The untimely demise of Grammy and Emmy-Awards winning artist, Whitney Elizabeth Houston, in her Beverly Hills hotel room on 11, February 2012, at the age of 48 saw another litany of glowing tributes to the late diva by fans, all across the world.
It will be recalled that from the middle of the eighties to the late nineties, she was one of the world's best-selling artists. Her exit opened another sea of emotions flowing around the world of eminence and preeminence of a musician of many distinctions. Her death like that of the late King of pop music, Michael Jackson has drawn many concerns on moral absolutes and the challenge of fame in a world caught up by the web of fantasy. For many, it was about fame and fortune. But what lies between fame and fortune? That is the certainly the moral question one must try to answer.
Little wonder then, in life, fame is mostly associated with fortune. The former has been the driving force for many to dare stardom. In the world of celebrities, stardom is the fame and prestige of being a star or an iconic personage. As such, many have related fame and its attendant glories to the status of a performer or entertainer who is acknowledged as a star in films, sports, movies, music, politics, the academia to mention just a few fields of endeavor.
The Miss World beauty pageant with its new ideology of, missosology, namely the number one pageant-related community forum which covers Miss Universe, Miss World, Miss International, Miss Earth brandishes a new world of flamboyant phenomenon otherwise seen as the science of beauty.
Some attribute success stories to share fatalism as many have retold the story of President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, for instance. On the international scene, names like; Bill Gates, Steve Jobs, Celine Dion, Barrack Obama, Lionel Messi and Hillary Clinton, ring a bell. Back at home, the following: Innocent Idibia (Tuface), Tonto Dikeh, Aliko Dangote and Wale Adenuga among many others, are household names.
The red carpet treatment and the paraphernalia that goes with it, plus the paparazzi’s photographic glances at the nitty-gritty of performing stars or celebrities of whatever sort, is reason why many would kill themselves to be recognized.
Do people generally sit down to consider stardom and the moral challenge that may come with it? Do they know what these high profile people may have gone through in life? Do they realize that some of them may have been hit hard by life’s difficulties? Doesn’t it happen sometimes that some people of prominence hide under group mentality? Does it occur to everybody that they are humans and face the normal challenges every individual faces? Does it dawn on us that beneath the red carpet lies harsher realities? This piece attempts a moral reflective approach to the craze of repute in our society which for many is often incensed by a flight of imagination.
According to Mailonline, Houston once said of superstars, “…their true personalities were not as far apart as people may have believed.” She added, “When you love, you love. I mean, do you stop loving somebody because you have different images? - You see somebody, and you deal with their image, that's their image. It's part of them; it's not the whole picture. I am not always in a sequined gown. I am nobody's angel. I can get down and dirty. I can get raunchy.”
This is the true confession of one who acquired fame yet made bold to own up the reality of the other side of life. Many people would just be content with wage and wealth, cult and costume, yet in all this, the Christmas cloth must be removed after the yuletide.
Robert W. Fuller, Ph.D, in ‘Somebodies and Nobodies’ said, “Fame promises an escape from whatever ghetto we're in, real or imagined. It deters detractors and may even squeeze a few crumbs of recognition from those who have begrudged us a smile while we were clawing our way out of Nobodyland.”
Fuller further states, “Accrue enough fame in life and you may even attain immortality and, in the words of the song, ‘live forever’ - Fame is a bulwark against indignity. It proclaims our worth to anyone tempted to put us down and threatens retaliation if they persist. It even helps to quiet the critical voices we have internalized - of parents, classmates, and teachers - that echo in our heads long after these naysayers are gone.”
The red carpet treatment
The red carpet brouhaha is, it is either you are a somebody or a nobody. Whether it is politics, religion, culture, sports, education or entertainment, the carpets must roll. You have to have an identity. Because fame promises a vain position of superior or senior status, many people see it as a fixture of illustriousness, taking center stage, championship, title or higher rank. Being a person of high profile is more often than not, opposed to low status, lowness or lowliness namely, a position of inferior status or being low in station, rank, fortune or estimation. It is about being note-worthy and a person of marked-significance. Rankism is another extreme of the showbiz game. Fuller insists that rankism and its counterpart which he calls ‘the miasma of malrecognition’ lie at the source of much of the social dysfunction that now vexes human societies worldwide; reason for the pitfalls of most super-stars. How one gets to the red carpet is not an issue. Who helped in that realization is not important. How the private is perverted is no one’s business. Such is the red carpet mentality!
To a famous BBC editorial, the outfit preambled; “being famous may look enticing - the money, the adulation and the glamour all appear to be there for the taking. But why would anyone want to push themselves into the public eye?” Professor Cary Cooper answers, “Famous people have usually experienced a negative event during childhood - often it's the loss of a parent, or rejection from a key figure in their life at a younger age.” He insists that, famous people are not as self-confident as we tend to think. Few famous people manage to have close relationships to reinforce their self-doubts.
“He revealed that celebrities often suffer from depression, and turning to drink or drugs could be a result of them often feeling ‘lonely when not on stage’. Being away from home a lot, being under the scrutiny of the press, difficulty sustaining relationships - all of this ‘makes them vulnerable’ and often has a ‘stress-related outcome’.”
Dr Psychiatrist Raj Persaud, who has explored the nature of celebrity, posited that famous people constantly experience that ‘merely momentary discomfort’ of heightened self-consciousness you feel when someone points a camera at you. Persuad further states that, the highs and lows of fame's uncertainty ‘leave one drained, doing more and more bizarre things in order to court attention’ - which eventually leads to losing credibility with your audience.
He reported Canadian psychologist Mark Schaller arguing that exposure to fame inevitably produces psychological disturbance. According to Schaller's research, the famous become more chronically self-conscious and self-aware because of all the attention.
In the aforementioned BBC viewpoint, to the question, “Why else would actors want to play other people - and why would they need the adulation of an audience?” Psychologist Glenn Wilson remarked, their fame often takes them away from ‘ordinary people’, and they're thrown into a celebrity group of other people who are insecure.
Many a celebrity would like to maintain ‘the exclusive VIP family’ but soon the seeming haven creates ‘who pass who,’ jealousy, power tussle and display of material wealth. The outcome is often escape via drugs, alcoholic drinks or through manipulating others as compensation. You have celebrity gossips to verify.
This no doubt is why Wilson says, “you have to be a bit exhibitionistic and manipulative to desire fame. People pursue the spotlight because they ‘love to be loved’ although this is ‘part of the problem.’ When they're famous, celebrities begin to wonder if people love them for who they are, or for who they've become. Fame often takes them away from ‘ordinary people’, and they're ‘thrown into a celebrity group of other people who are insecure.” Such is the mist enshrouding icons!
None but all who make the screens would do anything to hide their private lives. Privacy matters to them than anyone else in the world. They have the feeling that what they do has nothing to do with how they live. For this group, there is a lacuna between the private and the public. So, because of the cameras that go after them, they live a sort of illusory life; seemingly avoiding notice, but because a golden fish has no hiding place, they are hunted.
This may not be disassociated with the reason why for the little time they squeeze out of their tight schedules, pervasion is the order of the day. One is not surprised that Justin Timberlake once said, “The worst thing about being famous is the invasion of your privacy - What is it about fame that makes many people, including you, want to be famous?” This agrees with the biblical dictum, ‘a trust-worthy testimony of one who knows it.”
We must seek to develop confidence in ourselves realizing that life is not only about fame or fortune; that is not to say they are bad if pursued purposefully and prized in humility. There abound many men and women of integrity who are working behind the scenes whom society doesn’t recognize. The youth in learning to idolize public figures must realize that it should only serve to inspire discipline, hard work, truthfulness and mature deciphering. The bottom line is, you are you and cannot be another person.
Therefore, bringing out the magic ingredient in you, entails showing the world the stuff you are made up of – showcasing the you in you; this is key to excellence. Others may show the way by being luminaries throwing light on our way but it is up to us to see the light and walk that way. Every person of high standing have their ‘buts.’ Though they ‘preach’ but do they ‘practice?’ While they inspire you, do not be let down by their underpinnings; that will be throwing the baby with the bath water!
Graciela Filchin, brilliantly says, concerning prestige and attention; “famous or not still there are people who'll praise and insult you.” So, go on, relish all you can about people of your dream; but do noFANTACISE or else, what was fun heading for FAME could lead to shame and worse still, FORTUNE might just turn to frustration. For, what would anyone gain if he/she wins the whole world and ruins his/her life? (Mk 8:36). You, answer for yourself!