Leonardo DiCaprio could make Blake Lively a superstar. No pressure.

(Krista Kennell/Sipa; Bauer-Griffin)(Krista Kennell/Sipa; Bauer-Griffin)Don't envy Blake Lively. Yes she's Hollywood's 'it' girl and the fashion industry's new muse but this whole Leonardo DiCaprio business seems like a pressure cooker. Over the past week, Lively's been photographed hugging the newly single actor in Cannes and then walking ahead of him in a mini-skirt in Italy as he trailed behind holding leftovers. If you're at your desk eating lunch, you may have forwarded these photos to your email chain of friends. If you're Lively's agent, you Skype-d your client in the eyes and screamed, "Don't f*** this up, Blake!"

Sick as it sounds, dating a superstar can triple your earning potential and land you roles that solidify your career. This is true of either sex. Case study 1: Bradley Cooper dated mega-stars Jennifer Aniston and then Renee Zellweger. Along the way he went from sidekick guy in "Failure to Launch" to answering pretentious "Inside the Actor's Studio" questions about his craft. No coincidence there. Case Study 2: Gwyenth Paltrow makes a name for herself with "Seven", playing on-and-offscreen love interest of the world's hottest dude, Brad Pitt. Only months later she nabs the lead role in "Emma", as every other major starlet in Hollywood fumes with jealousy. An Oscar isn't far behind. Case study 3: Katie Holmes has a suspiciously micro-managed romance with Tom Cruise. Goes from "Dawson's Creek" alum and Sundance Festival staple, to the kind of celebrity who never has work again. Case study 4: Ashton Kutcher breaks out of sitcom purgatory with "Punk'd" but his brand of cuteness had an expiration date. That all changes when he marries superstar Demi Moore.

The fact is there are lot of ways to become famous, but only a few ways to become super-duper-trooper famous. Personal and professional success have to eclipse each other at the exact same time in a groundbreaking and incredibly public way. Then, both must be sustained for a certain number of months to count (kind of like a mechanical bull-ride).

Right now, Blake's forecast is looking good. She's got love from both Vogue and Time magazines, she's got a blockbuster action film out this summer ("The Green Lantern") and as of earlier this month, she's attached to one of Hollywood's biggest movies slated for production ("Savages"). If she embarks on a relationship with the world's biggest male star, she could win the powerball jackpot.

Red carpet photo ops. Name-blending. Magazine profiles that describe their cohabitation quirks and make comparisons to Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward. Totally unjustified international respect. Because the world's biggest superstars are enigmas who seem guarded both emotionally and physically by a security alarm, it's highly appreciated when someone else cracks their code. That medium-celebrity becomes our crowbar into the real life of the superstar. We repay them with eternal fame. It's a reductive theory but it's one way of explaining to coldly predictable world of fame.

Right now, there are only about a handful of famous male actors that can churn out a female superstar by seriously dating them. Brad Pitt. Taken. George Clooney. Don't bother if you're not a cocktail waitress. Tom Cruise. Taken, but also not so slick about the whole thing. Jake Gyllenhaal. Potential. Leonardo DiCaprio. Goldmine. If Blake isn't familiar with this list, her image consultants and studio advocates are.

Even if Blake doesn't like Leo, too much is at stake. A few more photo ops like the ones this week can mean the difference for her between a daytime Emmy and an Oscar. Many a medium star has had the chance to leverage a similar situation and blown it. Wilmer Valderrama. Sophia Vergara (remember that Tom Cruise campaign?). Lots of people we can't remember the names of anymore.

For some, the fame button might not be worth pressing. But there's no question Blake's handlers and profiteers are hoping she hits it and holds it down, at least until awards season. Then she can date whoever she darn pleases and if she's feeling generous, she can pay it forward.


Related:
Leo's single again: dating a commitment-phobic
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