Problematic Faves: Celebrities We Love Even Though They Act Up
There’s this saying, “All your faves are problematic.” It’s both shocking and simplistic. Of course our favorite authors, artists and entertainers would be problematic. Despite their brilliance, they are still human beings. They’re not perfect. And while we might love the work they’ve put into the world, we have to admit that there have been times–and will continue to be times– where they drop the ball.
Here are some of the people whose work I thoroughly enjoy despite their screw ups.
If Justin Beiber is in the news, 9 times out of 10, it’s about some controversy, some bad behavior. As someone whose grown up in the media since before he ever hit puberty, we can see how hard it’s been for him to transition. Not only that, there’s this vintage video of him, using the N word. He’s apologized for it but there are quite a few Black people who have dismissed him.
I’m just not one of them. His music hits me. Even if I haven’t heard his voice yet, the music draws me in.
Charlamagne Tha God
Every other week, I’m writing an essay about the issues I have with Charlamagne, most recently his reaction to Lil Duval’s evil “joke” about murdering trans women. The controversy around Charlamagne is always centered around women. He demeans or degrades them or disregards them entirely. Remember when he compared Black women to Tomi Lahren? Jesus, Christ. Still, there is just something about Charlamagne that can’t be denied. I begrudgingly bought his book, Black Privilege, not knowing whether or not I should support him since he doesn’t really ever support us. But after reading it, I honestly believe he’s trying to do better…it’s just taking longer than I would like.
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Child, when Kanye got on “The Breakfast Club” and defended Tyga dating an underaged Kylie Jenner, I just knew that I was going to have to be done with him. I just couldn’t understand how he, a man who’d recently had a daughter, could condone such a thing. I get loyalty to “family” and extensions of family, but there would have been nothing wrong with him refusing to answer the question. Then again, that just wouldn’t be Kanye. And then, when he said he had to take 30 showers after dating Amber Rose…yuck.
Still, Kanye’s contribution to not only music but just culture in general, cannot be overstated. He’ll tell you this himself, but he is definitely a genius.
James Brown soundtracked the early years of my life. My dad was a fan and by proxy, I became one. But even if I weren’t any appreciation for Black music of the last 50 years, is mostly linked to James Brown. He’s that influential. Still, if you saw Get On Up, you know Brown had a problem with keeping his hands to himself. I read Cold Sweat by his daughter, Yamma Brown, in which she extensively explains the abuse she watched her mother endure. It’s not pretty but still, she humanizes him in such a way that it’s impossible to hate him.
I know a lot of y’all are completely finished with Lena Dunham. I get it. She’s done the most of all. Things really came to a head, for Black folks, when she spoke about Odell Beckham not wanting her f*ck her. Sigh. It was just so tone deaf and incredibly White. I understand. I just won’t be joining you. I still believe that she has good intentions and is doing good work. I added Lena to this list last minute because she said this on a recent episode of Janet Mock’s podcast “Never Before.” Not only that, she’s the creator of Lenny Letter, a publication entirely dedicated to amplifying the voices of diverse women. Lena launched this site after her book tour when she noticed that her following was largely young White women like herself. She’s made more than her fair share of mistakes but she’s also doing the work.
Like James Brown, Aretha was always playing in my house. So much so that even though I grew up in the 90s when girl groups with light sounds were all the rage, Franklin has remained my favorite singer. She just gives you so much. The gospel, the secular, the sultry. No one sounds like her. Still, we can’t lie about the fact that Auntie, the original Re Re likes to stir up confusion and cause drama. I’m convinced that, regardless of what Patti LaBelle says, Aretha doesn’t like her. And I also know that the mess between she and Dionne Warwick is so petty and unnecessary. Still my fave though.
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Erykah Badu is generally pretty cool. And her music is…everything. Not to mention if you follow on her any social media channel you’re bound to chuckle a time or two. (Seriously, even her kids are funny.) Still, despite Erykah Badu representing such freedom of spirit and a deviation from the status quo, she made a lot of people, myself included, feel a way when she tried to advocate for girls wearing skirts over their knees to keep from attracting the attention of boys…AND MEN. Along that same vein, while she’s far from the only one, I will never forget her advocacy of R Kelly at the Centric Awards. Prob-lem-a-tic. Love her work and her influence like cooked food tho.
Most gospel singers
Gospel music is everything to me. It’s the foundation and cornerstone of almost every other genre of Black music. It’s brought us through some hellish times and still inspires and encourages us today. It’s life music. Seriously, I could go on for days about Black gospel. Because we really don’t talk about its reach enough. But once your favorite artists start using that microphone to make speeches, chances are you’re going to cringe. Whether it’s advocating for some sexist and archaic way or living or bashing the LGBT community, they spread some wild, often anti-Christlike messages. And that’s truly tragic.
I wasn’t really checking for Maxwell’s last album. Still, I can’t ignore how the previous ones were everything to me. But when Maxwell went out of his way to call a Black woman out of her name, a woman who admitted to supporting his career, it turned my stomach. Not only because of his words to her but the fact that women like her represent his fan base. And while I understand getting caught up in your feelings, the fact that he was willing to disrespect her so quickly for expressing an opinion and respond civilly to the men who did so, really made me look at him differently. I should note that Maxwell’s cancellation is contingent upon his next album. If he comes out with the hotness in the next 10-20 years, I’ll be here for it. But with such gaps in time between music, he’s on probation right now. Next year we might have to let him go.
I love Iyanla. Like seriously, I feel like she has so much wisdom to offer. Still, if you’ve watched her show for any extended period of time, you’ll see that not only does she have some outdated views on roles for women, particularly, when it comes to their sexuality, she can also be a little too crass with the people she’s trying to help. Still, I certainly feel like she does more good than not.
Who are some of your problematic faves?