Guest Post: Understanding Celebrity and Success.

Post by Pete Njenga.

A week ago, fellow scribe Kawiria proposed that I do a guest post in the ‘What’s Your Story’ section of this site. Well, who am I to deny such an affable, lovely lass some words we can hopefully learn from? What gives me that right?

“Mama mama nataka kuwa rapper,
Mtoto wee umenishinda,
Nataka kuwa famous kama Kalamashaka.
Je ukishindwa?
Please nitakupa kile unachotaka,
Nataka tu kuwakilisha hip-hop culture.
Acha kuwa mjinga, 
Ni sawa tu.
Next utaiba,
Si hata hiyo, ni sawa tu?”
– Nazizi, Ni Sawa Tu.

So began the song that introduced Nazizi to the Kenyan music scene. She would later be christened the First Lady of Kenyan Hip-Hop. With Wyre and Bamzigi (who later left), Necessary Noize topped charts in East Africa and brought us household anthems such as Bless ma Room, Shujaa, Kenyan Boy Kenyan Girl and several other hits. This is just one example of someone who sought celebrity from the start, and thankfully got it.

Thing is, almost everyone wants to be famous. In fact, the ‘Zuqka’ pullout in Daily Nation has “Be Famous” as its tagline.

We are so attracted to fame and fortune, that we spend hours watching other people making money from TV shows that supposed reveal their “ordinary” lives. We then wonder how these same people are successful while we are not, forgetting that we made them rich as we bummed on the couch through TV ratings, and buying their merchandise. For the uninformed, reality shows such as Keeping up with the Kardashians, Nicolle Richie & Paris Hilton’s The Simple Life, even The Bachelor or The Bachelorette – these are all scripted.

Here then, is my story when it comes to fame, fortune, popularity, success and the celebrity lifestyle.

Back in the Day

Growing up in the 80s and 90s, I was a victim of Tall Poppy Syndrome both at school and in my neighborhood. Unpleasant as it was, I do believe this is the single most important thing to have happened in my life.

For this reason, I did not succumb to peer influence, never got the chance to hang out a lot with neighbors and friends and ultimately, learned to restrict my support group to my immediate family and others whose well scrutinized objectives and intentions I could trust. I was taught early on in life to define my success, and to never let the noise of other people’s opinions drown out my inner voice.

In high school and at University, the situation was somewhat remedied by the fact that I was amongst equals – at least academically. Here, merit is what determined one’s progress and our backgrounds rarely interfered with how we related to one another.

Fame, Popularity and Celebrity

The reason I am telling you about my background is to illustrate how I have escaped being hopelessly beholden to fleeting and material possessions that the few use to elevate themselves and look down on the majority who opt not to think on their own.

Thankfully, I remain impervious to the sway that politicians, musicians, TV and Radio personalities, the filthy rich, actors and others wrongly considered celebrities, do have on the masses. Their lifestyle, shenanigans, and whatever else they are up to does not stop me from “kuria na kunyua” (eating and drinking) as we often say in my mother tongue.

Many of us have lost our sense of purpose and abandoned self-esteem, unduly influenced by those we look up to as role models and blindly emulate. People whose lives are not worth celebrating are now what our youth hope to become when they grow up. The rich who amassed wealth by running down public companies and embezzling funds pretend to now guide the youth on how to become billionaires and business moguls. Politicians continue to flaunt their ill-gotten riches while Kenyans do not even pause and wonder how these guys got up there. What kind of sheeple have we become that do not even pause to think?

Precious Illusions

Looking at the current leadership we voted into office in 2013, it pains me to realize that very few of them are in office for the right reasons. At the workplace, few go to work every morning for any reason besides making money at end-month. Many Kenyans have hopelessly subscribed to a misleading quest for money at all costs, thanks to common stereotypes about making it and success. It is for this reason that many have turned to crime, other continually fall for get-rich-schemes and our youth are now at the mercy of sensational and transient fads whose main thrust is making money and spending it as fast as possible, sans any thinking about securing the future. We are continually comparing ourselves to others and will do anything, including crime to outdo them.

We have so far forgotten that it makes more sense to be a person of value and not of success. As Albert Einstein prompted many years ago, we need to examine ourselves yet again and re-order our priorities, asking ourselves? “What is really important?”

In May 2013, I wrote a post that detailed what I hope would be my legacy. This should be in no way any one else’s legacy and I do not mean to impose my will on another person who also has the presence of mind to make their own decision.

What I continue to urge you is that we should take another keen look at what we place priorities on and aspire to be. Is it famous people of questionable character or is it deeds and initiatives that make the world much better? Are we willing to do anything, including criminal acts, to gain riches or can we instead take time to improve social conditions?

What does it mean to have succeeded? Here is something from Bessie Stanley, but often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson:

To laugh often and much;

To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children;

To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends;

To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others;

To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition;

To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived.

This is to have succeeded.

What drives you?

I end this post with some words by the man who wrote The Prince. Take time and give the following some thought:

“The great majority of mankind are satisfied with appearances, as though they were realities, and are often more influenced by the things that seem than by those that are.” ~ Niccolo Machiavelli.

Thereafter, do the needful.

* * *
All said and done, do you still crave fame, popularity and celebrity status?

Is this allure influenced by your peers, role models or the very substance of what such a life entails? What does success mean to?

We believe that there are different strokes for different folk … ni sawa tu.