Commentary: The Price Of Fame

By Derrell Connor Special To Channel 3000

I’m not a huge follower of entertainers, but I must admit that I was saddened to hear about the alleged suicide attempt by Fantasia Barrino the other day.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with her, she was the “American Idol” winner in 2004. She was a young single mother who overcame obstacles in her life to win the competition and become a singer.

Since then, she’s had her share of problems, both personally and professionally. She wrote an autobiography in 2006 and was sued by her father because she wrote some things about him in the book that offended him.

In 2007 she was chosen to play the role of Celie in the Broadway version of “The Color Purple.” The run started well, but then she developed a tumor on her vocal cords and missed almost 50 shows as a result.

In 2008, her home was put in foreclosure and up for auction. Luckily, she was able to reach an agreement to keep her home. She currently stars in a reality show on VH1 with her family.

As the breadwinner, she takes care of not only her daughter, but her mother and brothers as well. Feeling obligated to make sure everyone else around you is doing well just because you’re doing well can put undue pressure on you to keep everyone happy. Add to that the fact that she’s being sued by a woman who claims that Fantasia was having an affair with her husband, and it’s not hard to see how it can all take its toll.

Watching the news story about Fantasia made me think about the fact that fame and fortune often comes with a price that far too many people are not ready for.

In the age of the Internet, the 24-hour news cycle, reality TV and YouTube, a person can become famous almost instantly for almost any reason, and not necessarily because of talent.

You can pick from a selection of men or women and become engaged on television, act outrageously, crash a White House dinner, or be a flight attendant, go on a profanity laced tirade and leave the plane via the emergency exit and become an overnight sensation.

Combine that with some family members and friends who also want to share in your newfound fame and you have the potential for disaster. It’s just like winning the lottery. How many winners have we seen go broke within a few years? What Fantasia and so many others have found out, fame and fortune is not always what it’s cracked up to be.

First of all, it can be hard to stay grounded because everyone wants a piece of them, and they’re constantly being told how great they are.

Second, it’s the easy access to anything and everything they want, and because they’re famous, there can be the feeling that they can do whatever they want and get away with anything. Drew Barrymore once said that she became a drug addict at the age of 13 because the people around her were all too willing to cater to her needs because she was famous. No one was willing to say no to her.

Third is the difficulty of having to say no to family, friends and hangers-on who feel that they should be taken care of as well. If there’s no strong support system in place, if there’s no one looking out for you and your well being, things can go bad in a hurry. And it can result with you losing everything you have, or leading a life of crime, drugs and alcohol addiction, or worse.

I’ve talked to many young people who aspire to be rich and famous. I hope they are watching very closely what’s happening with Fantasia and others who have struggled with fame and fortune.

Judy Garland once said that fame is all very well if you have people around you who love and care about you.

Ain’t that the truth.