An A-list celebrity is one at the very top of their field. It may be a bankable movie star, a major recording artist, international sports star, social media personality, film director, mogul, or an international TV broadcaster.
The A-list is part of a larger guide called The Hot List that has become an industry-standard guide in Hollywood. James Ulmer, the creator of The Hot List, has also developed a Hot List of Directors. The Ulmer scale categorizes the lists into A+, A, B+, B, C, and D listings.
In popular usage outside the film industry, an "A-list celebrity" is any person with an admired or desirable social status. Even socialites with popular press coverage and elite associations have been termed as "A-list" celebrities. Similarly, less popular persons and current teen idols are referred to as "B-list" – and the ones with lesser fame "C-list". Entertainment Weekly interpreted C-list celebrity as "that guy (or sometimes that girl), the easy-to-remember but hard-to-name character actor".
"D-list" (or sometimes Z-list) is for a person whose celebrity is so obscure that they are generally only known for appearances as so-called celebrities on panel game shows and reality television. In the late 20th century, D-listers were largely ignored by the entertainment news industry; for example, Paul Lynde, by this point in his career best known for being on the daytime game show Hollywood Squares, went largely unnoticed by the supermarket tabloids, and his homosexuality (which would have drawn attention for bigger celebrities) went largely unreported. Kathy Griffin, a U.S. comedian who became widely known for her frequent appearances on such programs, used the term in a tongue-in-cheek manner for her 2005 TV special The D-List and her 2005 TV series Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D-List. It is also the lowest rating used by U.S. journalist James Ulmer for his Ulmer Scale which ranks the bankability of 1,400 movie actors worldwide. Other successive letters of the alphabet beyond D, such as "E-list" or "Z-list", are sometimes used for exaggeration or comic effect but effectively have the same meaning as D-list; to the extent that there is a difference, letters further down the alphabet would indicate decreasing levels of fame (for example, regional celebrities such as local news anchors, community theatre actors, or at-the-bottom-of-the-chain, common persons with no claim to fame whatsoever).
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- Blalock, Meghan. "The 50 Most Infamous D-List Celebrities of All Time". stylecaster.com. stylecaster.com. Retrieved September 2, 2016.