I just watched an interview with Jesse McCartney where he talked about an experience he had where a fan ripped his hair out. Like...RIPPED HIS HAIR OUT! He was bleeding on stage. He mentioned that it was an "Elvis Presley moment" in his career, sounding none too pleased. Why do people do this to performers???
This is a topic that I feel very strongly about. Y’all, I’m a crazy Elvis fan! I adore him. He makes me smile when I’m sad. I feel like he’s a close friend of mine, because he’s helped me through a lot. But I’ve read the books. ALL of them. The whole sad story. I felt like I owed it to him. I could not accept the “good” parts of who he was and reject the “bad” as if they didn’t exist. He was human, and as a fan, I need to respect that humanity.
I’m just going to repeat that. RESPECT THE HUMANITY OF PEOPLE IN THE PUBLIC EYE.
Since I work in the performing industry, I’ve had the chance to meet several people who have attained some level of celebrity. I’ve gotten some insight into the beauty of that position and the demons that come along with it. I’m going to share a few stories with you.
I went to an R5 concert last year. They are one of my favorite bands, and I think their frontman, Ross Lynch, is incredibly talented. After the show, a friend and I waited by the stage door to say hello. I’m an observer, so I was listening and observing the people around me. Next to me was a mom and her teen daughter. This mom overheard me tell my friend, “I don’t even need a picture. I just want a chance to talk to him.” She intervened and said, “Oh, get your picture! You came all this way and waited this long for it.” I said, “No. It’s really all right.” And she replied, “Come on. They’re performers. They like the attention.” I was a bit shocked. I couldn’t believe that this woman didn’t realize that they perform, because they love to write music and sing. Meet-and-greets after the show are special extras that they give to their fans. Fans are not entitled to them. I know that, as a performer myself, after I just played a show, I am usually exhausted. It takes a lot of energy to then face the public with a smile on your face. After that exchange, I watched as Ross came down the line greeting fans. Most everyone snapped their picture without even saying a word to him. He looked tired. The girl right before me in line held up her phone for a selfie and said, “Can you smile with your teeth?” I’m sorry, WHAT?! Now, a fan is entitled to direct him on how to pose for her photo? It felt so dehumanizing. And ugly. And he is someone that I’m sure that girl says she loves. When Ross got to me, I said, “I don’t even want a picture. I just wanted to say thank you for a wonderful show! We had a great night.” I’ll tell you, that man’s eyes just lit up! He gave me a hug and stood there and spoke to me and my friend for several moments before moving on. While everyone else was pushing for their picture, he made a point to keep his focus on us. He really seemed to appreciate being spoken to like he was a human. It was a very special moment for me. And, I was lucky enough that my friend snapped a quick photo while I was talking to him. For artists, our music is about human connection. When that piece starts to get left out, we waste away. If you really love the artists you are a fan of, please consider how toxic it is to forget their humanity and treat them like a trophy.
This was a genuine moment of human connection.
Here’s my other story. A dear friend of mine is something of a celebrity in the sphere of performing he does. We were at an event, having a great time. He was walking around and greeting some fans. There was a woman in a wheelchair looking at him like her heart would burst. He went over to her and asked if she wanted a photo with him, beginning to look around to see who could take the photo. She said, “Oh, I don’t want to be in the picture. Just stand there and pose. You look like a wax figure.” I saw his face fall - ever so slightly. That type of comment just feels like shit. There’s no two ways about it. Everyone wants to be seen as human. No one wants to be put on a pedestal. It is lonely up there.
When Elvis was asked, “How close does the image come to the man?” he said, “Well, the image is one thing and the human being is another, you know? It's very hard to live up to an image, I'll put it that way.”
So, let’s stop this, please. It is beautiful to admire and appreciate another human being. It’s humbling for an artist to know that others like their work and enjoy who they are. But we can show them our feelings in healthy, loving ways. They also do not owe you anything other than the performance that you paid for - the show they just gave you on stage. Period. Grasping, clinging, demanding, expecting. None of these things are healthy for them or you. We want our music makers, our singers of songs, the people who give us their souls daily to live long, happy lives.
What do you think? I would love to hear about your opinions on this topic. Or, is there anything you'd like to know my opinion on? What questions do you have for me? Comment below!