Who Wants to Be A Socialite?

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By FemiAkintunde-Johnson

Recall that our operative desire, in this ongoing tetralogy, was fuelled by a realisation that my class of post-graduate students have had to be challenged and engaged using robust debates, assignations, definitions, connotations and anecdotes, in appreciating and exercising editorial decisions on people who should be lionized as leading lights of their society.

Today, as we trudge towards what can be described as the greying end of a four-part treatise on authentic celebrity status in an African continuum, we shall focus attention on the elements that delineate the relevance, or otherwise, of the Socialite, as well as the contra-distinctions to the Celebrity, properly so-called.

On many levels, the socialite is seen from the mindset of a wannabe celeb. We believe that irrespective of an individual’s desires to hug fame and be relevant, if he or she does not acquire the privilege of accomplishments and the mindset of a proper celebrity, he or she is merely a Socialite.

As it was at the beginning, let us tread around the world, with the help of few disparate “definitions” of the Socialite, a word which came into parlance as far back as the 1920s.

Google is uncharitably brief: “Socialite – /ˈsəʊʃəlʌɪt/ – noun – a person who is well known in fashionable society and is fond of social activities and entertainment.”
The Macmillan dictionary is even less so:

“The word socialite implies frivolity: frequent collocates include wealthy and well-bred but also spoiled, pampered, snooty and vapid.”

The octopal Wikipedia is more urbane: it describes a socialite as “a person (usually from a privileged, wealthy, or aristocratic background) who plays a prominent role in high society. A socialite spends a significant amount of time attending various fashionable social gatherings.”

Two definitions capture the ambivalence of the Socialite quite well; one appears pejorative, and the other attempts to gentrify the root of the word. First is from Vocabulary.com: “A socialite is someone who spends a lot of time in fashionable social circles. A socialite gets invited to all the best parties and says yes to all of them… A socialite is a person who loves being social, especially in circles that are in the public eye.” And Merriman-Webster.com pontificates: “Synonyms and Near Synonyms of Socialite: Aristocrat, blue blood, gentle, noble, patrician. magnate, magnifico, mogul, gentlefolk…”

Alux.com’s take is both instructive and unapologetic: “Socialites are those famous people who are paid to… socialise. That means that they don’t have a normal job, or earn their money in a certain way, they just attend social events, smile, and get rich. Socialites are media lovers, so they need to be in the spotlight as much as they can.”

Quite dispiriting for those who brag about being a socialite? Well, we must not dispense with defining the Socialite without some contributions from the patently irreverent Urban dictionary. Here again, we have some colourful, less expletive, ‘nuggets’ framed by regular people:

“Socialite: a person who is rich and unemployed. Must be in active contact with the media and other rich and unemployed people.

“Someone who has money and doesn’t work, instead devoting his/her life to being ‘socially active’. Socialites go to parties, gather media attention, and essentially ‘work’ at being popular. This often comes at the expense of any meaningful contribution to society or culture. Paris Hilton is a classic example of a socialite.

“Somebody who is really a nobody…

“Someone born from a rich family who basically lives off their inheritance and doesn’t have to do any work. The kind of person with a perfect life. They go to parties and buy expensive clothes and own a Lamborghini just because they can.”

From available information, we are persuaded that the Socialite’s attributes are mostly the direct opposite of the Celebrity’s. The Socialite may have high attainments, wealth, and other trappings of success, the major difference is the mindset and disposition of the genuine Celebrity, who is willing to give back to society without expecting recompense. The Socialites are, more of than not, patronising, and calculating – “nothing comes for nothing”!

– The Socialite is driven by the Media: He or she craves to be in the spotlight, be in front of the klieg lights, attend several high-level social events and be the life of the parties (even when not invited);

– He has no qualms about crashing parties or functions as far as the media or public attention is guaranteed;

– She is capable of planning and executing daring stunts to be in the news, irrespective of the backlash on her person, status or family;

– He or she is driven by the media; actively and, sometimes, shamelessly courting and cavorting with the media;

– Social relevance, public-spirited interventions and charities are cosmetic, and geared towards acclaim/accolade baiting. These subterfuges can also be perceived by the public, and they thus have little or no respect or reverence for such contributions.

– His activities and gestures neither inspire nor motivate the public to greater heights. While the Celebrity’s actions motivate generations, that of the Socialites merely titillate; exciting the minds (not the imaginations) in ‘the moments’.

– Paradoxically, while the real Celebrities influence their society in a positive and clearly defined manner; the Socialite is largely influenced by the society (when they say dollar is “reigning”, he starts spending it at parties; when people crave iPhone 10, he goes for two iPhones 11; when men seem attracted to crazy dress styles seen in American movies, the Socialites have to get the top of the range versions…if there’s no money, she will steal, prostitute, beg, or whatever it takes, etc…)
While some people, especially the poorly miseducated youth, have problems separating most Socialites from the authentic Celebrities, it is vital for the moderator of social dynamism, the intermediary in the interplay of history and culture, THE MEDIA, to be grounded on what ought to stand as motivation or mere entertainment; what is aspirational or fancied mesmerism….what will endure and elevate for ages, against what is ephemeral, shallow and fashionable.

Will the media arise, and preside…and stop clothing empty barrels with dead weight of gold?