"Stans" they call themselves, a collision between the words "stalker" and "fan" are nearly everywhere. "#TEAMBEYONCE" or "Rihanna Navy" they chant on Twitter, Facebook and other social media. Some teens have taken the liberty to create personal fan sites for these celebrities in the pursuit to show their loyalty. Others have even dared to tattoo album titles to their bodies (i.e. "Born This Way") to feel forever united with their "everything." However, as interesting as it may sound, the now bizarre obsessive trend that the youth of today have for celebrities stands as symbol of a dying desire for self-identification and originality. Living in the shadow has never seemed as glamorous as before until now. To be apart, rather than stand out is now almost invisible. In a world of such media hype and overview, one should reflect on channeling their extreme "stan-like" nature to their own personal pursuits.
It was not until I saw my 14-year old cousin in a pink Nicki Minaj-like wig tell me that Nicki Minaj should be president that I realized times were really changing. She had been to almost all of Minaj's shows in Houston. Had every mix tape/album, knew every lyric. The knowledge she had of her would have made you thought she knew her personally and thanks to sites like Wikipedia, Media Take Out, and World Star Hip-Hop, it seems almost impossible not to know a little more than you should about celebrities. However, what made me more interested in her viewpoint as to why Nicki Minaj should be elected to the highest position of power in the nation was her rationale. "No one has ever done it like Nicki," she argued, "Nicki is the best, Kim hating." Although I quickly wanted to snatch that Party City wig off her head and tell her about a woman named Lauryn Hill and a great album called The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, I did not bother. I was convinced that this stubborn little brat who was now reciting verses to "Super Bass" had already been brainwashed. However, what was more intriguing was how in 2011, one would be too quick to call Nicki Minaj, just now having released her debut album, "the best."
Yes, I blame the advancement of technology. The multi-media industry has their hands on the infrastructure of pop culture. One cannot imagine a celebrity without a Facebook page, and you are not officially famous if you cannot be found on Wikipedia. As a result, MTV as we know it, is a reality television channel that only discuss "music" when the VMAs come around. Nearly all music videos we do see are just a click away on YouTube and Twitter allows us to get inside the head of our favorite stars. The bad outweighs the good unfortunately. Yes, Justin Bieber got his big break and good for him. Many other up-incoming artists have made breakthroughs. But what does any of this say for us? More reminders of how much our life should immolate theirs. More pop-ups of how we should be downloading their record. More annoying reminders from all over by their young pressed fans of how much they are "the best." The new social network era has now caused a triple threat of invading one's own self-conscious as a way of begging you to conform. "This must be a great album because it is No. 1 on Billboard." "Lil Wayne is delaying his album date again, this is soooo important." All of these details which would have mattered to only industry critics now have been integrated into the social-psyche of our young society. Kids now know more about nothing than ever before and that is the problem.
The young generation of today is not dumber; they just channel their passions into the wrong field. As much as my young cousin knew about Nicki Minaj and all of the members of Cash Money, or now being corrected by her, Young Money Cash Money, she could be using such intellect to a more substantial investment for herself. I am not saying she should be extremely crazy about her academics and learn every detail about the Constitution (although that would not be such a bad idea in her ideas about presidential candidates), but at least into something that SHE is passionate about. With such energy and knowledge about technology, this generation has the ability to do great things and although they love celebrities, they should not walk into the seductive shadow of someone else while ignoring their own talents.
There used to be a time when music would inspire others to pursue their own goals and achieve their own wit. Yes, "I Believe I Can Fly" was at every graduation and even though styles in music have changed, the obsessive fan has as well. Yes, everyone went crazy for Michael Jackson (as they should have) but there was a time when the silver gloves you made in your basement with homemade glitter came off and the latex gloves for your job in medicine began. There was a balance. When I was growing up, I knew every N*SYNC song and even learned the choreography to "Bye Bye Bye" (still do to this day secretly) but that did not come in the way of me dreaming of college and thinking beyond that. What saddens me the most is that as much as my young cousin can eloquently predict the future for Ms. Nicki Minaj, she cannot even see a clear one for herself as she embarks high school. Where did we go wrong? Is there a way out?
So for some time I have thought about it, and realized that in some shape or form, we are all celebrities in our own right. We can be champions of our communities and impact people: city, state or campus-wide. The celebrity mentality does not have to be of musical, film, or artistic talent but just anything that you desire in general. If you are a "beast" in mathematics, your Billboard Hot 100 is landing that No. 1 high score in your class. If you are into community service, attempt landing headlines for feeding more people than before. Break records, make history. It is possible in whatever you do and just as rapidly as people would want to obsess over the provocative is the same way they will greatly appreciate the innovative. The Nicki Minajs of our generation will be admired, but the brilliant minds (i.e. Mark Zuckerberg) will be respected. Being a self-celebrity does not mean you cannot love other people living their dreams... you just better make sure you are doing something to reach yours. I am still a huge fan of Britney Spears (she is the "best" pop star of our generation, don't judge me) but that does not mean I will live my life around hers. Today I call for the youth of this generation to take responsibility for their lives and run with it. They have what it takes; they just need their "stans" (family, friends, and mentors) to support them.
Follow Ernest Owens on Twitter: www.twitter.com/MrErnestOwens