How the COVID-19 is Curbing Celebrity Flex Culture

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By Vanessa Obioha

Before the advent of social media, we glimpsed the luxurious lifestyle of celebrities on the glossy pages of magazines occasionally. Nowadays, we don’t need to wait for the next edition of THISDAY Style to know how the rich and famous roll. They bring the juicy details to our mobile screens everyday. They tell us what designer items they are wearing, places they are visiting, who they are dating, what food they are cooking, what social cause they are championing, whose birthday party they are attending, what cars they are driving, the new property they purchased, and even the bed they are sleeping on. In fact, there’s hardly any part of their lifestyle that they don’t offer us a panoramic view on their social media channels.

Fans feed on these realities with gusto everyday. They discuss their riches, spread the news further in their personal blogs and channels, some modestly hide their envy while others proclaim their innermost wishes to be rich and famous like these celebrities. And the cycle of influencing begins, fetching celebrities more deals with brands who leverage on the number of followers on their pages.

Although some celebrities still embrace their privacy, they nevertheless attract millions of people to their pages. Such stars leverage on their success offline.

This show off culture by celebrities on photo and video sharing platforms like Instagram and Snapchat is a testament to celebrity influencing power of social media but in a season of pandemic, when travels and social gatherings are limited, such flex images can draw more ire than admiration like in the case of Funke Akindele-Bello whose show of affection to her husband landed her on the wrong side of the law.

Funke whose husband Abdul Rasheed Bello recently turned 43 on Saturday, April 4, decided to throw him a birthday party. No one would have heard of it and she probably wouldn’t have been subjected to the humiliation she suffered days ago in a courtroom if she and her husband had stayed offline. The temptation to tell the world was too strong for the couple to ignore.

So within seconds, a video showing a panoramic view of the party with big names in attendance and the celebrant happily filming was uploaded online. The reaction that greeted that post was unexpected. The actress, producer and director who recently won an Africa Magic Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) for her role in her ‘Jenifa’s Diary’ series, was trolled, shamed, slammed with vitriols as if the main course in her party was the COVID-19. They found the couple’s celebration disgusting and insensitive particularly at a time when the state is in a lockdown and people are socially distancing themselves as a way to drive the unwanted virus away from the city.

‘How could Funke be so insensitive?’ was one of the recurring questions on social media.

Though the couple and some of their guests including singer Naira Marley later had their sentences withdrawn for violating the federal government lockdown order, it is still unknown how this singular incident would affect her career.

Already, the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC) had distanced itself from the advertorial video she did for the centre through her ambassadorial deal with Dettol.
As the lockdown continues, celebrities are gradually understanding that they need more than their lavish lifestyle to keep their fans entertained. Oftentimes, celebrities gather fandom by blessing their random followers with giveaways, but with musical shows, film productions grounded by the pandemic, people are being wary of their financial status after the lockdown.

A scenario played out last weekend when a fan urged singer Davido to give freebies from his N30 billion account, the singer didn’t hesitate to let the fan know that he never had the amount in his possession.

By doing so, Davido solidified the argument that celebrities often lead impressionable youths astray with their fantastical lyrics. It also shows that the version of themselves that they sell to their fans is a far cry from reality. Whether the wannabes learn from this reality check or not can only be determined after the lockdown.