I Didn’t Sign Up For This: Why Celebrities Are Not Role Models By Default

February 22, 2012  |  


There are two things that bother me most about the response to Chris Brown and Rihanna’s assumed reunion. One is the fact that people who looked at Rihanna like a trashy R&B wild child days before are now pretending to suddenly be so concerned about her emotional and physical wellbeing that they have penned open letters to her about her love life. The other is the idea that Rihanna owes it to young girls everywhere not to go back to the man who physically assaulted her because she’s a role model.

Let’s be real about something. Rihanna hasn’t had the potential to be a role model since she ponned de replay, and even then I’m not sure that’s what she wanted to be. But since the assumed good girl has obviously gone bad she has repeatedly shouted from the roof tops that she is not a role model, she does not wish to be a role model, and she will not adjust her life to be a role model. Why aren’t we letting her talk that talk?

I understand the logic that once you become a performer your private life and a lot of the personal decisions you make are put on display for millions of fans and the public at large to critique, but that doesn’t make you a role model, that makes you visible. I feel the same way when it comes to the backlash against rappers. Of course they could all stand to make the content of their music a little less misogynistic and a lot more purposeful, but can we really expect men who literally just stepped out of the hood and got $10 million dollars put in their pocket to talk about their life experiences to suddenly encourage behavior they know nothing about? I mean is there some sort of remedial thug program aspiring rappers go through once they get a deal? Of course not.

Do I think there is a certain amount of responsibility that comes along with being a person that influential? Yes, but only to the extent that if you are engaging in questionable behavior you should never encourage anyone else to do so, or suggest ridiculous things to minors (Too Short). Do I think it’s fair to put pressure on celebrities to lead straight and narrow lives to appease the images we want them to hold of them? Not at all.

Being a role model is an awesome responsibility that many are not cut out for and few have the ability to live up to. Do you consider every leader in your community a role model? What about executives on your job? Sure, tons of people take direction from these figures and look to them for guidance but when you think about the positive context in which the term role model is used, it’s a title we don’t bestow upon ordinary, everyday people hastily. They have to earn it. So why should celebrities be any different?

At some point we all have to take responsibility for ourselves and the influences we succumb to. And when it comes to adolescents and teenagers, it’s up to their parents to set appropriate examples of who to emulate and who to excuse. As someone who never got into celebrity worship, I’ve never expected anything more from the actors and musical artists I am a fan of to do anything more than entertain me. Sometimes they do it with their personal lives, but I only expect it from their professional ones. Sure, sometimes the things they do off-camera or off-screen disappoint me, but that’s likely because I created an image in my head of who they were in lieu of the ability to really get to know who they actually are. And that’s why a celebrity could never be a role model to me. I don’t know enough about them.

If you want to model your career off of a famous person who’s made it big in an industry with a talent you share or wear a design some singer rocked, go for it. But when it comes to romance, relationships, and the things that matter when the paparazzi are gone, it’s not up to an entertainer to lead you in the way that you should go unless they’ve demonstrated they want to because they have their fans best interest at heart and they have a lifestyle that’s worth modeling. Otherwise you’re on your own—as you should be.

Do you think fame automatically makes celebrities role models?

Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.

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  • Zain

    There’s a HUGE problem if “parents” believe celebrities are automatically role models to their kids. It’s a fact. They DONT want to be REAL parents, and instead want a celebrity or a TV show to parent kids for them while they go out and see old friends and have a beer with them. And then they complain when their kids somehow feel it’s okay to do something based on what they see.

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  • AminahAzalea

    What many HATE to hear nowadays is about Religion since they have all seem to become Atheist, BUT i will go ahead :p, even if some believe Him to be fictional and others believe Jesus to be real, HE IS THE REAL ROLE MODEL.  Over and over in the Bible along with just life, we see that being human has it’s many faults and we are not to praise ppl as if they are “idols” or believe in so madly when they and we fall so short many times despite our best efforts.  The woman wants to live her life the way she wants just like most of us, cause she is a “Celebrity” doesn’t mean automatically she is suppose to be your/our Guide to the way to behave and be.  Sometimes parents and family are NOT good “Role Models” either so saying family SHOULD BE is like saying a stranger to you in the “limelight” SHOULD BE as well.  Being related or being publicly supported through buying your fav person album or supporting them financially doesn’t mean automatically there are to be what you think they should be. It doesn’t work like that.  Yes she is not the WORST, how many have come before her and even those at present in other countries around the world (you ppl need to get out more and see other mv as well from Non-english/non American singers/stars) and you will see…Rihanna is a sweet heart compared to those shocking ppl who act like it’s nothing to them to behave a way for the world to see.  Her clothing..LOL..come on…her fashion despite different styles i’ve seen before on ppl and YEARS before up to now and they don’t get called horrid names like many call Rihanna who is a performer.  Just because someone dresses not scantily clad or whatever NEVER makes them a saint, for all we know they have sick minds and behind close doors they are worse mentally than they appear since many judge a book by it’s cover, sometimes right..sometimes wrong.  We don’t know or can understand who those who are strangers to us.

  • darkman

    Finally!!! Someone to tell what the rest of the world knows but America: PUBLIC PERSONS ARE NOT ROLE MODELS!!!

    Role models are suppose to be people with virtue. Since when being selfish, self centered, egomaniac, trashy or a competition killer is a virtue? That exactly what put you in trouble in real life but build the career of an entertainer/ athlete. We should love them and take them as role model only for their art or technics (what they are known for), the rest is their private life.

  • Love_Sexy

    I never believed a celebrity should be seen as a role model…..They are just responsible for doing a job and that is entertain us for leisure plain and simple…………Most of them are so self-absorbed that they do not really understand what is going on in the world….A hand full try to give back but its nothing big and when I say give back I am not talking about giving a “check” to some foundation….I am speaking of rolling up your sleeves and doing something……The only one I can think of doing that is Jon Bon Jovi who finance and built an apartment bldg for the homeless………..If anything there is a problem in our society where celebrities are worshipped too much and I find it to be disturbing…..I don’t care about what they wearing, who they sleeping with or how many homes/cars they have…..My question is what are you the celebrity going to do to give back to the community and try to make a difference in people’s lives?……The people that should be looked up to are the parents, teachers, doctors, scientists, humanitarians, lawyers etc….that assist with trying to keep our world moving forward.

  • tastythoughts

    celebrities are NOT role models…point blank period and until they do something other than “being famous” we as a society need to stick together and not make them such. i mean really you want your child looking up to lil wayne? he has how many baby momas and a bullet lodged where? come on now….smh

    • Love_Sexy


  • Forreals

    People??? R we forgetting that this girl went on Diane Sawyer & Barbara Walters shows & as a self proclaimed Domestic Violence spokesperson told millions of viewers (many young & teenage girls) that it’s never okay for a man to beat you & encouraged them to leave such situations ASAP? Now she goes back to that abuser & it’s all good & people need to mind their business now? If she thought there was a chance that she’d go back to him & seek privacy when she did so then y was she on tv with all that “it’s not okay & leave him right away” advice? Listen I don’t see entertainers as role models either! There is far too much of this idolizing the scum that brings this race down anyway such as rappers! However if u don’t want to be seen as a role model then don’t present yourself as one cuz when u break the role u created for yourself it does come back to bite u in ur a s s just like it did Tiger Woods!

  • safirah

    with all due respect, most of the parents of these impressionable teens are working to make ends meet. it takes a village to raise a child and if we want to turn our backs to the struggles of adolescent youth then we’re selling ourselves and our future generation short.

  • Mrsadkiah

    This article couldn’t have come at a better time for me. I say this all the time: The fact that they are celebrities and have their lives put on blast does not now make them obligated to be a role model for your children. Yes, it is probably the more moral and respectable thing to do but these people are out here to sing, act, make baskets and whatever else they do to make money. 

    My mother didn’t let my sisters and I listen to rap music and watch music videos in our household until I was 13 (I’m 19 now). Yes I was still exposed to it at school and other relatives homes but I grew up into an outstanding individual who’s paying her own way through college, has all the self-esteem in the world and who plans to raise her future daughters to become upstanding members of society. 

    I understand that there are children who may not have parents like mine who worked so hard to make sure that their children don’t get exposed to garbage but unfortunately it’s still not the job of celebrities and other public figures to be a role model to our children. 

    Also it depends on the child. My youngest sister and I grew up pretty well and are well on our way to being productive members of society. However my middle sister dropped out of high school, has already had her first baby at 18 and idolizes video vixens and all that other good stuff. Sometimes you can try as hard as you’d like, but some people are just a bit more impressionable than others. 

  • I think the problem is that people are so concerned about Ri Ri’s love life at all… WHO CARES…. there are so many more important issues in the “real world” to be concerned with… even if celebrities were suppose to be role models although i don’t think they should but even if they were what about Ri Ri would merit such a role… a talentless hack who can’t sing with her clothes on who coincedently got up the courage to share her story about being abused right before her album dropped… yea ok… NEXT

  • Tee

    If parents parent their kids they won’t have to worry about them looking up to celebrities as their role models. Example, my then 6 year old made it known to me that Miley Cyrus aka Hannah Montana had issues and was so inappropriate. She also informed me she was disappointed in her. Kids know what is right and wrong based on the examples we as parents set! You would be surprised how much they take in.


    There was a time when role models rated as someone who contributed to
    the neighborhood, their work, their environment etc.  What has Ms.
    Rhianna contributed to any of the above.—————–BlackwhitePlanet.C0Mit’s where
    for men and women looking for interracial’ship for a fabulous lifestyle。It’s a nice place for black white
    sing’les, to interact with each other…no bounds or extremes in front of true
    love.————Not everyone has that stand-up teacher or positive older sister.  And
    this fame world of dangerous “cuties” like Chris Brown or lots of money
    and partying seem like attractive deals.  


  • Kianaroulette

    Parents stop passing the buck of your responsibilities on others. You are there role models and first teacher. You control what happens in your household. Stop pacifing these children with these mind controlling gadgets and get out in your community and model what you want the people around you to be. STOP COMPLAINING, AND LOOK AT WHAT TYPE OF ROLE MODEL YOU ARE TO YOUR KIDS NOTHING ELSE SHOULD MATTER.

  • I do think people need to distinguish the difference between a role model and having influence and I think you did that very well in this article. Everyone keep saying they don’t want them to get back together and I don’t either however being in an abusive relationship before I know that this will not end until Rhianna says to herself ‘this is not healthy’. I knew that going back to my abusive boyfriend was wrong but I loved him so I thought. Everyone else said no but I said yes and Rhianna will do the same thing unfortunately. What bothers me the most about them is how they are responding to everyone. Saying F*** you to all of their ‘haters’ is not being empathetic because some of those people who have concern are people in abusive relationships right now and doesn’t have anyone around them to be the role model and that includes parents, guardians, teachers, etc. 

  • Toya Sharee

    I think role model is a tricky word, so let’s take this definition:  A person whose behavior, example, or success is or can be emulated by others, especially by younger people.  I agree with many points in this article. If I get to become a parent one day, I definitely won’t place the responsibility of being a role model to my child on any celebrity’s shoulders and I will teach the difference between real life role models who can make an actual difference in your life and celebs whose lives we like to look at.  On the other hand, I think morally celebs have to understand their fan bases and be mindful of the messages they send.  Rihanna is still growing and learning herself and while many positive lessons can be taken from her life, it’s wrong for anyone to expect her to adjust her image (possibly affecting her finances) because she is sending what some think is a negative message to young girls.

    But role models, both celebs and everyday people are real and real people have flaws so to expect them to not have a side that isn’t negative or engaged in adult behavior if they are in fact an adult, is unfair.  You have to understand that we are dealing with young girls who come from communities and households where Snooki and Rihanna are looking like Oprah and Iyanla Vanzant…seriously.  Not everyone has that stand-up teacher or positive older sister.  And this fame world of dangerous “cuties” like Chris Brown or lots of money and partying seem like attractive deals.  

    I used to teach after-school groups and I’ve heard girls say everything from having aspirations to being a video girl to a stripper.  If I am 16, what lifestyle looks more attractive: The smart lady who cares for us making $25,000 a year to teach sexual health or the stripper pushing a Beamer?  It’s not how it should be and it’s up for parents to shape what their children value and what “winning” actually means.  So while celebs shouldn’t necessarily be role models, in the eyes of some of our young people by default they are

  • Chacha

    Couldn’t have said it better myself. I think what bothers me most about this situation is that she’s in no way promoting DV, her music is completely unrelated, her endorsements unrelated, her performances unrelated. Those are the only things I would even remotely hold celebrities responsible for. What they do in their personal lives is just that. NEVER will I EVER encourage someone to do(or not do) something to appease a crowd, while pushing their own happiness to the back burner. Thats just silly. Besides as many have stated, ain’t nothing role modeli”ish” about Rihanna. I’m a big fan but her music is not appropriate for impressionable lil girls.

  • Eudene66

    I am in agreement with your article about Ms RiRi.  I f she is a role model, then I would have to be a saint.  She possesses nothing that a role model should have.  I have a four letter word that describes her to a t, but I will not post it in this venue.  I am from Barbados, and they are incidents about Ms. Ri that are never posted, even before she became a “super star” that cannot sing.  Over the years she has constantly insist she is not a role model, and no one knows that better than she.  There was a time when role models rated as someone who contributed to the neighborhood, their work, their environment etc.  What has Ms. Rhianna contributed to any of the above.  NOTHING.. Her pictures are pornographic, her behavior needs some serious adjustment, and she needs a good dose of Christianity in her soul.

  • RedButterfly81

    Since when celebs become role models for our children? Parents should be the role models, but some parents these days want to be their kids’ best friend.

  • Merriegirl

    What about children who don’t have parents? Or children whose parents are absent during their up bringing? Who do they model their life’s after? In theory it would be th teachers & other professionals in their lives. But it’s not. They idolize celeberties & other media figures.

    • Shntsflds71

      I agree there are a lot of role model such as Jill Scott Joss stone I’m talking women who don’t have take their clothes off just for someone to listen to their music

    • Chacha

      This is true, but having a singing career is not = to saving the universe. She’s not actually promoting domestic violence. She’s living her life. She has her own life & issues to work on. What happens to children w/o parents? Well that’s where you and I are supposed to step up (it takes a village), not people on tv.

  • Pfeiffer87

    parents and family should be the role models. period. If any kid is looking up to Rihanna or some football star for how they should behave then the parents need to teach them straight. 

    • Msmykimoto2u

      I agree. Its the parents who should be role models for their kids first and they should explain to them that the people they see on tv are just there to “entertain” us and very few are worth looking up to. There should be a balance between who you let them watch on tv and who you introduce them to in real life that can inspire and make a difference in their lives.