Love the talent, not the hype

OPINION

  • Whitney Houston
Whitney Houston (Getty Images file photo )
February 14, 2012|By Ernest Wilkins, RedEye

Like most of this country, I was rocked when I found out about the passing of Whitney Houston on Saturday. To be more precise, I yelled, "Lawd, not Whitney!" to everyone in the bar. Then I got back to drinking.

Meanwhile, what was happening online has now become standard procedure when a celebrity dies: Facebook and Twitter were flooded with messages from fans like, "Whitney Houston was the light of the world."

I loved Whitney's voice as much as the next guy, but ... are you serious, bro? She was a woman who had a great talent and shared it with millions of people. She also was a very troubled person.

When famous folks die, why do fans feel the need to overstate how much that celebrity meant to anyone and everyone? It doesn't make sense.

Think about it like this: Let's say you're really good at building Excel sheets—a tremendously valuable skill. You create such great sheets that people begin to pay you tons of cash to do them. Then things take a strange twist: Young people in offices from here to Cameroon put your picture on their cubicle walls and praise and defend your every move, even though you've never had a girlfriend you didn't cheat on.

Seriously, can you imagine being so good at Excel that people become convinced you're flawless? Sounds ridiculous, right? Yet it happens all the time in the entertainment industry!

Coincidentally, just a few days before Whitney Houston's death, I was talking with DJ Million $ Mano and asked how he stays so calm while working with people he looks up to. He said, "Here's how you look at it: When it comes to meeting famous people, don't idolize. Identify." His words really blew up my world.

When you stop thinking of celebrities as mythical Givenchy-clad gods and just identify with the things they create that you love, it's a pretty awesome feeling.

Here's a sports example: Michael Jordan was the best to ever play basketball, but he had his flaws. Somehow, the guy turned his Hall of Fame speech into a huge "screw everyone" rant. Wow, so MJ really can be an a-hole? Yes. Yes he can!

But you know what? Michael Jordan and Whitney Houston are human beings. I celebrate what they created in their lives and get back to living my own.

We can appreciate the positive aspects of a celebrity and avoid being one of those people who say crap like "I blame Bobby Brown!" or "See what these music industry people do?" because we can't fathom someone like Whitney Houston or Michael Jordan not adhering to a set of morals we arbitrarily create for them.

We can have opinions without building these people up to the point where we can't identify them as being human anymore.

We can enjoy the music and movies and games and all the memories that come with them and still never forget these people are just that—people.

ERNEST WILKINS IS CHICAGO'S WINGMAN. ERWILKINS@TRIBUNE.COM | @ERNESTWILKINS

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