My mom used to say, that the best way to live life is to keep your personal life personal. Doing so will kill two birds with one stone. 1- you protect your personal life from the scrutiny of the public, work-life, and social circles, and 2- it also creates an allure of mystery. Because, (unfortunately), in this world, the less people know about you, the more they want to know, and also (ironically) the more they “like” you. Then there are others that believe that it is better to live your life open and honest. Almost wear your secrets on your sleeve, because people will feel they have the right to speak on your life anyway, so you might as well beat them to it and create your own narrative (see Eminem in 8 Mile). I think it’d be interesting to explore which method works for who, and why.
If you can’t already tell this about my writing, I don’t like to make strong statements or opinions on things in such a way where I would be “taking sides.” My worldview helps me to understand that there are many points of view on any given topic or situation. I believe that there is usually not a situation (especially a conflict) where one person or group is right, and the other is dead wrong. I believe that everyone has things they were right about, and things they were wrong about, and the goal of any debate or issue, should not be to convince opposing parties of your own viewpoints, but to gain a better understanding of one another. We should walk away from conversations feeling that both parties have learned something, expanded their worldview, and found some middle ground. Because of this, when I write, I will not try to convince you of my opinion. Half the time I don’t know what my opinion would be, because I think everything in life is circumstantial and it’s hard (with a clear conscience) to make blanket statements about anything. Instead, I am going to express the pros and cons to both (or all) points of view and explain why I see what attracts people to one or another way of thinking/ handling things (i.e. life).
Another habit that you may begin to notice in my writing, is that I will oftentimes use celebrities or current events as a backdrop or example to the points I’m making. I have had MANY people warn me that doing so may give readers the impression that this is a gossip article, with no real substance. I disagree. I like to use celebrities as examples for things, because I know most people will have an idea of what I’m talking about, and sometimes it’s necessary to discuss a complex idea in the simplest of ways, just so that it's easier for more people to understand and the points aren’t lost. What’s the point of using ancient Rome as an example of something if people don’t know the context of what I’m talking about?
For celebrities, their public image fuels their careers. Because of this, almost every “famous” person, has a publicist or public relations person on their team. As part of their business model, they will construct an image of themselves that goes with the image they are “selling” to the public. Beyoncé Knowles-Carter and Kim Kardashian West are two women who use their public images in very opposite ways. Whoever their publicists are, they both have very different approaches but both with the same motive, to mold your perception of them, and to appeal to you and make you fans of a carefully constructed image of them. The only difference is that they aim to appeal to different parts of us.
Beyonce prefers the method of privacy, allure, mystery, and giving the perception of the perfect woman. Her image is constructed around the idea that she is a powerful, chaste, “prototype” of a woman. If you all remember correctly, just like other young celebs of her time, her team worked overtime to perpetuate the idea that she was an innocent virgin until she met Jay-Z, the future love of her life and husband. We are led to believe that he is the only man she has ever been with. It is possible that this is true, but in my opinion (just like with other young celebs who sold this narrative, like Britney Spears) it’s probably not true. And that is not important to me either. It’s not important to me to rate a woman by how many men or who she’s been with. However, it is important to me to take notice of why this was a major factor in the image of her that we idolize. There are pros to this method. Beyonce (or her team) have made most of the free world fans of her. She has the money and power to keep her private life very private. For example, it’s been a year since she’s had her twins, and no one has seen them (I almost forgot they existed). The only things we “know” about Beyonce are the things she WANTS us to know about her. This method of marketing a celebrity image appeals to the part of all us of who wishes we were perfect. We see Queen Beyonce, and wish we could be her, so therefore, we love her.
The downside to this, is that if any personal scandal does get revealed, it would take a huge blow to that image of perfection. When surveillance footage surfaced of Beyonce’s sister, Solange, attacking Jay Z in an elevator at the Met Gala, the internet, even the news, went ablaze. What could have possibly caused Solange to act that way? What did Jay Z do? Why did he just take it? Why did Beyonce not defend him? Why did she look amused or happy at the interaction? The questions kept coming. Their image of perfection had faltered. However, Beyonce and Jay Z still have the money and privacy they had before. So instead of any drama damaging their image, fan base, or potential for income, they just spun it. Beyonce came out with an album pouring her heart out and reading Jay Z for his transgressions. Jay Z came out with an album taking responsibility for his actions, claiming to have grown from his mistakes (with the support and patience of his perfect woman) and to have made the moves necessary to break the cycle of familial issues he grew up experiencing. While this is all admirable, and the way they supposedly handled things sets a great example for people who idolize them, it is a still a part of a carefully constructed image. It may all be true, but again, we only know what they want us to know. And they want us to see them as perfect, and that if they falter, they quickly fix it and become perfect again.
Kim Kardashian West could not market herself under the image of chaste perfection because she started out becoming famous from a sex tape scandal. So, instead, she (and her “people”) created a different image to appeal to a different side of us. Kim’s approach is constructed around the idea of her being fearless, exposed, strong, open, and shameless. She exposes her body, her life, and her imperfections, leaving us to admire her for her courage and how secure she must be in herself for her to have no fear letting the world know about every imperfection her and her family have. Her team comes from the narrative of, “we all make mistakes, but we work hard and love hard and push through.” She cannot achieve the perfectly innocent image of the untouched, innocent woman, so she goes the other way and puts out the image of a woman who knows her shortcomings, owns them, shares them, and champions them. She “gets ahead” of scandals by simply humanizing her experience and touching the part of us that knows we’re not perfect and wishes we could fearlessly own them, and still be celebrated the same regardless. However, it’s important to remember, that even with the seemingly “open” Kim K, we still only know what she wants us to know (or believe).
The downside to this approach, is that Kim runs the risk of losing fans who don’t like her image, and also runs the risk of over-exposure. When you know too much about someone’s life, you start to care less. Also, being so open, puts her image at an almost constant state of damage control. However, just like Beyonce had a quick fix, so does Kim. Whenever the public gets bored of her, loses respect for her, or a scandal comes up, she does one of two things. Either she pulls away for a time, to give us some time to “miss her”, or she goes on Ellen and has a human “I’m just like everyone else” easy-going conversation to explain her side of things and remind us all of how humble and open she is. If she gets backlash for a nude photo shoot, she simply says that she did it because she was proud of getting her body back, post baby. She goes further to say she did this to show other women we can all be beautiful post baby. Within that narrative, she has exposed herself for our sake, and therefore deserves our respect for doing so.
Now, both these women have different levels to how private they keep their lives, but both women have also carefully crafted these images. Which approach do you think works best for your life? Granted, we are all not celebrities with the whole world knowing our business and feeling the right to pass judgement on it. These opinions therefore don’t go on to effect our professional image and income. But don’t they? We put our lives on social media for all to see. If we behave badly on such a platform, it can affect our image and employability. Regular people can also lose their jobs because they let a personal moment become public. Regular people can be judged, shunned or shamed by their peers based off the idea they have of them.
So, in our own lives, do we want to be Beyonce, keep your personal life private, with a perfect image we need to protect? Because, mind you, we don’t all have Beyoncé’s budget or influence to have her capability of damage control. Do we want to be Kim K, and open ourselves up to all the criticism in the world, but just own it to show others they can too? There are pros and cons to both approaches. Which approach appeals to a stronger part of you? But more importantly, why?