The Lovely Tale of Never Say Never

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We are less than a week into the new year and there are still echos of “new year, new me” lingering in spirited conversations and memes all over the web. The top of January is the time that people decide their new identity for the next 365 days. Some succeed, while others fall by the wayside before the first signs of spring. American culture celebrates (and profits greatly) from new year resolutions. The ability to shed your old skin and be reborn annually is the one privilege that we all have access to… unless you’re a celebrity, of course. With your livelihood resting solely on image, one false move can cost you everything.

In the age of social media and pettiness, everything you do and say as a celebrity is documented and being stashed away to be used as ammunition against you. God forgives — but Black Twitter does not. The first victim of the great Twitter wrath was John Mayer. He had done an interview with Playboy wherein he said that he had crushes on Black female celebs, but since he’d never had sex with one, he joked that his penis must be racist. Before being burned at the stake, he sent the obligatory apology tweet and went on a social media hiatus for well over a year. Last year, Twitter’s sworn enemy, Iggy Azealea came under fire after a suite of racist tweets from 2011 were unearthed. Just this week, TDE-signee SZA almost set a precedent for backlash when Twitter discovered some unsavory tweets from 2011 as well. Between spewing her thoughts on Ciara and Rihanna’s vocal abilities and essentially accusing Beyonce of bleaching her skin, SZA lit a serious fire led to the CSquad, Navy, and the Beyhive joining forces in annihilating her mentions.

Newsflash: celebrities are regular human beings. They have the capacity to be vile, obnoxious, and wrong just like the rest of us. The only difference is that we can dive into our worst selves in the privacy of our own homes and mask our darkness by hiding behind usernames. Ill-advised racial jokes and homophobic tweets are nothing, however, compared to the cardinal celebrity sin of changing. Changing your mind, your significant other, your sound, your city, the list goes on have literally shot artists’ public opinion through the floor. The online natural hair community was left reeling when Jill Scott relaxed her hair, only to go into full out crisis mode when she started wearing weaves. Commenters were all over natural hair blogs sharing their disgust with Scott’s decision. “But she’s supposed to be a soulful sista!”, they cried. Many questioned if she was ever “down”, while others vowed to never support her music again.

Unconquerable vices aside, the inability to grow and shift has to be the biggest drawback to celebrity. You are a slave to the persona the public has created for you. Did Jill Scott think she’d ever be on the cover of Essence in a platinum 27-piece and bodycon dress when she first arrived on the scene? Probably not, but she deserves to have the space to do so. You also have to hide your true feelings because we live in a world of groupthink and political correctness. Were SZA comments super shady and hi-key rude? Absolutely, but it’s not like we haven’t seen those exact tweets for years on the internet from our peers. Becoming your true self (or the person your current season demands) requires experimentation which always comes with a side of missteps and being uncomfortable, but it’s all a part of the organic process. Like us civilians, celebs have every right to try everything (legal and safe) twice without having to wake up to a blog post from MediaTakeOut.

Now this isn’t giving celebrities a pass for bad behavior, but it is calling all of us to use a little discernment and to quite frankly, get over ourselves. There’s nothing wrong with checking people, but viscous attacks are something else. A lot of foolishness splashed on the internet is rooted in ignorance, so see it as a teachable moment. Furthermore, we’re all hot messes at the end of the day, so who are we to call anyone out? We’re all still trying to figure it out. So whenever your finger starts itching to blast your fave celebrity on Twitter, remember the words of the great philosopher Jay Z — “Can I live?”

“I’m unpredictable, I never know where I’m going until I get there, I’m so random, I’m always growing, learning, changing, I’m never the same person twice. But one thing you can be sure of about me; is I will always do exactly what I want to do.” -C. JoyBell C.

This entry was posted in Art & Culture, Featured.