Sunday, July 5, 2009

Pardon me... But it's time to get a little high-minded... Celebrity edition...

Wow. I haven't blogged in a good while! Life is hectic, and I haven't had time to sit and blog in forever it seems like. Nonetheless, I was struck by the need to blog today b/c I am quite annoyed with this subject manner I will discuss further in this post... Please don't take offense; it's just real talk... I don't mean to bash on celebs, celeb bloggers or anyone. These are just my thoughts...

Since last weekend, I have become thoroughly annoyed with celebrities and their high-minded comments. I KNOW I have no room to judge others, esp. not for making high-minded comments, and I follow celebrities as much as the other pop culture loving individual in this country, but I think they have a true disconnect from the rest of society.

So what started the issue... Last Sunday on the BET awards, rapper and philanthropist Wyclef Jean won the award for being the "Humanitarian of the Year," and I was all about his speech until he ended it with some rather poignant words: "I moved from a hut to a mansion. If I did it, you can do it too. You have no excuse." [paraphrased]

So when I heard this, I was highly aggravated to say the least. One might ask why? Well, I appreciate the sentiment of telling the masses, esp. the viewers of the BET Awards-young and middle-aged Black America- that hard work will led to success, but there was something about the word choice that just didn't sit well with me. Wyclef grew up in Haiti and the country is one of the most impoverished nations in the Western hemisphere, so for him to be in the position he is in, it is truly an amazing story. He was blessed with enormous musical talents and became a superstar with The Fugees and as a solo act, but his success came in a way that many of us will never experience. He is a musician. He works in a pretty harsh, ever-changing industry, but when one is given such talent, establishes longevity like he has, and creates a faithful following, the rewards are large sums of money and the prestige of being a celebrity.

Ok. That is fine and dandy, but this is the problem... Most of us will never has this as a life experience. And I can't say that I wouldn't want that life. To not have to worry about money and to have toured the world spreading your music seems like a dream. A dream that a lot of people have. But we do not all aspire to live that life.

But the fact is that when a person has achieved the financial successes of a Wyclef or any other highly paid individual, there is a bit of insincerity about them lecturing the us-the rabble, the proletariat- about pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps to get to their SES bracket. Yes, I want people to work hard to achieve successes in life, value the importance of work, and have a strong work ethic. Of course I do, I am a leftist. But clearly my concept of "making it" is different from most, or maybe just celebrities. I am a college student now and even if I receive a Ph.d in African-American or Cultural studies, which is my dream in life, I still will not make the monetary amount to live in a mansion. Is that the definition of "making it" in American society? As much as I don't like it, I understand the American Dream, but the key work in that little phrase is that is a DREAM! I don't want to lecture people in the systemic inequalities in this country that keep people back, but please know that they exist. If someone grew up in an impoverished or dysfunctional environment or belongs to a marginalized community that people don't expect much from anyway, yet is able to hold down an honest job for their entire life, able to provide for themselves [and his/her family, if they choose to have one], and is a good person who contributes to society, I think that more than qualifies them as "making it." Even if one did not grow up in the aforementioned situations or does not belong to a minority community, still doing what I expressed still equates "making it." Well it does to me anyways. It does not make a difference if you do not have the bling, the yacht, the 15 bedroom home, or are able to follow every fashion trend. "Making it" does not mean having a mansion, or even a college degree-although I would encourage everyone to continue with their education and attend college if possible. Nonetheless, having made it should not equate material goods and costly possessions.

But the problem is not even celebrities or the countless individuals who spend their lives focusing on them, it's society's fault. Western culture places celebrities and socialites on a pedestal and media portrays it as if we SHOULD want their life. So individuals like Wyclef need to understand that the life they led is extraordinary. Please do not talk down to people simply because they are not able to live in a mansion or do not aspire to live in one. There is no excuse for that.

I don't want it to seem that I am knocking wealthy people, but be conscious and knowledgeable when you are spouting off your talking points to people. Unfortunately, everyone who makes it will not have the luxuries that you all have acquired due to working in the entertainment industry. News flash: Most careers, even ones where people have multiple degrees, never come close to the compensation that musicians, athletes, and actors receive. I deal with academia, and in our backwards society, we don't focus on education enough and compensate educators fairly for all the hard work they do. So yes, I take great offense to these words. If I could have anything in the world, I would want teach in higher education and work for a non-profit organization that deals with civil rights, women's rights, environmentalism, or some cause that I believe greatly in, and then I knew I MADE it. Mansion, not needed!

So I let it go, and I even signed up for Wyclef's Warrior movement. I wanted to see what Wyclef's mission was all about...

I was a-ok until not to long ago. Today had been a pretty laid back day for me, and when I got back from the grocery store, I got online to check my twitter for random updates, etc. I saw one tweet by Tyrese Gibson, multi-talented musician and actor, and it spoke on how he uplifted himself from the guns, poverty, etc of the Watts neighborhood he grew up in. I checked his page and he had been posting tweets about the need for people to do what they are supposed to do to better society. I have no problem with that of course, but what bothered me was the following statement: "I hate when people put the responsibility to make this world better on Celebs.. F**k no.. Your more POWERFUL than you could EVER imagine.." [direct quote from his twitter page]

Well Tyrese, while I can't fully understand your life, I empathize with you. It would have to be hard to always be on your Ps and Qs, because you are in the limelight. And you may not want to place the issues of the world on your shoulders all the time. I understand and respect that. But there is something that you all have to understand, you are a public figure and people look up to you. Yes the average citizen has a lot more power and influence then they want to admit or accept, but they are not public figures with a large following. Celebrities have the responsibility to be role models. I do not care if people disagree with that, but I wholeheartedly believe that they and every other public figure has to be be conscious of their actions and the message they are sending out. When celebrities enter the entertainment industry, there are assumptions and expectations that come with it. You can not get mad when people expect more from you all. I am not indicating that celebs are bad people and worthless, because there are countless musicians, actors/actresses, etc who contribute to the betterment of our global society. But this is what you can do: use your place in society to make the world a better place. We all know that the select few celebrities in this world will not fix everything, but you all could LEAD by example. Once again, you all are role models.

But in all honesty, that is not where the solution lies. We, as good world citizens and stewards of this planet, all have a responsibility to each other and our planet, and should be doing a lot better than we are all doing.
So I understand the sentiment of his rant. There are almost 7 billion of us on this planet. If we all did something to better the world, just imagine the outcome. So yes, in a way Tyrese is right and we are way more powerful then we know it, but he always has to embrace the fact that every time he steps out into the world he can use his position of influence to promote change, spark dialogue, and continue in the tradition of countless celebrities and public figures "to heal the world [and] make it a better place." Thanks MJ for those words!!! RIP! Much <3