I’m a Celebrity , Get me out of here ?

(Thoughts on the fame game triggered by the X Factor contestant Cher Lloyd’s appearance on BBC’s Panorama about “cyber bullying.” The programme wasn’t really about bullying at all, it was, it seems to me just about the pitfalls of being a minor possibly relatively temporary celebrity.)

I'm comfortable singing in public and find it cathartic but wouldn't want to take it further as I don;t feel any need to.

The “reality” show title “I’m a Celebrity get me out of here “is a great summary of the duality that is attendant with fame or celebrity in today’s urban jungle. You can’t have it both ways – fame isn’t all it is cracked up to be and if you can’t stand the heat do not take it on. We all see the news on TV and the tabloid headlines and anyone who took on fame not knowing that it comes with some flack is walking round with their eyes closed. The word celebrity now merely denotes someone who has caught the public’s attention for more than everyone’s apparent entitlement to the standard fifteen minutes . Gone are the days when the accolade was given only when a person did something heroically or notoriously newsworthy or had qualities or a specific talent that was genuinely worthy of being celebrated. ) X Factor is just one of the modern factories turning out singing acts to make money for the programmes owners, often very ordinary people, catapulted into celeb land and some are not at all well equipped to deal with its stresses. Celebrity comes and goes far too quickly and is rarely actually earned. It is inevitable that people taken overnight from obscure often mundane daily jobs and launched into the music industry and having to participate in the media circus that goes with it are not always going to adjust to this high pressure life.

It was not pleasant ( but it did seem very odd ) to witness the Panorama show where teenage pop star, Cher Lloyd, ex X Factor contestant , revealed she was the “victim” of cyber-bullying on the social media network Facebook and how she had been mortified and apparently deeply traumatised that people could be so nasty. I found it a bit odd for a person of her age as her tearful confessional did not sit quite right. A twelve year old to mid teens perhaps but it was hard to take an eighteen year old so clearly vulnerable and you wondered why her management had allowed her to make such public revelations. Was it just a publicity stunt or was it a managed event to help her get over it and find some sort of adult maturity? I had the impression that she initiated this , possibly against management advice and you have to ask yourself why? It was literally a somewhat pathetic event. Should a person have to offer a public self-justification – love me I really am a nice person and I am coping with bullying. That reads like she struggles with criticism and negative takes on what she does. You can’t be loved by everyone and most people get that whatever their background or baggage.

She was, it appears , naively confirming and thus adding as many people she could to her Facebook “friends” but anyone knows that people who follow others are not real but virtual friends or more accurately just contacts. It appears she has an insatiable need for multiple public affirmation and was apparently shocked when some of the people she admitted into her Facebook were not fans but people who actively sought to attack, criticise, and put down. Facebook is a public forum in part for friends to share pictures and news. The woman teen is a professional musician and Facebook is also a public market place. She allegedly was exited to have so many people wanting to be her “friend” when she hit permitted upper limit. “”Growing up was a bit difficult for me – I wasn’t able to have friends like that because I was very, very different.” This sort of stuff belongs in the confession box or on a shrink’s couch and it is foolhardy to come out with it in public. Put it on line and you are playing the victim and it is inevitable that you are going to get some sympathy, some empathy, but you are also asking to get put down. You simply do not sign a contract where you are going to be the centre of attention to sell your records when you have an agenda “wish that people would leave me alone”
It appears she has few or no real friends and puts that down to being “very different” and we hear throwbacks to her being taunted when even younger because of her traveller family background on her mother’s side. Clearly , going into the competition, ( if I recall correctly her third year stab at auditioning for the series seeking fame) she came with some unresolved baggage as a result of possible bullying at school. But she also had attitude. Essentially opinion was divided on both her singing and personality; she both gathered fans but also had ,it seemed, a gift for putting people’s back’s up. She was saved by rhe judges , if I recall , on two occasions when she got the lowest public vote. The really successful contestants are likeable but with her the jury’s still out. It was clear that she wasn’t sufficiently good ever to win and you had the feeling that she did herself no good in that quest. Her first few singles did well and went to was it four in each case so she got the career she yearned for.

So now she is signed up Sycho and has a career . But coupled to this cyber bullying feature we see on the news following her contribution to Panorama the tearful vulnerable person we are presented with is actually, it appears , no bully push over – she fights back. Look how she openly doesn’t give a toss and how she actually deals with hate Tweets, she is no victim or push over so it doesn’t sit right those tearful confessions – samples of her tweets (“I don’t give 2 shits about you so called haters, leave my brats alone and watch us take over!”). (“Leave me alone you giant pube head!”) or to the world at large (“i’m still here and for some of you shitheads that’s disappointing! 🙂 In all this you actually wonder why she has elected to have her own personal social media presence where, you suspect, most celebs have people ghost tweeting and do not make personal replies or comments.

What is clear and from her album, is that none of her music has the edge and attitude she appears to have as a person– it is all produced and smoothed out and there is no sense of her real self in any of it. I think the issue here is in why people want to sing or become famous for singing. Some write and sing about their own personal issues and make a career out of it because it hits a common chord. It is hard to form any affiliation with an artist whose output has been sanitised and overtly manufactured. She is offered as a singer in the market place put her persona away from a music audience doesn’t project a marketable image.
Becoming famous shouldn’t need to come with a warning as there have been so many falls from grace, crashes and even suicides and it should be obvious to anyone contemplating it as a career that fame always comes with a downside . There are people who are gifted and earn fame, there are others , who can be bordering on the mediocre who chase it , because they need it. If you are driven to sing fine, but if you are driven to become famous you are probably going to be in trouble. With a number of talent shows making prime time “essential” viewing it is quite staggering how many people put themselves forward – the majority are average or worse , many are self –deluded but also it is pretty amazing that so many people actually sing quite well. By a process of elimination a privilege group are selected and form a talent pool which is developed with the help of professional choreographers and voice coaches. Lack of confidence is a common problem but equally it can be amazing how people who have a raw talent gain in confidence as these shows progress, listen to and benefit from professional advice and mentoring , find their real voice and start to show what they really have.

“Celebrity” as a treatment for “insecurities” is a poisoned chalice and is not without some predictable nasty side effects that those signing up actually are aware of. You know what you are signing up to , the rewards can be great in terms of bankables but you can’t fuel a career doing day time telly interviews where your problems with being a celeb are your only topic of conversation. Mr Cowell does not invest his cash if you do not have the basics that make you marketable and the wisdom is that rough spots will be lost through attrition or will be used as a feature of the brand as it appears applies in this person’s career so far.

Like many that rise to “fame” by this route, there is no evidence that she has sufficient talent to make it as big as she wanna be. Despite her managements assertion that she was going to be huge in the states, she was not well received . She has already under impressed the media canny potentially lucrative US market who re-branded her . objectively, as ” low rent”, not an A lister and ” trashy.” This tortured teen is a bit of a marketing nightmare and even if the cyber bullying thing invites sympathy, the root cause is that there is something fatally flawed about this individual. The “hard luck” background CV makes good tabloid headlines and seems essential qualifying baggage to bring with you to make you stand out at the audition stage but this should not be recycled to form the basis of the career that ensues. Getting through should give the self esteem the boost it signed up to get and then move on. The job description is Singer/entertainer not professional victim and the public have a choice. It we are lowest common denominator branded , it helps if you are actually likeable or if your rebelliousness has actual credibility and depth , if your job it is to sing to us for cash.

Signing the contract ” I wanna be a Celebrity” is to agree to conditions – that media interest is going to be intense and is going to make you completely transparent however carefully crafted the label’s PR people make you up.

The tour and album title ” Sticks and Stones” , in the light of this interview on bullying, is ironic. The proverb is totally sound folk wisdom – and words only hurt if you let them or worse if you want to let them (to help you avoid taking responsibility) Word was she is interested in some spin off show from the “Fat Weddings” thing to coin in on her traveller background. Big mistake . The wild success of the gypsy wedding thing, from the viewpoint of the public , was extreme tacky excess and bizarre tribalism and never seen as a role model for an alternative life style. Its appeal is to voyeurism along the lines of audience qualification for the Jeremy Kyle Show.

It appears from the recent documentary confessional, no doubt sanctioned by the label- (on the basis of work with the material you have got and any publicity is good publicity) that Miss Lloyd is a particularly fragile individual and very needy in terms of public approval and affirmation of her dogged determination to maintain a individual “look”, an image of her own creation. But she is not a talented rebel, not a creative original, seems to have allowed herself to be manipulated and manufactured musically at least and yet “Cher is adamant that she’ll stick with her unique style and character, which has caused issues.” (Her management tells us ) ,That strongly suggest strong self-defeating stubborness , and more than strongly suggests the conceit of an arrogant kid in denial and ultimately it is vanity not self –confidence. It is self delusion or comes across as such and it it is , that is going to be her downfall not internet trolls.
Adulthood is about taking responsibility – “cyber bullying” for one in her late teens and now voluntarily in the public eye, provides the ideal excuse for avoiding responsibility as you have chosen to target bullies as people that you can blame for your insecurities. Without them you would be insecure anyway. So you are a screwed up teen who put on a hard face to get you through the selection process. Why are you even coming out in public like this – it is of no interest to anyone other than your family or real friends who you really are. People are more than capable of making rational judgements about people who place themselves in the spotlight out of choice and if you have to explain yourself with all this tearful hand wringing, then you are seen as someone being sold as something you are not. People can and do distinguish very accurately between a celebrities public, often manipulated and manufactured image, and the person behind the image. Whether they give you the benefit of the doubt is beyond your control to some extent. Publicity, any publicity is good they say, and for a singer to have a career means that they need to grab the attention of the public on a regular basis, largely through the broadcasting and print media and that attention ,to you as a brand , is carefully planned out by record labels and the media can only work on what it is fed. Interviews are going to make or break you in this regard and 90% of the job isn’t actually singing , it is the media circus and marketing. Your shownbizz career only has a chance if you excite some reaction, as both person or artist , negative or positive. You can be notorious or glorious. What you cannot be is totally bland and unnoticed.
On a personal level while close family and genuine friends will be supportive and listen even they are going to be worn down eventually if personal issues you are trying to resolve on your own mean that you obsessively stick to the victim script you have bought into and repeat it in all encounters. To put it simply , the social greeting “how are you” is just that and not an invitation to immediately launch into a detailed rehearsed bio of your psychological or medical symptoms or to deliver your life story. In the main we are all diverse, and we all put on a front , We all have baggage but we also always have a choice as to whether we allow it to rule our lives , allow it to define who we are , or use it to seek relationships personal or otherwise purely to resolve those issues.

I am at ease with myself, wherever I am - I know my strengths and limitations and which songs I can sing well within my vocal range and sing songs that I can relate to and which people also relate to. I have a voice and I can play guitar and do it now and again for no other reason that because I enjoy it.

The most charitable view I can take is that this person as a credible artist is a work in progress , very probably with a career that will not endure , but for her long term well being , seems in need of extensive, specific therapeutic help far away from the media to resolve personal issues that currently limit the chances of personal fulfilment both as a singer and a well person. And where is the singer’s management in all this, aren’t they culpable and shouldn’t they be actively helping her sort herself out? Whitening up her teeth, the make overs, are just cosmetic but behind the brand is someone they have a responsibility for.




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