Narcissism and the price of Kanye West's celebrity

Donovan Watkis

Tuesday, October 09, 2018

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CELEBRITIES are reviled all over the world. Celebrities are pioneers and cultural icons. They are grand scale indicators of things that are to come, with their brand of narcissism and willingness to experience and experiment with things and concepts others may shy away from.

This audaciousness has redefined American mainstream culture in many respects. Those who deny this are only delaying the acceptance of facts. One need to look no further than to the ascension of Donald Trump and the influence of Kanye West for evidence of the polarising effects.

Understanding narcissism is understanding celebrity culture. Celebrities champion the cause of breaking free from norms and forming new customs and practices. They are arresting in their persona and are much more willing to sacrifice everything to be known by massive amounts of people.

Mariah Carey was asked once in an interview on the Breakfast Club how could she maintain such high levels of opulence, and how does it affect her children. Her simple answer was: “I make it my normal.”

Will Smith recently bunji-jumped for his 50th birthday and the entire world tuned in.

It takes time and energy to connect with audiences who are looking for the next interesting and shareable content on the Web. Celebrities like Kanye West and Donald Trump, who learn the attitude and behaviours of their audiences and then go against them, are usually the ones that are most favoured for success.

Kanye West, it would appear, does not use reason in his utterances, but he follows through on an apparently worthwhile plunge against what would be expected of him — some call it the 2006 Kanye — to become the talking points in the news cycle. This adds value to his celebrity time and time again. Where he appears to lose in one culture, the gains are made with his influence across a larger spectrum.

If Kanye sends a tweet it becomes the news; if he doesn't tweet, that also makes the news.

On the surface, people of an old order of culture may put to shame the narcissism of celebrities like Kanye West, but at a deeper level they can appreciate the influence he has — even if it makes them uncomfortable.

There is a dangerous price for this kind of hypocrisy, because celebrities who play into this have a disparity between what they are saying and what they are feeling, which causes mental breakdowns.

If what Kanye West thinks of himself at a deeper level is not communicated through his daily life the chances of developing repressed sensitivities increase and may lead to a further meltdown.

The upside to the power of the Internet is that people can create who they want to be in their minds and be who they want to be online, whilst being a different person in their real life. However, it is only the upside if the persona they create allows for personal growth.

We are all humans first, and humans are made up of substance or else we are nothing at all. Whenever the principle of substance drifts away from us then we become the lowest versions of ourselves.

Even if the Kanye has more pain inside himself than he has the skin to show, if he is not actively on a quest to solve his own problems in a substantial way he will soon become bored and deflated. His most recent quest has been to make the what some persons see as obscene such as the “Make America Great Again” hats and Pornhub awards into sacred high fashion for black people and people in hip hop culture. Kanye's brand of narcissism does not commute shame or have any regard for other people's opinions or rules.

To his credit, it requires a lot of bravery to go deep inside yourself and find your own uniqueness and amp it up. He knows that his standards are his own and the addictive trailblazing feeling allows him to embody the status of a demi-god after his own image and likeness. But without the personal touch of humanity his desperation for surface attention will increase and turn into either suicidal of homicidal thoughts, as outlined on the first track of his Ye album.

This generation has made heroes out of those celebrities who are able to pander to pettiness and hide under sarcastic wit. The result is a society that substitutes valuable introspection, healing, and personal wisdom for cleverness and attention at all cost.

There was recently a suicide game being played by children all over the world in which they carry out the act live on Facebook in order to get attention. That is a new level of narcissism in which they are willing to put their own lives at stake for shareable content. The new age celebrities have also substituted advertisement over silent adventure because sharing is healing for everyone, both the seer and the doer. In this celebrity-driven, transparent world that could possibly hinder the potential of human beings. It is true that we perform better when we know someone is watching, and we tend to go into our own mediocrity whenever there is little accountability, and that's the edge a celebrity has over everyone. Someone is always watching.

This is why Kanye West always feels pressured to put his best work, or no work at all. His rants about spending hours to perfect the fabric used to make his Yeezy line of clothing and shoes may have stemmed from knowing he is always being watched and held to a higher court. His light shines, and as it shines it brightens him. Whatever he is, he becomes exponentially larger through his every action.

In the end, Kanye's sense of personal belonging to an intimate core group of people is what matters most. Hence, his recently announced move from California back to Chicago and rejoining his old team. The purpose of this core group is to make the man on a path to greatness more authentic.

The first thing the great prophets and seers did before they set out with the gospel was to select their core groups, then they also selected even fewer people to take with them to the mountaintop. Your core group of trusted individuals are there to teach you what love is. They are there to show you how to embrace opposites and act as a guide for your expressed traits by giving honest and loving feedback.

No amount of celebrity culture or artificial social constructs can replace this most valuable human need. Even Kanye knows this.

Donovan Watkis is the host of World Music Views. He is a music marketer and podcaster (The Top Form). Send comments to the Observer or

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