of a stage for peacocking Chanel clients, but gave creative director Virginie Viard an excuse to play with the show format.

Since succeeding Lagerfeld following his death in 2019, she has brought in a variety of big names to shoot the brand’s campaigns and press kits, which Lagerfeld personally lensed for more than three decades. “I’ve never taken pictures, but it’s something that fascinates me,” Viard said in a preview. “It magnifies the collection.”
The show decor, dominated by a giant image of model Vivienne Rohner holding a camera, was a tribute to those image-makers, including Inez Van Lamsweerde and Vinoodh Matadin, who were positioned at the end of the podium to record the action for Chanel’s digital broadcast later in the day.
Guests entered through a room where giant screens showed black-and-white footage of brand ambassadors, including Lily-Rose Depp and Blackpink’s Jennie, picking up cameras and preening in a director’s chair. Inside, photographers jostled to get a picture of the stars in person.
Rohner was first on the runway, in a low-cut white swimsuit and black T-shirt that were a perfect foil for the accessories: two-tone flats, a black 2.55 handbag, an oversize quilted tote and oodles of necklaces, in the kind of pileup that Lagerfeld made a trademark of ‘90s Chanel.
Some looks appeared teleported from that era: a cropped T-shirt with “Chanel” spelled out in sequins was paired with a long black skirt with a thong peeking over the waistband, while a pink cardigan came with a matching crop top and shorts. Handbags shaped like bottles of No. 5 perfume, which celebrates its centenary this year, are sure to generate waiting lists.
Viard offered oversized jackets in a variety of hues, including a lilac version printed with double-C logos. Miniskirts featured extended flaps in the back, while a black leather quilted dungaree had the aura of an instant classic.
Flou tends to be Viard’s weak point, and this show was no exception, with a closing sequence of chiffon dresses in an oversized butterfly print that felt like a downer, compared to the rest of the colorful lineup.
Viard took a risk by transporting her audience back to a golden period for Chanel, running the danger of being unfavorably compared with her predecessor. While the media-shy designer will never match Lagerfeld’s bombastic presence, this was a customer-friendly outing that should keep the brand’s cash registers ringing.
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