Q: At what point during a celebrity's ascent to stardom does the ego become so inflated that he or she attempts to succeed in other areas of business? I'm thinking of Jennifer Lopez's restaurant, Paris Hilton's singing career and Shaquille O'Neal's acting stint.

Brett Walton, Bridgewater, Va.

A: The quick answer: It happens the minute you reach a critical mass of employees (agent, manager, stylist) whose chief job it is to compliment you on your limitless genius. And the really savvy business manager is going to be looking at ways to exploit whatever market possible. This is called milking it. It's a nice life, for the nanosecond it usually lasts.

The better answer: They really want to direct. Cliched as that statement has become, this is essentially the broadest desire of all who work -- the nagging feeling that, whatever you're doing, no matter how much money you're making or praise you're receiving, you would like to at least try something else. Celebrities happen to have the money and connections to try just about anything they want -- even at the risk of losing or tarnishing the fame they've already achieved. Plus they have that helpful little demon whispering in their ears, the one who tells them that they are not just a movie star (or singer, or athlete), they are a synergistic empire, capable of branching into any market.

Haven't we all worked for the manager or executive who, despite his or her successes, one day opens a muffin shop in Aspen? Becomes a painter? Moves to Arizona to study the "healing arts"? Aren't celebrities allowed some misguided dreams, too?

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