Larry Madowo in his wisdom is never afraid to speak his mind, maybe it’s part of the reason he landed his own prime time TV show #The Trend. Since the show became a sensation everyone wants to grace it, in a bit to gain some visibility, marketing and in some instances gain instant fame…well Larry is tired of this self searching fame among Kenyans and he had this to say.
The painter, sculptor and filmmaker said this well before the Internet was ubiquitous, granting instant fame to anybody with a cat, funny face or minimal talent. That was before pseudo billionaires (ahem Heshan de Silva, Steve Mbogo) and before Kenyan socialites of every shade. That was before Twitter was a thing and “bigwig” took on new meaning.
Because of the surprise success of our train-wreck of a TV show on NTV, I’m constantly getting pitches by people who want to be on #theTrend. A small percentage of them are truly great artists who need the proverbial 15 minutes of fame to put their craft out there and make a living out of it. The vast majority of them, though, are talentless bimbos, wannabe rappers and other uninspiring types.
They falsely believe that a moment on prime time television will “promote” them and they can start answering to that most pointless Kenyan classification: celeb. Ergo once they are a celeb, they are a higher quality of human being than others who don’t have the magic gold dust of fame.
It is that inexplicable desire to be famous that explains why at least five different proxies over the last fortnight have asked me to have Steve Mbogo on #theTrend. They rattled off his supposed achievements and the boldface names he supposedly hosted for his birthday at that Abu Dhabi event he couldn’t pronounce.
It is for the same reason the said gentleman (in the loose sense of the word) copy-pasted the biography of an accomplished professor at Riara University and just added his name. After all, why work for your claim to fame when you can just appropriate someone else’s work and get the instant gratification?
We’re living through the golden age of television and a new gem just premiered on our screens. ‘Nairobi Diaries’ tracks the lives of ‘socialites’ in Kenya, modelled on the popular ‘Housewives’ and ‘Keeping Up With The Kardashians’ reality shows in the US. For the cast, they must be proud of themselves and their handiwork, likely unconcerned by the disapproval of the rational masses.
In their world, fame at whatever cost is still better than obscurity. For many in Generation Y, getting your own TV show is perhaps the highest achievement you could ever hope for. It is your own corner in the pop culture world where you can say whatever and there are people dumb enough to watch it and comment about it on social media, bingo!
Second to getting a TV show is developing a cult-like large following on social media. You have your own Team Whatever of ‘fans’ who will attack whoever disagrees with you, reshare your useless mumblings and constantly stroke your ego. As someone who happened on both a TV show and a sizeable social media presence, I can’t stress enough how overrated and fickle both are. Neither will bring you any meaningful happiness or replace that emptiness in your heart if you don’t know what you’re truly about.
Fame is a ruthless monster that demands constant sacrifice, not to mention that complete loss of privacy. For those in the broadcast branch of journalism, it is an occupational hazard. That said, there are those who are only too happy to cultivate their popularity and feed off the vanity it brings along.
This fame-first culture is deeply flawed because it teaches its purveyors that stardom is the ultimate achievement. Prominence should be earned, and from contributions to a body of work such as music or journalism or academia. A society that glorifies celebrity for celebrity’s sake is built on sinking sand.
Nobody should have to sell their morals for a cheap weave, too much makeup and a fake accent just to be a socialite. Nobody should have to buy followers or likes on social media to be a bigwig just to be Internet famous. It’s not even real if you have no reputation in real life to speak of. Notoriety may pay some of your bills for a brief period, but it won’t cover for your cold, dead heart.
By Larry Madowo.