Musings: Kehlani, Celeb Culture and Cyber-Bullying #LOUDER Part – 1

Many of us are familiar with the unfortunate set of events over the holiday weekend involving Kehlani. But for anyone out of the loop on it, a quick summary.

On 28 March, Drake’s OVO-signed artist and Kehlani’s ex-boyfriend (as far as we knew), PartyNextDoor, posted an Instagram image of two hands, one of which had Kehlani’s recognisable ‘WOKE’ tattoo. He included the caption “After all her shenanigans, still got the r&b singer back in my bed” (sidebar – is it just me that thinks this was an extremely disrepectful post and sufficient reason in of itself for her to leave him and never look back?).

‘Problem’ (according to social media) was, until fairly soon before that, Kehlani had been in a very public relationship with Kyrie Irving, an NBA basketball player for the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Cue the onslaught of vitriolic relentless criticism of Kehlani on social media as many assumed she’d cheated on Kyrie, leading to the singer deactivating her Instagram account and ultimately later on the same day, attempting suicide.

Kyrie has since confirmed that at the time of PartyNextDoor’s post, he and Kehlani were not together.

Thankfully, Kehlani is back home and reportedly in better spirits. She posted on Thursday, “Healthy, home and with people who love me…Everyone’s fighting things people know nothing about”. She once again deactivated her account once (probably for the best, given the trolls never stop trolling).

What I was personally struck by when this whole thing went down was my attitude towards the social media slander Kehlani received. I saw the events play out on Instagram through gossip blogs I follow, but to be brutally honest with you and myself, I didn’t think much of it. I remember thinking to myself, “uh oh, social media is about to come for this girl”. And when social media did, I wasn’t struck by how incredibly difficult it must’ve been for 20 year old Kehlani to deal with thousands of people unnecessarily, aggressively and vulgarly berating her. So normalised has such behaviour become in 2016, it’s expected when a celebrity does pretty much anything really, good or bad. If I really saw Kehlani as the 20 year old girl she is, I know I’d have felt sorry to see it all happen. But she’s a ‘celebrity’ so it all became just another piece of celeb gossip to me.

This is the corruption of 21st Century celebrity culture. Celebrities are elevated to the point where on a deeper level, many of us forget they are just people like the rest of us. So when they mis-step in our eyes, many feel cyber-bullying is the deserved response and the rest of us feel little or no sympathy for their plight. It’s like we place them on a pedestal to be torn down for our entertainment whenever we see fit. Not that I think it matters to the point I’m making here, but I never jumped to the conclusion that PND’s post was any proof of Kehlani cheating. However, that didn’t evoke any deep feelings of sympathy for the backlash she was receiving. It was just another day of trolling on Instagram, as far as I saw it. That is, until the news of her suicide attempt hit the net.

I’m not naive enough to think this incident will stop or even slow down the trolls from their bullying. But I do hope that at the very least, more of us truly recognise the injustice when we see it and speak out against it or show more support for public figures (or anyone else) when they are subjected to slander. Kind and thoughtful words of support can help drown out the noise of negativity. Let’s not wait for something tragic or near-tragic to happen to show kindness. Don’t just watch it happen. Let’s make positivity #LOUDER than the negativity.

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