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“We ‘follow’ celebrities; they aren’t our leaders”
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“We ‘follow’ celebrities; they aren’t our leaders”

phpAiYO4nPMYoung people devote time and energy to ‘following’ celebrity news and styles, writes Tshwanelo Fokazi, 24, a Correspondent from Ekurhuleni, South Africa, but at the same time youth are able to uphold their own standards and beliefs.

Are you wondering what Trevor Noah said to Miley Cyrus during his interview with her last week? Ask me, I’ll quote the episode for you, word-for-word.

Like most of my peers around the world, I’m immersed in celebrity news and pop culture. This is why, when Beyoncé sang, ‘‘ladies, now, let’s get into formation…’’ at last year’s Super Bowl 50 Halftime show, I was one of the first million in line.

“Keeping up with the Kardashians” and all their shenanigans on the reality show is something I often do. I often know which A-lister wore what on the red carpets at award ceremonies.

You may even find me singing along to club-banging lyrics about success, love and life – but do not assume that I run to those lyrics for guidance on the path I should take when I’m confused about success, love and life.

For instance, I know a medical doctor who used to always listen to an album called “College Dropout’’ but he did not drop out from university, he completed his studies with an A+ average – because it’s just music, not the Bible! I even know someone who dyed her hair blonde when her favourite star, apparently one of the most beautiful women in the world, did the same. But when that same celebrity posted naked images on the internet – the young lady from my community continued with her beautifully modest dress code as an observation of the Holy Scripture which says, “your beauty should not only come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.’’

This neighbour of mine did not assume that the only way she can also be seen as uncontestably beautiful would require her to distribute nude pictures of herself for everyone to validate her.

While research on the effects of pop culture and celebrities may insist that we as the youth blindly follow these famous persons, real life – not mere research and theory – continues to prove that the youth around the globe are not metaphorically blind followers of our celebrities.

How they live does not impact our understanding of right and wrong.

A classic example is how during the USA presidential elections, the Democratic party had many celebrities campaigning at its concerts, meet-and-greets and press conferences. Chart-topping musicians, reality show stars, popular wrestlers and many others used the hashtag #imwithher and they had thousands of retweets from their devoted fans, us the youth. But post-election results shocked everyone when it became evident that the influence of celebrities on the youth is not as mega as many had assumed.

The same thing happened in South Africa during the 2016 municipal election.

These post-elections results made me realise that when the youth cause a celebrity-endorsed retail product to sell out within minutes, it is not only because the celebrity is endorsing the product, but because we also genuinely like the product. As the youth of 2017, we admire celebrities but we do not bow down at their every move.

We may “like’’ many of their selfies and comment our undying love on their pictures’ comments section on social media. But it ends there: we like how they’ve branded themselves – not their personal beliefs – because we have our own beliefs, values and standards to uphold.

Reach me at Tshwanelofokazi@gmail.com, www.smartzargirls.com and on Twitter @SmartZARGirls.

photo credit: jeff.cirillo DSC_0394 via photopin (license)

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About me: I am a custodian for women empowerment through my online platform, Smart ZAR Girls.

My passion for leadership has opened me to opportunities: I am a One Day Leader alumni and a former BBC Africa debate key guest speaker, and a 2014 voluntary delegate for the Media Monitoring Africa initiative ‘‘Youth News Agency’’. My mantra is ‘‘we are more than that’’. This pushes me to constantly perceive and celebrate growth in myself, others and the rest of the continent.

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Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the Commonwealth Youth Programme. Articles are published in a spirit of dialogue, respect and understanding. If you disagree, why not submit a response?
To learn more about becoming a Commonwealth Correspondent please visit: http://www.yourcommonwealth.org/submit-articles/

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