How celebrities forgo privacy, endure online attacks to enjoy stardom
Blessing Enenaite examines the strain societal pressure, stalking, among others exert on celebrities beyond the façade of stardom
Ace comedian and master of ceremonies, Gbenga Adeyinka, has put smiles on the faces of several persons with his craft. However, his dedication, tenacity and consistency on the job for years have not exonerated him from attacks by members of the public. Also, being a comedian does not insulate him from low moments.
Adeyinka stated that in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic, he faced financial challenges that affected him.
He told Saturday PUNCH, “During COVID-19, I owed many people. There were times I thought I should end it all instead of bearing disgrace. But I looked at what I had around and what God has done for me. I looked at my colleagues and felt I was better off than many people. I had to forge ahead until victory was certain.”
He also spoke about his experience with societal expectations and state when the public pry into his private life. Besides, his choice of a preferred presidential candidate for the coming general elections had often been questioned by some people.
Adeyinka said, “The truth is that it is lonely up there but we (celebs) were the ones who prayed for it (fame). Hence, we are going to get ourselves to adjust to it. At a point in my life, I prayed that God should put me up there and let people know me among other prayer requests. Once the prayers are answered, one has to live with it. It is lonely because one cannot go out as much as one wants to go out.
“For instance, whenever I decide to go wherever I desire, some fans usually ask me to give them money. If I have I will give, if I don’t have, I will not give. No policeman will arrest me for not giving such people money. However, some of them (fans) would abuse me if I don’t give them enough money. I have come to understand that I cannot please everybody. Once I am happy as a person, I have to forget every other person. I think it is the standard we set for ourselves that puts us in trouble and sometimes, we are not prepared for what God does for us.”
He noted that sometimes he felt like confronting people who ‘dragged’ him online based on his posts.
He said, “Anything I put online, I believe in it. If someone ‘drags’ me from now till next year, it is that person’s problem. At times, I feel like meeting the person to beat him but if I can’t find the person to beat him, why should I worry myself? I move on. If I don’t give trolls the opportunity to make me feel inferior, then I am not inferior. There was a time I posted on my Instagram page my preferred presidential candidate. I watched as they ‘dragged’ me. At one point, I got angry and I started replying to the people on my page. Then, someone called me and said, ‘Guy, what are you doing? These people you are replying to, you don’t know them. You have not seen them.’ I thought about it and I said to myself, it is my personal conviction.’’
He further said that at his age, he should be able to make up his mind regarding whatever he wanted to do.
Asked if he had ever got depressed despite making others laugh, he said, “Everyone at a particular point in his or her life is depressed no matter who the person is. Depression is real but sometimes, the things that make us depressed are things that we can control on our own. For example, it could be that one used to have money before and one no longer has. Also, it could be that an entertainer used to do 37 shows before but now does only two shows.
“That is why it is important for young people to know that the fame they have now will not be as bright as it is forever. So, when they lay their hands on some small things, they should invest it in other things.”
On things that fame had deprived him of, he added that he just wanted to put on whatever he desired and go out.
The MC noted, “If I want to go to the supermarket, I can’t put on shorts. I have to wear something more decent. This is because someone may take a picture of me with and add a bad caption. As a celeb, one cannot do what one wants to do. I cannot even say everything I want to say with my mouth. This is because there are certain things that are expected of me and that is one of the responsibilities attached to popularity. One cannot go to eat at certain places. In all of these, I give thanks and praises to God.”
The price of stardom
Many celebrities forgo privacy, endure cyberbullying and mask their low moments to maintain their status in the public eye despite tasting the other side of fame.
Another entertainer who has regularly been at the receiving end of trolls is music executive, Ubi Franklin. He spoke to our correspondent about the burden of stardom.
He said, “Basically, I think online contributors–fans and haters who comment on posts– forget that celebrities are also human beings who have flesh and skin and are like every other human being who walks on the streets every day. Some people forget that we are humans but unfortunately, our career paths became different in terms of what we chose to do and what we succeeded at. When people are judging us, they forget we are humans too.”
He also noted that hurtful words had been thrown at him despite the impact of his craft over the years.
He added, “Being a celebrity means that my craft has been built to celebrate people or to be celebrated by people. It is because people do not understand these facts and that is why they say hurtful things to some of us who are not exempt from mistakes. When things like this happen, it feels like celebrities should be holier than thou and perfect than any other person. That is where the issue is.”
He also expressed his feeling when people pry into his private life because he is a celebrity, noting, “It gets to a point where one is used to it and does not think about it anymore because one knows that people are going to judge one regardless. People judging me does not mean that they do not have bad issues about them too. We see stories every day on social media similar to people who are popular. If celebs are continually ‘dragged,’ that is their business. I feel that as human beings and as people, regardless of how one might see it or what one might do, we are all in one box and the box is about how we can grow ourselves, become better and people of interest.”
On what being famous has deprived him of, he said, “I can’t walk the streets normally.”
Constrained by public
There are some celebrities who love to post their relationships and fond moments with their loved ones online. But fear of public opinion often gives them concerns.
Actress Angela Okorie, it’s usually a challenge because, according to her, her fans are jealous. She noted that she couldn’t walk on the streets as she used to do before she became known.
She said, “When it comes to relationships, my fans are so mean because they don’t want to see me with a guy. If I post any guy on my page and say that this is the guy I want to marry, it will go viral. This is because I don’t usually bring my relationship to social media. This kind of situation deprives me of showing off people I truly love. When I put my relationship out there, I know what I am expecting except my partner has also grown a thick skin to cock and bull story out there. If one’s partner understands that not everything said about celebrities is true, the relationship will stay. However, if my partner doesn’t understand such, the relationship will not last.’’
She also spoke on public expectations, noting that as a known face, she couldn’t go to open public places. Okorie said, “I also know that my hustle has doubled and security needs to be tighter. Also, many things have to be in place. When one is famous, one has to spend more.”
On how she feels when people ‘dragged’ and pry into her private life, she said, “It makes me feel bad because many people do not know that celebrities are also humans. Some of us are lonely people in the sense that we cannot do what we want to do. We stay indoors more and just work because we cannot come out often and be seen all the time. When one comes out all the time like a regular person, one will devalue. When it comes to relationship, we are always careful with whoever we date because we don’t know people’s mindset.’’
Besides, she stated that she never regretted being famous, because the status was paying off.
Enduring fierce criticisms
Though 57, actor, Jude Chukwuka, loves to sing trending songs of young artistes. This has earned him accolades and mocks from fans. Regardless, he told our correspondent he grew a thick skin against the criticisms.
He said, “I am a highly spirited person. That does not mean I don’t have dark patches. I just process them out of my system and my life. Concerning societal expectations, I do not lead my life for society. I lead it for God and myself.
“I have experienced situations when I order a cab after events and I would hear statements such as, ‘you did not come with a car?’ I give that look of ‘a car is not a priority.’ I know what I want and need. Letting oneself fall into societal expectations can lead to depression.”
Speaking on being ‘dragged’ on social media, Chukwuka stated that he would describe them as brutal counselling.
He added, “I take the juice from the brutal counselling and continue with my life. Being a celebrity has not deprived me of anything. I am always me. If anyone comes into my house, that person would see that I invest quality time with my children. Of course, I don’t go to places I would naturally not go to because I want to prove a point. I have my standards, taste, and most importantly, I have my life to live. I enjoy every minute of being me.”
On criticisms he got for singing trending songs despite his age, he said that some criticisms were borne out of jealousy because one was doing what the critics couldn’t do.
He noted, “Some people describe me as a trans-generational connection between the elderly and the young. Those are people who would give one positive criticism and they tell one how to improve it and in what area to concentrate more. However, there are damaging criticisms. These guys will make comments like, ‘at your age, you are singing small children’s songs’ and in the same breath, some people will say, ‘Jude, if not for you, I would not know what these children are singing. So these guys (artistes) make sense like this. I don’t bulge to negative criticisms.’’
Speaking with Saturday PUNCH, popular musician, Harrison Okiri, otherwise called Harrysong, said at a time in his life he wished he wasn’t famous because he had a personal issue he wanted to resolve and didn’t want the public to know.
He said, “These experiences and feelings are personal and they depend on one’s dealings and life’s perception generally. First, one must understand that being a celebrity makes one a public figure. Hence, one’s (personal) issue is now everybody’s issue. That is why one should mind what one puts out online.”
Harrysong further stated that being famous had deprived him of some kind of public enjoyment. He said, “For instance, I cannot buy food in public. I can’t really talk even when I am right and I know the truth. I can’t visit many places. In addition, I pay a higher price for anything I want to buy because I am a celebrity.”
In 2018, the “Reggae Blues” crooner complained about being depressed. Speaking on what caused it and how he got out of the mood disorder, he said, “I was depressed in 2018 because I was duped of a lot of money. I had a business partner and we were buying a vessel to start an oil business, and almost at the end of my final payment, he disappeared. I handled the issue by doubling my hustle and making more money (laughs). I have never regretted being famous but I once wished I wasn’t this famous because of a family incident I needed to handle personally.”
Social media to the rescue
Social media now offers a robust platform for celebrities to bear their minds on anything, actor, Kunle Remi, revealed not long ago that he wanted to end it all in 2017 despite the fame he enjoyed. His statement was in reaction to the news on the demise of popular American entertainer, DJ Twitch, who reportedly committed suicide.
Remi wrote on Instagram in December 2022, “I remember in 2017 I had a series of tweets that I went on to delete. It was very suicidal. Someone called me a year later and said I should delete those tweets. I was going through a lot. I was overwhelmed. I was thinking too much about my career, am I doing enough, am I enough, am I with the right person, so many thoughts in my mind.
“At a point I could not take it, I felt so useless, not enough, incompetent, even though it was the contrary of what I felt. I was beating myself up too much, then I started to tweet randomly and I was very close to jumping off the bridge or just taking my life. It took the grace of God for me to scale through that. I usually bottle up, I don’t share stuff but I learnt to become better doing that. And I just want to share a word with every man out there. Look it’s not easy and it’s not going to be easy, but talk to someone. Always have someone in your corner that you can talk to and open up with.
“Life is beautiful but it doesn’t guarantee that it will be smooth all the time but we need to always find a balance and choose happiness over being sad. I’ve been there, I’ve gone through it. Right now I still caution myself. I take life one day at a time, once I get overwhelmed I shut down. Mental health is very important. We can do better. Just thought of sharing.”
It is not only in Nigeria that celebs undergo public pressure and other issues stirred by stardom. Globally, entertainers also have hidden struggles and have experienced the dark side of fame.
A former disk jockey and co-producer, Ellen DeGeneres TV show in the United States of America, Stephen Boss, aka Twitch, reportedly committed suicide on December 13, 2022, at 40. For someone who made others happy, many would have thought everything was going well for him. However, he had his struggles. Boss played the role of Jason in the popular dance movie, ‘Step Up.’ He also featured on the ‘Ellen’ show from 2014 till May.
Boss was described by his wife, Allison Holker, as best husband and father in a statement shared with TMZ.
Holker said, “Stephen lit up every room he stepped into. He valued family, friends and community above all else and leading with love and light was everything to him. ‘’
Also, popular Canadian singer, Justin Bieber, experienced societal pressure from an early age. The singer, who gained fame for his hit song, “Baby” featuring American rapper, Ludacris, when he was 16, had also complained about the harsh criticisms he has got because of stardom.
In a documentary titled, ‘Justin Bieber Next Chapter’ in November 2020, the singer spoke up on his struggles. He said, “I think that there was times where I was really, really suicidal. I was like, ‘Man, is this pain ever going to go away?’ The pain was so consistent.
After releasing “Baby” in 2010, Bieber said he wasn’t prepared for fame. He said, “I just had no idea what was to come. I had no idea that this life would take me by storm. I had no idea that I would just get sucked up by all of this stuff.
“There were many people who were just so mean, random people saying, ‘You suck. You look like a girl.’ I would shake it off and act like it didn’t bother me but that stuff bothered me and then it affected how I acted and how I treated people. And then, it’s just this ongoing cycle of like, ‘Hurt people, hurt people,’’
On December 24, 2022, Times of India reported that Bollywood actor, Tunisha Sharma, committed suicide. The 20-year-old actress was said to have hanged herself in the make-up room of her TV show. The actress played the character of Shehzaadi Mariam in Ali Baba Dastaan-E-Kabul.
Psychologists proffer solutions
Speaking on the issue, a clinical psychologist, Maymunnah Kadiri, noted that when one examines fame, one should look at those who searched for fame and those found by fame.
The mental health advocate said it was necessary because sometimes, some people chased fame while fame chased some people.
Kadiri noted, “Some people are accidentally famous and it was not what they desired. Some people can go viral without sponsoring any advertisement. Now, these people have become famous, they are recognised and have become celebrities. How can they still protect their private life? These people have to know themselves first because personalities differ. Everyone has a personality trait. Imagine someone who is an introvert becoming famous? There will be a lot of social anxiety for that person because people would want to see that person regardless of what that person does.
“Hence, the ability to know oneself is key. When one knows one’s strengths and weaknesses, one will be able to develop one’s leadership skills, and know that there are things one has to outsource and things one has to delegate.”
The psychologist added that there was a need for a celebrity to have ‘me time,’ adding, “It does not necessarily mean that that person is selfish. There are some famous people that are assumed to be arrogant. These people may not be arrogant. It could be that it is the way that they are being seen because people want them (celebs) to be naturally humble.”
Kadiri advised celebs to be conscious of the people they allowed into their inner circles.
She said, “One’s ability to manage one’s inner circle and give from a place of abundance as against a place of deficit is ultimate. This is because one has to know oneself, fulfill one’s purpose, know what one can give and what one can’t give because one cannot give people what one does not have. Hence, an entertainer has to build that capacity to be emotionally intelligent to know how to relate with people. It’s a lifestyle.’’
She further said that apart from being emotionally intelligent, it also required one to have the right people in one’s inner circle. Kadiri stated, “The rat outside most times does not know what is inside. It is the rat inside that tells the rat outside that something is inside one’s house. Also, they must ensure that they take care of their well-being. It is not all information a famous person must put out there. There should be boundaries in whatever the celeb does ; personal, family, social media boundaries, and what the celeb wants out there.”
The psychologist said that lack of compassion made it difficult for celebs to speak up. She said, “We lack a culture of compassion. This has made it difficult for celebs to speak up. People have forgotten that these people are first humans before becoming celebs. Why do people make them feel awkward expressing themselves? These are things we would ordinarily accept for other people. Why shouldn’t we accept them from celebrities?’’
Saying that some people believed celebs should be superhumans contrary to reality, Kadiri added, “Trolls are out there who want to destroy the lives of famous people. These celebs have to do many things to maintain their sanity and prioritise their mental health because people don’t really care. It is when one is sane enough that one can sustain celebrity status and make an impact because trolls will always troll.”
In his contribution, a senior lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Enugu State, Johnbosco Chukwuoji, noted that there was always a price to pay for every situation, adding that learning how to manage situations was part of being famous.
Chukwuwoji noted that the situation might be more difficult for celebrities in Nigeria given the low standard of living most Nigerians find themselves in.
Comparing the experiences of celebs in Nigeria and their counterparts abroad, he said, “In developed countries, people who meet celebrities may just want them to sign autographs to give them or give them souvenirs. Then, they go their way. However, in Nigeria, the majority of people come to celebs because they have one need or the other.”
He advised that the first step celebs should take was to accept it as a reality, noting that by the acceptance, it would serve as a step in the right direction.
The psychologist added, “Also, they should be able to see how they can support other people around them. This will help to reduce the pressure.”
On how they achieve a balance with fans prying into their private lives, Chukwuoji said, “Being a celeb comes with responsibilities. Celebs should have the good character to be called a celeb. There are certain things that people will do and go away with it but celebs will not be able to go away with it because people look up to them.
“Celebs should be mindful of what they do. If society encourages what they do, no one would care if it is their private lives. It is when they get involved in certain behaviours that are not acceptable in society that they begin to complain that it is their private lives.’’
Similarly, a professor of psychology at the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, Toba Elegbeleye, stated that it was not societal expectations that take a toll on celebrities, adding that it was how they conceived what the expectations were about.
Elegbeleye said, “They perceive these things differently from others. Therefore, they discern certain expectations in their mind. Every human should define oneself and define what one represents. Then, that should be one’s personal mantra one plays to. A celeb should learn how to answer questions when they are being interviewed. A celeb’s private life can be kept away from the public if he or she desires. Some celebs endeavour that no one can probe into their private lives. When they think certain things will elevate their status, they give others a clue to ask certain questions in that direction.’’
The don further said that there was no crime in a celeb telling an interviewer of his or her unwillingness to answer a private question.