Zimbabwean celebrities . . . worth which status?

A CELEBRITY is defined as a famous person. It is a status accorded to well-known people of renown, repute, notability and glory.

Nkululeko Innocent Dube

For that they become celebrated and therefore are called celebrities. Do we have celebrities in our arts and entertainment scene in Zimbabwe? Are they worth that status?

Of course we have celebrities in Zimbabwe, but then if you ask me I would classify them even further. We have “popular celebrities.” — these are artistes who are content with being known.

While it is important to market yourself and your work, the difference is that these kind of celebrities are only happy to be in the media and playing or performing at as many events as possible.

They are happy to be noticed and to be told they are good. They will dress up for every occasion. They will go into debt just to keep appearances. The only difference is that you never get to know where they stay.

You only hear them talking with an accent on radio and television looking glamorous.
They pick up unnecessary rivalries with other artistes and it is always about who is the best.

Some even have some sort of bodyguards or friends with whom they always appear. They are not so much worried about the dollar sign. Instead they will bulldoze to perform at all events especially the ones hosting international artistes or huge audiences.

They will beg to perform for “exposure”, a term many promoters like to use when they want free performances from artistes. Some of them are very difficult to work with. They complain about everything from drinking water to why the stage is looking north and not south.

The popular celebrity is not always bankable in most cases. Most of them have nothing to show for their popularity and when tragedy or misfortune strikes, reality sinks in.

Zimbabwe also prides itself with “bankable celebrities”. This is normally the hardworking artiste with a lot of business sense. He gives value to his creativity and quantifies his effort financially. He is, or may be popular, but popularity is not his main thrust. Some promoters shun this kind of artiste and at times say he is “expensive and thinks he is special”.

The bankable artiste looks at and evaluates income versus expenditure in every project he does. He compares input to output and that is his primary concern more than anything else.

The problem then is that some artistes tend to think they are bankable celebrities when they are not and then they overate their value. I call those “assumed bankable celebrities.” They are very hard to engage and while people want to see them, they never get gigs because they are far beyond reach.

The next kind of Zimbabwean celebrity is not a very easy to define. I would term them the “one moment celebrity.” These are artistes who struggle a lot to get contracts and jobs, but they are so talented.

They spend more than half a year in the rehearsal room working on their art, but with no shows and gigs to attach the work to. Even if they get the shows the income is meagre. The good thing is that once in a while they get good jobs that pay them very well.

The sad thing is that no sooner than they get paid a lumpsum they forget all the times of struggle. They buy expensive phones, clothes and buy everyone who cares to look at them and greet them, a beer.

Some will even take home a different woman or man every night as long as the dollar lasts. They blow away the money as quickly as they got it and then hang their heads in shame cursing that next time they get money it would not happen again and go back to the rehearsal room to struggle again.

This is very common with touring artistes and when huge events like UNWTO, Nama, Hifa, Intwasa and others are hosted. One of my biggest concerns and nightmares is the amount of alcohol abuse among artistes especially the younger generation. For saying this I have just lost a lot of friends, but for saving our industry it’s worth it. The truth shall set us free.

We also have the “responsible celebrity”. These are artistes who work very hard and live within their means. No matter how little or extra they get, they keep focused.

They treat events and jobs with respect. They give it their all on stage all the time. They are popular, but humble and so respectful and down to earth. In most cases their work is so good it speaks more for them than they do for themselves.

They always seek new avenues and shun unnecessary attention and publicity. They invest in their future and plan for darker days to come.

Lastly there are those I term “celebrities of honour”. These are normally not in it for the money only, but they are the sixth sense of the arts. They do their art for its value to society and community.

These people would probably be artistes even if they would have to spend on it rather than earn from it.

The question to the artistes is what kind of celebrity are you? What is ideal? To the public I leave you to ponder if you can attach a names to these various definitions of celebrities and if so are they your kind of celebrity?

Do all artistes have to be celebrities? Can’t you be, just an artiste?

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