Thursday, September 24, 2015

What Happened To The Real Celebs?

Does anybody know what’s become of the real celebrity, and I don’t mean the ‘sub-lebrities’ that we have running about today?

The sub-lebrities who fill up today’s tabloid pages, use the little talent that they have to flash their knickers at the drop of a flashbulb. They have become famous (or trying to) by being regulars at any social event from a White Party, Blankets and Wine and fashion nights. If not, they hangout popular bars hoping to be noticed, hoping that her skirt is short enough, hoping that her bust is about to spill out and readying herself for the Kodak moment.

What they don’t know is that this type of paper fame soon evaporates and within a relatively short space of time, many of them go from the glitter and back to the gutter because in this world of the sub-lebrity, real celebrities do not exist.

Celebrity culture came into play towards the end of the 90s when it was still considered a feat to get into Silk Royal. The Goat Races was an event that only the expatriates understood, Sylvia Owori was on the rise and Capital Gang and Desert Island Discs on Capital Radio were required listening. Cineplex had also opened up on Wilson Road, while Sudhir Ruparelia was beginning to define what real wealth was all about and getting an invite to one of his parties on the top floor of Crane Chambers was a to-die-for invite.  

The jobs that were deemed ‘they are in things’ jobs were with the newly arrived MTN, WBS Television and Supreme Furnishers for example while jobs in Uganda and Nile breweries came with company cars and promotional merchandising that everybody wanted. Working for British Airways, Sheraton Kampala Hotel, BAT, British High Commission, American Embassy or American Recreational Centre were also considered plum jobs.

The media of course played a huge part in shaping this new celebrity culture. Being seen on Showtime Magazine on WBS Television or gracing the pages of Have You Heard in The New Vision was testimony to the nation that not only had you arrived, you were also celebrity.

We had real celebrities then – from Sudhir Ruparelia, Bob Kabonero, to the telecom people - Philip Besiimire, Erik van Veen, Peter Kasedde, John Dumba, Michael Manzi and Dennis Paul Kavuma. In advertising we had Miriam Odaka, David Galukande, Patrick ‘OPP’ Oyulu, Patrick Quarcoo and Nicola Brown. There were the brewery celebs – Chris and Gordon Ireland, Baker Magunda, Apollo Mayanja, William Blick, Sandor Walusimbi, Marion Adengo.

Others in the lime light were – Patrick Bitature, Patrick Otembo, Charlie Case, Peter Bowser, Decland Peppard, Okello Aliker, Henry Rugambwa, Charlie Lubega, Andy the Greek, Marion Etyang, Andrew Rugasira and many more who defined the celebrity status quo because of what they did for a living and more importantly, the role they had in shaping society.

They basked in their newly found celebrity status and when they appeared in the papers, they didn’t have anything to worry about. Gossip in that era was clean - devoid of smut, scandal, embarrassing photographs and innuendos.

While those platforms fed the appetites of a public that was eager to know everything about the people who seemingly had got it made, resentment at ‘not having and merely watching’ also started to creep in.

The public changed the media agenda - telling them they want something different. They wanted to read about heartbreak, misery, drunken behaviour, adultery, torture and people falling on hard times. They wanted pictures of celebrities caught in uncompromising positions – drunk and asleep in a bar with vomit all over themselves, torn shirts and blouses after a scuffle as well as infidelity pictures. The media didn’t have to think twice and duly obliged because negative exclusive scoops sold papers.

But who would fill the demands of the public? With that, the media went looking for cannon fodder - utter nobodies they could mould into becoming instant celebrities and who could grace the front pages in the tabloids - except, they were not celebrities but sub-lebrities. The sub-lebrities who were mostly women, delivered what the public wanted with little or no effort.

Take for example Bad Black. Bad Black was a hooker who worked out of Rock Bar. But she didn’t follow the hooker script of fighting for a client, or getting beat up, or not getting paid. But she managed to slither out of nowhere – just like you wake up in the morning to find a snail has overnight slithered onto your ceiling and you wonder how it got there.

There she was in our faces almost like an irritant that even Jik couldn’t wash away. She was what the public wanted – a sub-lebrity who could be laughed at and used and as long as the money kept on going to her head.

The real celebrity adored Black for it gave them respite from the media and took the pressure off them. The media and the real celebrity whose partnership was once so solid had began to crack. The once reliable good stories that used to be written about them were no longer guaranteed. It was either go into hiding or hope for a miracle to happen. Bad Black was that miracle who answered their prayers for attention was diverted from them to her.

While Bad Black would like to think she was a celebrity, she wasn’t because she never got there in the first place. The only sub-elebrity status that she achieved – (forget the dollars she splashed, the cars, the breast implants) on her own and in her own right, and at which she probably didn’t show any exceptional talent, was spread her legs to the right expatriate and at the right time when the public and media were looking for an injection of a fresh face they could feast on for a year or two before they tired of her.

The price which ushered her into the world of mega bucks was a high one to pay and also marked the beginning of her undoing. You could almost feel for her when the papers laid bare every detail about her private and especially sex life with her expatriate lover who was so hung up on having anal sex with her, she found it uncomfortable going for a number two after he finished with her.

In the end and when the doors to Luzira prison closed her in, it was then that she probably realised that her instant fame had absolutely nothing to do with dedication to a craft, talent or even hard work. Instead, it was: ‘Look at me, I am a malaya and I am famous’— and that’s she wanted.

Devoid of talent, beauty or charm, in order to stay in the public eye, the sub-lebrity has to rely on self-serving antics. And, of course, with every headline grabbing time, the antics have to be more and more bizarre and outrageous – otherwise, they won’t get noticed.

Susan Nava, who used to host Login, on NTV, is one such sub-lebrity. How she managed to force herself onto the show every week was beyond rationalisation. Like one critic put it when asked what she thought of her presentation skills, she said: “She (Nava) must be the only person in Uganda who does not know that she lacks any form of talent.”

Of course nobody told her because at the time, she served the public purpose of being a sub-lebrity devoid of talent, beauty or charm and she gave the tabloid editors enough gossip to fill their pages.  

She went on and continued to appear in the gossip pages with the most plastic of a facial smile that could have easily been moulded in the factory at Nice House of Plastics and with a pose that an amputee could have done better at while all the time deluding herself into thinking that she is a celeb.

Then there is television presenter Straka Mwezi. You have to hand it to her for the diva has really tried and tried but, she has never been able to make that transformation from sub-lebrity to celebrity. She has however accepted it that today, she is the undisputed sub-lebrity diva of television – forget today’s upstarts like Agataliko Nfufu presenter Robinah or Mary Luswatta on Urban Television.

Other sub-lebrities desperate to prolong their celeb-by-date have taken to re-marketing themselves by spreading their legs just wide enough for the cameras to get a glimpse of their underwear and spilling their breasts out of their dresses. But there was a problem in that everybody started doing it. Competition was so rife that Anita Fabiola, a presenter on NTV and the artiste Desire Luzinda took it a notch further by ‘having’ their nude selfies leaked to the tabloids. Not to be outdone, Bukedde TV Agataliko Nfufu presenter, Robinah Sanyu crowned it all with a video of herself having sex. 

The ilk of Susan Ochola, Zuena Cool, Judith Heard and Zari had begun to wane – except, Zari was not yet done and looked for a lifeline to keep her in the public eye. A few public spats with lover, Ivan Semwanga, and the controversy over who is the real father of her baby did the trick while Zuena whose time in the spotlight expired years ago, is just about able to hang on thanks to being married to Bebe Cool.  

Not to be out done by the women, Bebe Cool  ‘conveniently’ got himself shot by a night watchman and Chameleone couldn’t have timed it better to walk out of a hotel bedroom window in Tanzania whilst still asleep.

But whatever antics the sub-lebrity has gotten up to, we have taken them to heart and we can’t get enough of them. They’ve done nothing, said nothing and, in fact, are utterly lost without any appealing characteristics. Today, the papers and entertainment shows are populated with people who don’t have talent, but loads of chutzpah and who are managing to crawl up the ladder of populist celebdom by fair means or foul.

Newspaper and TV bosses also know it’s cheaper to get unknowns who might become famous (or wannabes desperate for those 15 minutes of fame) than to get a team of people researching for weeks on end the life of a real celeb which nobody will want to read.

So today’s minor celebrities — lacking any true discernable talent to maintain their fame and desperate for as much attention as possible — need to behave ever more outrageously to garner headlines. Every day the news is full of some starlet or wannabe with her boobs hanging out or dressing like a tramp in cheapest of Owino’s mivumba rags.

But the saddest part about our obsession with sub-lebrities is that so many young girls strive to emulate them. If Ochola wears a blouse that barely conceals her bosom, then a good crop of young girls will say: “If it’s ok for her, then it’s ok for me too.”

A true celebrity is not just a passing fad. A true celebrity’s image won’t fade — unlike those of the sorry crop of sub-lebrities who are now passing as the ‘stars’ of today. What we need is a return to the old days when the real celebrity was out there and doing things that were real celebrity things instead of having to read about sub-lebrity musician wrangles, looking at underwear pictures of some unknown damsel or watching a sex video of a television presenter whose sexual moans were hardly titillating and lustful but, disturbing.

We need the return of that vintage and real celebrity who has the education and brains to talk-the-talk and leave an impressionable mark on society.

However, that’s unlikely to happen anytime soon because the once cordial relationship that used to exist between real celebrity and the media is no longer there because they (media) no longer do favours or turn a blind eye to certain things. Everything that they see, every little bit of gossip that they learn of will be laid bare in the papers the following day.

In any case, who would the real celebrity invite? A sub-lebrity? Hardly – what would they know about the crisis in Syria, Hillary Clinton’s campaign trail or what Odrek Rwabogo’s next move might be?

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