One morning as you walk into the bathroom to get ready for the daily grind, you are greeted by a chorus of voices, telling you how wonderful you are. "Giepie!" everyone is shouting. "Can I touch you?" "I love you, Giepie!" "Giepie, you are the greatest!"
You walk into the lounge, and there are more of them.
You open the front door, and are blinded by the flashing of cameras. The street in front of your boring little flat is lined with vans from the satellite networks. There are paparazzi everywhere, all waiting to get to know more about Giepie.
"How did all these people get into my flat?" you would probably ask yourself. "And how do they know my name is Giepie?"
When, eventually, you manage to push your way through the throngs of people, get into your boring little car and drive to work, you notice your own face, larger than life, on billboards lining the side of the road. There are also posters with your name on them in the windows of stores. Newspaper headlines proclaim things like "READ ALL ABOUT GIEPIE’s NEW HARSTYLE!" and "GIEPIE’s SECRET HOLIDAY IN KLEINMOND! STOLEN PICS!".
"How do they know I spent the weekend in Kleinmond?" Griepie would probably think.
If something like this happened to you, and if your name was Giepie, or Kiepie, or Bill, or Sharon, or Sibu, or whatever, you would be bewildered at first. And after a few days, I bet you might start liking all the attention. Given enough time, you might start thinking that you, Giepie, are truly a wonderful person, and that you probably deserve all the attention lavished on you, and that it is your right to be adored or worshiped.
If it carries on too long, though, you could very well start feeling alienated. You might start missing normal friends, normal acquaintances. You might even start missing your previous boring little insignificant life. But no-one’s going to allow you back into your own privacy. Oh, no. Once the world has discovered Giepie, they’re not letting you go. Not ever.
One morning you wake up with a start and realise: "I will never ever be able to be just plain old Giepie ever again. I am now GIEPIE, the STAR."
And you might find that thought so terrifying, so overwhelming, so devoid of anything you have ever thought of as real, and personal, and special, and truly human, that you will soon be ready for the next step.
Drugs. Scandals. Rehab.
Maybe even suicide from an overdose of prescription medicine.
Anything to take poor old Giepie’s pain away.
The story of Giepie, I’m afraid, is all too common.
In these days of instant tabloid stardom, in these days when the front pages of every glossy magazine continually screams out the one celebrity story after the other, we tend to forget that there aren’t any actual celebrities out there. There are only people who have somehow managed to catch the eyes of the public. Some of these people are actually quite boring, like Giepie. Many of them are – surprise, surprise! - quite nice. A great many of them are really talented. Whatever the case may be, they all share the same dilemma.
They have no place to hide. If they pick their noses while standing in a queue, they get photographed. If they have a tiff with their lovers in public, the gossip mills start working overtime. They are prisoners in gilded cages, parading in front of our hungry eyes like circus animals. And, like circus animals, they often long to get back into the anonymous freedom of the jungle. Yet, at the same time, they are addicted to the perks of their lifestyle, and, paradoxically, would do anything to further their public careers, not to vanish from sight. In other words, they suffer from some kind of particular – and inescapable – schizophrenia.
Last week, my wife and I spoilt ourselves by visiting a fancy hotel in the Cape Town waterfront. According to my wife, it was one of the hotels where Justin Bieber had stayed during his recent tour. We could not afford to rent a room there, but we managed to slip in with the breakfast crowd and got ourselves a table near the buffet. It was the most lavish, wonderful, exquisite hotel buffet I had ever seen. My wife wanted one glass of champagne, they opened a whole bottle just for her. I had a choice of sesame seeds and dozens of other little thingies over my fresh fruit and yoghurt. It was totally amazing.
"This is what Justin Bieber has for breakfast every morning," I said. "Imagine that."
"No wonder he's losing it," my wife said.
"You know, you’re right," I said.
Privately, I thought to myself: poor Justin. He’s probably just a normal teenage boy like all his mates from school. The only real existentialist problem he has, the only truly difficult question he ever needs to ask himself, is: "Should I carry on kissing Selena Gomez., or should I kiss other girls who are just as pretty as her?"
Poor guy. What a terrible life he must have.
I’m actually serious.
How do I know he has a terrible life? Because, as with Giepie, the cracks are beginning to show. He wants to play computer games backstage instead of singing. He wants to spend his time doing more meaningful things, such as crossing reds lights in a Lamborghini or driving golf carts through parking lots.
He is probably bored stiff.
Instead of growing up normally, with normal pastimes and normal boundaries and normal emotional checks and balances, he has, in fact, turned into a seriously desperate young man.
Perhaps it’s time somebody did a scientific study of the effect of mega-fame on ordinary people. The results might astound us.
In fact, once we understand this utterly ridiculous phenomenon called fame, we will learn, as a species, to gain a better perspective on the effects it has on people, and to scale it down a bit.
Or, instead of envying people like Justin (or Giepie), we should wake up every morning saying to ourselves: "Thank God I’m not a celebrity..."