Jim Iyke and Omoni
By Joy Bewaji
Some stars follow the path of wisdom and restraint—building sustainable brands, getting credible endorsements, and engaging themselves with uplifting courses—others manage to rumba with controversy ever so often; they are stuck on the mud path, getting their feet soaked in mire that messes up the ultimate perception they desire. Their lives always seem like one hand is dipped in boiling water and the other hand is forever trying to redeem/defend/fight-for-whatever-is-left-of-their-worth that has been reduced to crumbs!
When it comes to re-building bad reputation, it would demand more than what it took to create it in the first place. But there’s hope. If Robert Downey Jr could do it, so can you!
Bad Behaviour 1: Sleeping around
It is just one of those activities that can bring contempt to you and all you’ve worked hard for. It may sound self-righteous but really, don’t sleep-around! You are not trying to be perfect, but you are trying to earn some respect.
The fastest way to earn respect is to keep your legs together OR your zippers up. If, as an adult, you want to have a very active and notorious sex life, take it away from your industry – date the banker, the Engineer, the doctor, NOT your colleagues; and definitely not a bunch of guys/girls who roll in your “clique”. The news will leave your circle and settle on our (the public) laps; and we (the public) will drag you into the septic tank! And no matter what you say on twitter; how you try to make us see that you are a good girl/guy and sweet and naïve, our noses will be stuck in the air. It’ll take a lifetime to get that image of you and the many sex partners we’ve heard of (real and imagined) out of our heads. There-on, all your efforts will be summarised in only a few words – “S/he must have slept her/his way to that endorsement or that show or that award…” Sex should never be so cheap.
Fix It: When the rumours start to feast on your career, take a break – away from the public, away from twitter (you have nothing to prove, we can tell you are hurting even through those: “wow! My life is so good. Thank you Lord” tweets). Retreat into your shell; find some support from family and true friends. Take a year off, if you must. Do not honour any red-carpet events, do not force a smile on the pages of tabloids, just disappear…and re-appear with a damn good single and a smashing video, OR a good movie with one of your best performances ever, OR a perfect red carpet moment with a slimmer/more beautiful you – depending on the specific industry you represent. Our focus will be altered. As a rule, a better, more interesting incident devours the lesser one. From then on, do not stop – keep going. You’ll have to work really hard to keep up with your less controversial colleagues, that is your cross to carry – carry it with grace. In no time, your sexual romp will be one of those unintended mentions that never fit in – ever again. But be careful, your come-back has to be with a bang! If you do yourself the injustice of releasing a wacky song or shoddy Nollywood flick after the long wait hoping to kill the bad reputation, it will only drag you further into oblivion.
Bad Behaviour 2: Fighting the Press
It’s futile. You come out looking stupid – always. If you are hurt with what is being said about you it is still never a good idea to engage in a twitter back-and-forth rage with a journalist, blogger or writer. Your public persona will be ridiculed. The whole exercise will drain the life off you. Every journalist, like every actor/musician/comedian etc is looking for that one big hit – one story – that will make him the biggest business in town. In some instances the truth is stretched and exaggerated. It happens everywhere in the world. My grouse is when a celebrity takes it deeper into the gutters. You are more likely to be hurt by it eventually even when it is difficult to ignore sometimes.
Fix It: There’s something reverential about silence. For instance, if someone is screaming and throwing foul words at you and you disregard the brewing session - play the bigger person and walk away, the gratification that comes from such a reaction cannot be quantified! So my first fix-it measure would be to ignore the rant. If you have to speak then speak through your publicist; it’s more honourable and professional. But if it kills you deep inside, then go to court especially if you are sure it is a case of slander. But don’t be the toothless bulldog that spends so much time trying to prove a point on social network with no concrete plan on how to rectify the damage.
Bad Behaviour 3: Saying all the wrong things
If your words (good or bad) frequently find their way to the front page of tabloids and blogs then you need to watch what you say. Even if you speak the truth, people will assume you are acting superior. When you are recognized in society, employ tact, skill and savoir faire to your utterances. If we listen to your music, watch your movies, and laugh at your jokes, we most probably would be interested in the other activities you do, and that is why celebrities are usually instant role models whether they are worthy or not, so discretion should always be applied.
Fix It: you do not always have to express your opinion publicly; as a matter of fact you do not always have to have an opinion. If you observe, the less “opinionated” celebrities in Nigeria are the most loved and respected. Your opinions on various issues will give you some form of recognition no doubt, but the trouble that it will birth in the nearest future will be nothing compared to the little praise that comes with it. So learn to be quiet and speak when very necessary. Though controversy sometimes is a good thing – you can pop in and out of it once in a while (but very sparingly)—keep it warm and heated just the way the fans like, but don’t become a regular judgmental person or one who just loves to give tips on everything. It’s just one of those things we don’t appreciate around here. You know what they say about silence being very wise…twitter has made a mockery of all of that now, unfortunately.
Bad Behaviour 4: Public Nuisance
Fighting in the club, punching a subordinate, screaming for “your right” at the gas station, badly dressed on the red carpet, groupie sex tapes…all have a place here. Do not be reckless with your reputation. Guard it. As a celebrity, you are not giving the luxury of emotions. You always have to strive to be the bigger person in any situation. It’s tough but that’s a small price to pay for stardom. You can’t jump queues, you can’t be impatient with a cashier, you can’t be screaming at a driver on the other lane. You just can’t.
Fix It: Anger Management institutions are desperately needed in Nigeria. And it’s understandable; the system kills—no power, bad roads, crazy bus drivers, mad okada riders, suicidal truck drivers, high cost of living – it’s a miracle that we all still have the ability to smile! So it is plausible to lose your mind and throw decorum in the air in this society, but it still doesn’t make it right. Always think of the bigger picture in a moment of anger. A situation that would probably last 10 minutes might take years to redeem. If you are continuously aware of this, you’ll understand why it is your responsibility (as a celebrity) to be the better, kinder, more mature, more forgiven, bigger individual in every situation. Public apology should be given whenever you ‘misbehave’ in public. Use a respectable medium to air your position and tender an apology – and move on! It is not your business what people will make of it afterwards. Do what you have to and shut your ears to the tirade that would follow – because it will come!
• Bewaji writes from Lagos