Black Lives Matter: the Inevitable Death of Celebrity Culture
The public’s fascination and interest in the lives of celebrities is nothing new. Whether they’re away from the TV screen or off the stage, fans have always been intrigued in seeing less of the glamourous side to their favourite celebrities. And thanks to social media, we’ve been given just that.
Instagram pages and Twitter accounts have been flooded with perfectly put together holiday pictures and morning routines where we get to see the real people behind the wealth and the fame. But in the spirit of honesty and authenticity, some celebrities have shown just how disengaged they are with real life, and fans who were once obsessed with seeing them in an unfiltered lens, are now cringing at what that looks like.
In the last week, millions have taken to social media to speak out against the injustices of the policing system in America after the murder of George Floyd. While protests have been going on all over the world, there has been a deafening silence from the celebrity community.
People who have profited off black culture have either been completely silent or taken part in performative social media challenges, as opposed to standing up and using their platform to create change.
Kylie Jenner, always at the front of a blackfishing scandal, had nothing to post except vacation pics, until four days later when she ironically quoted Martin Luther King, saying “there comes a time when silence is betrayal.” Madonna, instead of educating her 2.6 million followers on how to practically create change, opted to film her black son dancing to Michael Jackson’s ‘They Don’t Care About Us’, as a tribute to Floyd’s family. Along with the tone deaf and ignorant posts, celebrities have challenged themselves to tag 10 people in a BLM chain that does nothing more than feed their egos and show the world that they’ve at least done something- genuine or not.
In a year that has revealed the true nature of our government and elitism in industries like the media, recent events have shown that celebrities are not immune to being called out for their disingenuity. Taking part in Black Out Tuesday to tick a box, only to return to promoting business as if the fight has ended, shows just how disengaged these public figures really are when it comes to real life matters. For everyone donating money and supporting black businesses etc., Black Lives Matters is not a trend. It’s a reality that many of us want to live out daily - putting black lives first and making sure that the community is empowered and kept safe.
So, for people with such influence to co-opt this moment and use it to serve their own selfish agendas makes us wonder. If you won’t use your platform for good, then what purpose do you really serve? If you can’t put your money where your mouth is and take the necessary steps your financial privilege allows you to, are you really worth following?
Now more than ever, it seems like the world is divided, not just by race, but by class and wealth. For black celebrities who have amassed a certain amount of wealth, they’re quick to identify with their richness, neglecting their blackness and showing just how out of touch they’ve chosen to be with the black experience, in exchange for material gain.
Comments like “Before we ask anyone to love us… we must love and care for ourselves” from rapper Tinie Tempah, and the flaunting of a measly $50 donation from fashion figurehead Virgil Abloh (who himself has been accused of stealing from young black designers), speak to the political correctness the black bourgeoise adopt all for the sake of protecting their bag. It’s the safest option: show enough support and use all the buzzwords to suggest that you care, but limit said support so that you don’t upset your white fans/followers. But the reality is that the black people who have “made it”, have only gotten to where they are because of the support of the black community. For somebody like rapper T.I to speak out against protesting in Atlanta because the state is ‘Wakanda’ and doesn’t deserve it, is just one example of how rich black celebrities will do what they can to uphold the capitalist systems that they profit off- even at the expense of their black brothers and sisters.
With these celebrities exposing themselves and doing the work for us, we’re moving away from a culture where we look to them to be the voice of change.
Instead, as the movement has shown us, there’s power in numbers; and we can look horizontally to make the changes that we want to see.
Written by Sayo Olu