I know I sound all upbeat in my previous post, but that is far from how I really feel. Yesterday, I had an experience that is not monumentally scary but left me really shaken.
I went to see a friend of mine at the scene of a music video shoot yesterday. This is a guy we all know. First let me say that I thought I knew the entertainment industry very well, but yesterday I entered a completely differenty sibculture that really shook me - woke me up.
You read about all the MTV hos, and it seems so far away. But we have them here. I saw them! And it was ... ugly. The girl whose video was being shot (by one our best directors nonetheless) had no talent, looked sweaty (in a bad way) and lacked taste.
The people in the video? The guys looked wasted and clueless. No there were no drugs (we're not yet that far gone), but it still didnt stop that wasted, no-ambition glow in their eyes. This is what these young members of my generation are about - they live for a minute around pseudo-stars who might never break out into mainstream, they would do anything for a glint of stardom.
The girls? They were quite pretty girls some, and I caught myself ogling more than once - but these are not the kind of girls that you think anything of apart from a wide bed in a swanky hotel, no matter how pretty. There was the strong sense of no self-worth - no ambitions beyond this point, or perhaps beyond getting a man to get them out of that crowd maybe. The girls were rubbing all over my friend (he's a fine boy) and throwing themselves all over him, grabbing his butt and grinding into him - some looking to arouse him , others perhaps to make sure they are invited to the 'next party'.
Plus they all evidently hated the singer, and bitched and bitched and bitched - everyone was sizing everyone up - and all for what? To shake booty for a few minutes for a video that might not last more than three weeks on Music Africa and probably never make it to any Top Ten chart?
That wasn't even the tragedy. The tragedy was my friend. Hugely popular, incredibly talented and one of the people with genuinely great hearts I have ever meet. Also very disorganised sadly. I genuinely like him. He is a year or so older than me, but I tend to 'Elder Brother' him.
We are supposed to be working on a project with him, which he has frustrated because of his 'scatteredness' - yesterday i finally pinned him down for a talk: "I can't understand why you are doing this to yourself? I dont want you to be like XYZ in a few years time - plenty of talent, but nothing has been done with it cos you've been busy running high on your own supply." And he tells me, "I know, but really I dont think my brand is that big... I always wonder, what do people see in me?'
I was crushed. Not because I was surprised - I had always known this was his problem, but to hear him confirm it crushed me. You see, one gift I have always had is self-awareness. It is a curse sometimes, but mostly it is a blessing. A keen awareness of what I am about and a clear vision of where I am going. It used to always shock me that the most talented people didnt have this - and it us3ed to annoy me to pieces. But age and experience always conspire to temper you, and now I know everyoone is not like that. So I always knew that my friend's problem was he didnt see what we could see. He couldnt. Can't.
This my friend is a superstar. He doesnt have a lot of money, but he is a superstar. He is a huge brand, and everyone knows it. Everyone except him. He calls it humility, and I used to think it was. Yesterday, I realised it wasnt humility. Humility is one thing; inferiority is another. Everyone has the RIGHT to a little amount of self pride - a strong sense of worth. When one moves moves forward in life, there are some things you have to leave behind. The bible says 'When I was a child, I behaved like a child, but now that I have grown ...'
My friend is no more the needy, desperate for attention nobody he was five years ago as a student. He is now a brand, a star, he is now relevant - he has moved up, he has built substance - but still he doesnt believe that. He looks at himself and sees that nobody student from the slums that he was. When he tells me 'Ah, X wants me to come to his party' or 'B called me' i smile sadly: of course they should call him - he's as much a star as them! But he doesnt see that - he can't believe his luck, that he is now surrounded by the kind of life he has always dreamed of, and he keeps trying to convince himself it is all true. He doesnt think he deserves it, and instead of building a stro ng foundation and moving to the next level, he is still busy trying to take it all in, still trying to believe it all. Still limited by a complex.
I understand it because I used to have the same problem serious, until one of my 'big sisters' shook it out of me. He thinks he is a phony - he is afraid that people will look at him one day and realise that he is just a nobody, that people will see through him someday and find out he doesnt have rich parents or lots of money in his account, or a 'fat crib'. That he is just ... another guy from the streets. But he is not! He is a star created by talent and hardwork. But he doesnt know!
What we want to do for him is a HUGE project that we KNOW will sell; and that will place his brand on a huge pedestal not to talk of make him money he has never seen in his life - and every one we have spoken to knows it will work. Everyone except him. And so he is excited about him, but he is frustrating it because he doesnt think he is good enough. People woth half his brand strenght are already flying with th little they have, and my friend lets his own waste away, preferring to jump from this Big Boy's Party to that Big Girl's party. Because he thinks that is all he is good for. He thinks without that, he wouldnt be who he is - no one would want him.
At that shoot, my friend tried to connect with everyone and to be everyone's friend and the life of the party, and would come to me and tell me excitedly that the girl whose video was being shot was learning his dance steps and I felt so sorry for him -it's incredulous; he is FAR beyond that!
But he doesnt know. He thinks he needs to continyue to be this footmat so that he can be loved. He deprives himself to make other people 'happy' - gives all of himself and nothing to himself. Anyone who needs to have people around him to feel useful or relevant is not healthy. You should be enough for yourself.
He will burn out very soon. He will be used and dumped. People will suck him dry of his relevance and leave him with nothing. I have seen it happen before. I can see it happeneing to him. I have tried to tell him over and over. yesterday I told him again, and he agreed with me - but minutes later he was sucked again into the abyss of seeking love from people who dont really love him, - people who dont love the real him, who only love the hype of him. And who will have no qualms moving on to the next hype.
Thing is, he shouldnt even have been at that place at that time of the night. That's what moving up in life should earn you: he should have done what he needed to do and left to go and live his own life ... but he couldn't. He was high on thepeople who were egging him on, making him feel good. They were his Ecstasy, his Cocaine. They continued to butt into my conversation with him no matter how he tried to hide us away, calling him for irrelevant things, when what we were talking about was his life!
He tried to run from them, but eventually he was sucked in again, and I didnt even bother anymore. I just sat and watched him. It was soon 10pm. I had to leave.
I have the gift of seeing, I have come to know. Of seeing where it is all going, where it will all end, and I see my friend burnimg out very soon. I see him wasting his talent away - I see him ruining himself, but I didnt know how to communicate this to him so he could take a step back and reassess. I couldnt. He couldnt see what I saw.
I really like this guy - he's one of the few good people around - and I wished I could have stayed longer to conclude myt talk with him - but that was no environment for me. Even I - the anti-snob - had to turn up my nose lest I throw up at some point. I know what's good for me. I had to leave. I had to leave him behind. With the MTV Hos and the singer with no talent in a sawnky studio populated with the sweaty and the clueless. And that made me so sad.
What use is a gift if you cannot use it to save those you care about?