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Celebrity Life is a Full Time Job.

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By Viscount Francis K’Owuor

September 24th 2017

It is interesting how the attention of Kenyans were drawn away from the pressing issues surrounding the general election to what I’d call Githeri man affair. Up to the 8th of August, Paul Kimotho was just an ordinary man who out of impatience to beat the election queue decided to carry along githeri in a plastic bag for his breakfast. A photojournalist captured him and the photo immediately went viral on social media.  Then out of nowhere people came up and donated all manner of stuffs including designer suits to him and Kimotho became a celebrity overnight. In the recent past he has been invited to a number of meetings—political rallies. More photos have been shared on social media as people pose for selfies with him.

 

This is not an isolated case. Earlier on a couple were feted for being frugal during their wedding ceremony, they spent just one hundred shillings at a church officiated nuptial in Kasarani. Wilson Wanjohi and Anne Muhonja were later gifted with a 3.5 million shillings repeat wedding among other pecuniary benefits. They have since acquired a celebrity status as the media took up the story.

 

There is no doubt that those involved in these acts of philanthropy were well meaning. They came to the rescue of people that seemed to be in a desperate situation. But on the flipside it could be a case of value judgment. Was it out of desperation that Kimotho ended up with githeri in a polling station?  In this other case, could it be that the couple had other priorities and that is why they spent so little on their wedding?  By others responding the way they did does it mean that having githeri in our diet is demeaning? Or does it mean that having low-key wedding points to a situation of deprivation?

 

What may not go into the media in relation to the two cases is the feeling of frustration that arises from the contradictions in the lives of these socially conditioned celebs. Socially conditioned because they did almost nothing to acquire their new status. They didn’t work their way up. Consequently, they may not be prepared to absorb the shocks that come with celebrity. They don’t have social support mechanisms neither do they have inherent capacities to maintain the class they have suddenly found themselves in. Most critical of all, they may not be able to fulfill the expectations that people will begin to have about them. Ultimately, their situation might end up worse than it initially was. Many celebs have suffered depression because they were not able to manage the expectations that their fans had about them.

 

This is not to castigate philanthropy, especially in view of the recent polls that rated Kenyans as some of the most philanthropic people in the world. Instead, it should provide a window into social psychology and create an understanding on issues surrounding human motivation, status, class, social support, and personality development, among other issues.

 

Most importantly, people should understand that human dignity is not just about designer suits, cars, grand weddings or such other symbols of wealth so that a rush towards such things happens when a member of a community seems disadvantaged. In most of the cases the factors that determine our material wellbeing are multifaceted; attitude, unemployment, individual choices, etc. For example, when the attitude or mindset is wrong it will be very easy for an individual who suddenly acquires a celebrity status to suffer from regression. That is why training and mentorship must be routine for anyone who wishes to succeed in life.

 

To avoid the pain of being a celeb the likes of Kimotho or Wanjohi must be mentored and counseled on how to cope in their newly acquired status, as well as getting trained on what they need to do in order to maintain their positions.

 

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