By Todd A. Smith
When I saw the facial expression of CNN’s Don Lemon, who interrupted the special “Black in America: The New Promised Land—Silicon Valley” with breaking news, I knew something tragic had happened in America.
My mind raced a mile a minute trying to figure out who had gone on to glory too soon. When Lemon announced the death of Whitney Houston, my mood last Saturday became somber. Much like after the death of Michael Jackson, I almost shed a tear thinking about growing up in the 1980s with their hit songs being constantly played by Magic 102 FM in Houston.
Unfortunately, the similarities between the death of Whitney Houston and that of Jackson did not end there. Both the “Queen of Pop” and the “King of Pop” suffered from the same demons. Their talent drove them to the top of the charts and into the record books, but they both found out the pressure of fame was too much to handle by themselves.
Instead of leaning on the people that meant the most to them and those that were there before the superstar treatment began, both were possibly misguided. The “yes men” and “yes women” were more interested in receiving some of the benefits of their superstar treatment and being on that superstar’s payroll than doing what was best for them.
American culture has always been obsessed with celebrity culture. One only has to look to TMZ or perezhilton.com to find out about our insatiable thirst for anything Hollywood. When one makes it to the top, many fans believe those family members and friends who would still love them if they were not famous are jealous of them or just leeching off of them for their own selfish gain.
Jackson’s family spent the majority of their lives in his shadow. People still believe that if they did not kiss up to their superstar brother, it meant they were simply jealous of his success. If they wanted to perform with him, then they just wanted to make money off of him.
It has been reported that they staged several interventions for the “King of Pop,” but were still blamed by fans for his death.
In all actuality, the blame rests with those obsessed fans and the enablers that did nothing to stop his habit. If people continue to make superstars feel like they walk on water, they will believe it too, and tragedies like the death of Whitney Houston will become even more commonplace.
When one steps into the spotlight, they are often told to develop a thick skin, whether they are in entertainment, journalism or politics. However, what we should now teach celebrities is that they need to have BS-radar as well, in order to distinguish from reality and Hollywood fantasy.
The death of Whitney Houston should tell celebrities and fans alike that being told only what you want to hear can often have tragic consequences. Only people who truly care about you tell you when you are headed down the wrong path, regardless if you want to hear it or not.
Furthermore, people desperately need to realize that constructive criticism is not jealousy or envy, because people who love you will want to see you develop into the best person you can be, not just the best artist you can be.
Smith is publisher of Regal Magazine, a publication dedicated to the African American community.