Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo: Overnight celebrities and lasting legacies (30 Days, 30 Voices)

…when instant information is valued over in-depth expertise, not only is it possible for every Tom, Dick and Harry (or Temi, Dumi and Hakeem) to become instant mini celebrities with half a dozen titles, it is also only natural for a new generation of Toms, Dicks and Harries to seek fast fame.

by Sinem Bilen-Onabanjo

 

“Fast money, fast cars; fast money, fast cars…”

 

Over the last few months, these lyrics to MI’s “Fast Money, Fast Cars” featuring Wizkid from the rapper’s debut album MI keep playing in my mind, ever so often, with increasing ferocity and furore. Only when I replay the words, I often find myself adding, “Fast fame, fast stardom…”

In the new age of instant gratification and 24-hour surveillance in a world reminiscent of a ‘60s dystopian novel, we are increasingly submerged in a culture that feeds, reveres and celebrates overnight fame often for fame’s sake and based on no skills or accomplishments and where there is a new generation who, when confronted with the age-old question, “What do you want to be when you grow up?”, respond in  heartbeat “famous” as opposed to the once popular answers, “doctor”, “lawyer” or “teacher.”

I have always been a little sceptical of jacks of many traders, who seem to boast half a dozen titles, their business cards fast crumbling under the weight of many a title  (if not talent) – come on, you know what I am talking about, don’t you? Those individuals who seem to have superpowers to cram in the jobs of, say, graphic design, photographer, make up artist, model, stylist, actor and – oh let’s not forget the most commonly flaunted – entrepreneur within one mortal body and mere 24 hours of a day.

While this tendency to diversify skills and end up master of none is nothing new under the sun, there is now a newer phenomenon – one that made me almost jump out of my skin the other day whilst browsing an up and coming fashion stylist’s Facebook timeline. This young lady, on the back of perhaps three or four published editorials since her foray into fashion, had taken to calling herself a “celebrity stylist” much like a young gentleman who has only recently burst on to the event photography scene, who has already branded himself a “celebrity photographer.”

No disrespect, but when I think of celebrity photographers, only a few names come to mind – Helmut Newton, Mario Testino, Anna Leibovitz – those stellar names who have spent at least half a century honing and perfecting their skills, and not for the sake of celebrity, but in the name of art. Hence, when an upstart newbie starts adding “celebrity” to their title on the back of a few months of experience, it does not sit well with me. Don’t get me wrong, of course there are exceptionally talented individuals who reach the dizzying heights of stardom on the back of one single shoot or one hit, but as the modifier suggests, they are exceptions to the rule. What is more, once they are at the top, we are often so dazzled by how fast they got there, we often forget the struggles they may have gone through or the failures they have had along the way. What may seem like ‘overnight celebrity’ may be the end result of many a sleepless night of burning the candle at both ends.

In an age when self-publication and self-publicity are at the click of a button, where profound ideas are reduced to 140-character sound bites, when bloggers entitle themselves editors in chief and Instagrammers fancy themselves photographers even though they may faint at the sight of an SLR camera, when instant information is valued over in-depth expertise, not only is it possible for every Tom, Dick and Harry (or Temi, Dumi and Hakeem) to become instant mini celebrities with half a dozen titles, it is also only natural for a new generation of Toms, Dicks and Harrys to seek fast fame.

While in this almost-dystopian world we live in, it may be futile to even debate the dangers of this new phenomenon we are not likely to change, there is perhaps one questions I’d like to pose anyone seeking fame and celebrity, even if it is of D-list status, “What will your legacy be?” Only when we ask ourselves, “What would I like to be celebrated for” rather than “What would I like to be famous for?” can we perhaps begin to realise that there is a world – and possibly half a century’s worth of difference – between being a celebrity and being truly celebrated for a legacy. It may not be instant, it may not be fast, but believe me, it is worth the wait.

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.

 

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published.

Comments (6)

  1. Thought-provoking post from the fertile mind of a multifaceted lady… Nice one, Ms. Sinem!

  2. This is spot on! Like the hymn..'Only remembered by what we have done..' It seems we have ditched the ladder and opted for elevators. Well done Ynaija. I always have loved this 30 days 30 voices season.

cool good eh love2 cute confused notgood numb disgusting fail