Meghan Markle’s marriage to Prince Harry, the Duke of Sussex and member of the British royal family, has for long been the subject of controversy in the media.
The royal couple has found itself on the receiving end of unending criticism, and in a recent interview with ITV News, a British media house, Markle revealed her struggles.
She said, “Any woman, especially when pregnant, you’re really vulnerable. And so that was made really challenging, and then when you have a new-born, you know?”
She later thanked the journalist for asking how she was, revealing that very few people care to ask.
“I would say thank you for asking, because not many people have asked if I’m ok, but it’s a very real thing to be going through behind the scenes.”
Apparently popular culture is not all about the glitz and glam. A number of public figures have professed to be intimidated by the pressure that comes with living a life in the ‘public eye.’
Many have also wondered why society is so quick to judge one for their mistakes over their ‘celebrity status.’
R&B musician Yvan Buravan says at times society sets impossible standards for celebrities and that this is because they sometimes expect them to be super beings.
“Celebrities are just simple human beings working hard and passionately for their lives and those who like what they do,” he says.
Local rapper Oda Paccy agrees with Buravan, noting that society should be aware of how disturbing this can be.
“Some think that every artist has to be rich, as in they have to own expensive cars and nice houses and they shouldn’t live in any place or whatever area they find, they think that we are not like them,” Paccy says.
‘What this does, is that it makes us pretend to be that person or that image society sees in us and it’s not easy. There is the reality behind those happy faces,” she adds.
Socialite Shaddy Boo was mocked and ridiculed for failing to answer simple questions in English during an interview.
TV Presenter Axelle Mutesi says society sometimes forgets that these celebrities are also human beings who can mess up as we all do.
“Being a celebrity does not take away being one’s self. Society judges celebrities harshly but they cannot be saints because none of us are,” she says.
She, however, says she would understand if society expected a lot from celebrities because they are people in the limelight that shape society in one way or another.
She says, the young generation looks up to celebrities more than they look up to the people closest to them, so there is a need for celebrities to show positive examples.
“Just like when someone becomes a parent, they know there are little ones looking up to them and they adjust accordingly not to set bad examples.”
Does the media have a role to play?
Female rapper Marie Grace Abayizera, aka Young Grace, points out that people should understand that stars or celebrities are normal people like them. And should not use their fame to take advantage of them.
“I have personally gone out there on the streets and received different gestures from the crowd. But I believe that if we let the norm escalate, celebrities will soon have no space left to enjoy their own private lifestyle,” Abayizera shares.
Needless to mention, the rapper also says the media plays a vital role in spoiling celebrities’ names. She cites herself as an example, noting that she has heard several rumors that ‘paint’ her image as a trouble causer.
“The media can literally pull you off the ladder as a celebrity. Any person can happen to fight with someone, I will give you an example, one day I happened to have a misunderstanding with someone but before I knew it, it had turned into something big.”
She also says celebrities find it uncomfortable when society sets standards for them, “For instance if you are to buy something from a shop that normally costs Rwf 10,000 they will increase the price to Rwf30,000 because they know that you are a celebrity. They claim that they are your fans, they vote for you to win different competitions among others. But this should not be the case,” she adds.
Socialite Shadia Mbabazi commonly known as Shaddy Boo is not deterred by her choice to preside with her private life whatsoever.
As opposed to what the public and in most cases the media does to taint celebrities’ images, a true celebrity should embrace their private life, she says.
“I don’t think as celebrities there are ways in which we can convince society to perceive us as normal people, but we can always be who we are and do what we love.
“For instance, I go out clubbing and I meet different people who have heard a lot about me and they start treating me based on what they heard, but I have never been discouraged from going out with my friends,” Mbabazi comments.
Platini (one-half of music group-Dream boys, was scorned by the public after being dumped by his girlfriend, who went on to get engaged to another man.
However, she also believes that the media has power over what the public gets to think about celebrities.
She, hence, reiterates that all these factors will shake a celebrity’s confidence in society, thus, finding it hard to integrate into society.
For Albert Murinzi, a student at the University of Rwanda and an intern at the Rwanda Arts Council, the private lives of celebrities have and are continuously being affected by the media.
This, he says, is “a result of today’s popularity of entertainment shows and gossip networks, among others. Indeed the media has an enormous impact on both the rise and fall of celebrities.”
Besides, Murinzi thinks that the media is a pivotal source in shaping public perception of a celebrity.
“The way a common man views a celebrity, and in most cases they have never met, it is completely up to how the media portrays them. Because of this idea, many celebrities are misjudged by the media and seem to lash out in a negative way,” he adds.
Vanessa Gakuba Rutazibizwa, says that the media should understand that due to such a huge impact it has on the celebrities’ private lives, it is hard for them to adapt to a new world.
“Indeed it is hard for celebrities to learn how to adapt to a new world that actually only a few people get to experience. Celebrities have been shown to act out in many different ways, proving that the media has a direct influence on their lives.”
This, in the long run, pushes them to change their lifestyles in order to maintain a steady income and their public fame, Gakuba says.
DOES SOCIETY SET UNREALISTIC STANDARDS FOR CELEBRITIES?
To some extent it does, however, I think celebrities also have a role to play in this. They want to display a certain lifestyle, hence, they end up depicting a different image for the public.
Mutabazi Gakuba, IT specialist
I think so, celebrities meet the challenge of always being seen as the character they portray. For example, if you are a comedian like me, people will always see you as a funny person, they will not understand that you can be serious. If you’re an actor, people will always see you in the image of the role you portray, as in if you act as a bad person they will always think you are bad.
For example, I have a web series called Manyanga — I act as an alcoholic but I don’t drink alcohol in real life but at times people call me a drunkard when we meet, so it’s hard.
Another issue is when it comes to the relationship aspect. It’s very hard to find someone to date because they don’t trust us, this is all portrayed by society.
Clapton Mugisha, Comedian
Yes it does, celebrities are always expected to live and behave a certain way. Normal things that everyone does they have to think twice before doing because they might be judged or criticised for it.
Society needs to remember that they are normal people like everyone else, before being the famous people we consider them to be. They go through the same things just like everyone else, and they are living normal lives when the cameras and lights are off.
Ange Umulisa, Emcee
In my opinion, society doesn’t set unrealistic standards for celebrities, rather, artistes or celebrities often feel the need to change or “upgrade” their standards of living for society.
The society, including media, might recognise and appreciate one’s work and unfortunately this usually gets into the celebrity’s mind, and as a result, they feel pressured to prove a point as a response to recognition.
I believe that once recognised, one can aim to perfect their skill so that it can reach out to bigger audiences, but I don’t find it necessary that they change their ways of living. They can still go about their life as usual. Realistically speaking, oftentimes, society doesn’t even really care about celebrities’ standards of living, but their skill.
Stella Tushabe, Artiste