The cost of celebrity status in Nigeria (I)
The ill-fate of Nigeria’s famous actress and TV series personality Ada Ameh who slumped and died on Sunday, 17th July last year, left many hearts wearier, when the cause of her death was made public.
Punch Newspaper ran an editorial on her, highlighting how grief, loss, mental breakdown, and other issues dampened the life of the late Nollywood ace, which she herself attested to, in a national TV, many months before his demise.
Her tragedy poses a fresh lesson for both established and upcoming celebrities, to overcome miarade of pressures which their struggles to lead lives befitting their status adds on them.
On January 18 2015, a popular Nollywood actor — Muna Obiekwe died from concealed kidney disease. Perhaps, “concealed” to maintain his “big boyness” among his peers in the corridor of fame. It is quite unfortunate that man in his own habitat has chosen to allow class and classism rule his preferences to the detriment of his humanness.
Mental health issues are prevalent in Nigeria and affect people from all walks of life, especially celebrities. Nigerian celebrities are often under intense pressure to maintain their public image, and this can take a significant toll on their mental health. Some of the common mental health issues among Nigerian celebrities include depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and bipolar disorder.
Depression is widespread among them, to the extent that it has become a growing concern. Celebrities are often seen as people who have it all – fame, wealth, and success. However, the reality is that they are also susceptible to mental health issues, just like anyone else. They often face intense scrutiny and criticism from the media and the public, which can lead to feelings of isolation, hopelessness, and worthlessness. Additionally, the pressure to maintain their public image can be overwhelming, leading to burnout and exhaustion. Many celebrities have come forward to speak about their struggles with depression, including Tiwa Savage, Harrysong, and Davido.
Anxiety is another mental health issue that affects these class of people. The constant attention and scrutiny that comes with fame can cause anxiety and panic attacks. The fear of making mistakes or not living up to expectations can also contribute to anxiety. Celebrities such as Toke Makinwa and Banky W, have spoken about their struggles with anxiety; and how it has affected their personal and professional lives.
Substance abuse is another mental health issue that is prevalent among Nigerian celebrities. The pressure to maintain their public image and cope with demands of fame can lead to use of recreational drugs to relieve tension (even if it’s temporary) as a way of self-medicating. Many of them have struggled with drug and alcohol addiction, including Majek Fashek, Burna Boy, and Wizkid.
Bipolar disorder, which is a mental health condition that affects mood and energy levels also take its toll on them. It is characterized by periods of mania and depression. Artists like Charly Boy and Terry G have spoken about their respective struggles with bipolar disorder and how it has affected their lives.
It is essential that we talk about this and create awareness and provide support to some of our talent stars who are struggling. Celebrities should be encouraged to speak out about their mental health struggles without fear of stigma or judgment. Mental health professionals should also be more accessible and affordable to ensure that those who need help can get it.
The causes of depression among them are numerous. But as noted earlier, one major cause is the pressure of fame and the expectations that come with it. Celebrities are often expected to maintain a certain image and lifestyle, which can be exhausting and overwhelming. They are also constantly in the public eye, which can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Another disturbing factor among some of them is the lack of privacy, as they are constantly followed by paparazzi and fans, which can be intrusive and stressful. They are also vulnerable to cyberbullying and negative comments on social media, which can be damaging to their mental health.
However, one celebrity stands out as a shining example to others, in the art of managing class/life balance as a star.
Prior to Ada Ameh’s demise, one of the heros of Atlanta ’96 Olympics gold medalists — Kingsley Obiekwu was spotted in Enugu loading commercial buses. When accosted by Newsmen, he confessed to the upturn of fortune which left him devasted and made him resort to menial jobs for survival.
“Yes, I am a commercial transporter; there is nothing to hide about it. Man has to do what is legal to pay his family bills.
“I have four children at the Enugu State University of Technology and my last child is in primary five. I am disappointed with the setup in Nigeria. How can employers be owing you and nobody is saying or doing anything about it? It’s frustrating. Even my home state, Delta, has refused to pay me. I can’t steal; I can’t do fraud; I can’t do money rituals. So, I have to do what is legal and possible, for me to take care of my family” confirmed the former Super Eagles star and Olympic gold medalist.
As the news trended, Obiekwu was saved from his situation by many benefactors and good spirited Nigerians including Super Eagles captain — Ahmed Musa who sent him two million naira.
His resolve to battle his reverse of fortune boldly and legitimately is legendary, and should be emulated.
be continued next week…
✍️ Jude Eze.