A reflective piece by Wildly Creative Co-Founder Shanta Lee.
It was 2012 and the first week of September. How it all happened was a mix of crazy, bizarre, and everything in between. I was wishing that I had an opportunity to go to the Depeche Mode concert taking place on Jones Beach in New York as something online popped up to remind me that it was taking place while I plugged away on a project. Then, the phone rang. My good friend contacted me saying he wanted company to go to this concert and asked if I would come along. He was a lifelong fan of Depeche Mode, I could not believe my ears.
The day approached for us to go to the concert and along the way, we had to stop, pick up the extra ticket, and other individuals who were attending. As two women and a guy piled into the back seat, I was quiet still sitting in my disbelief as I listened to them chatter about the band and filling their speak with the names “Dave”, “Martin” and other common first names. It took me a little bit to realize that these were the names of the band members as they commented about one concert in particular, “It’s like they heard us and changed their whole set. There was a lot of stuff on twitter about it.” I continued to listen to the chatter and the low hum of Depeche Mode on the radio while enjoying the overall experience.
The thing that struck me about the incident was the unanswered question: Did this or other bands or artists know that they were co-created by their fans? At what point does one lose the right or ability to be themselves, be the other “self” on stage/in public, and then reserve something of the real behind the scenes? I wondered about that challenging navigation or the ability for one to be a creative and yet maintain who or what THEY really are-is there such a thing?
This morning, these questions I once asked in my head while listening to a car-full of Depeche Mode superfans resurfaced while reading the Timeout.com piece, “Grace Jones slays Rihanna, Miley and Gaga in her autobiography.” What stood out was the following excerpt from her soon to be published “I’ll Never Write My Memoirs”:
“This is what I would say to my pupil: you have become only your fame, and left behind most of who you were. How are you going to deal with that? Will you lose that person forever? Have you become someone else, without really knowing it? Do you always have to stay in character for people to like you? Do you know that you are in character?
Doris, I would say fame is all well and good if you want to take it to another level. If you have some greater purpose. Me, I am just a singer, on one sort of stage or another, who likes to have an audience, but not all the time. Listen to my advice; I have some experience. In a way, it is me being a teacher, which is what I wanted to be. I still feel I could go into teaching. What is teaching but passing on your knowledge to those who are at the beginning? Some people are born with that gift. With me, the teaching side morphed into the performing side. It’s in there. And these are my pupils – Gaga, Madonna, Annie Lennox, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Miley, Kanye West, FKA Twigs and… Doris.” (Excerpt from “Ill Never Write My Memoirs’ by Grace Jones featured in Timeout.com)
As a creative, artist or whatever you wish to call yourself, how do you keep from becoming or disappearing to the very art or craft you created? How do you prevent yourself from becoming a caricature that the public has also co-created with you?
There aren’t really any answers to these nor Grace’s questions “Do you always have to stay in character for people to like you? Do you know that you are in character?”
But perhaps it is just enough to ask ourselves these questions and encourage an awareness about ourselves as we create in the world.