In times of need, which heals and who bleeds?
Hip-hop artist Cardi B was the center of attention some weeks ago after she asked her followers on Twitter if she should “spend 88K for this damn purse?” Several fans and onlookers commented, many of whom felt the rapper’s timing when asking this question was inappropriate. For example, Alicia Crosby tweeted:
“Sis, there’s an eviction crisis, folks can’t feed their families, students are drowning in debt, and people are sick with and dying of COVID. Most of us don’t have the luxury of $88 temptations so hearing you’re trying to drop $88k on a purse feels hella wrong.”
In response to those who criticized her, Cardi offered to match charity donations if people shared their receipts online. However, she and many fans also defended her initial tweet, both pointing out that Cardi generously donated to many throughout the coronavirus pandemic. In response to one critic, for example, the rapper tweeted:
“I already donated 2 million dollars this year and I’m doing something very special in a another country that will be done with next year.What have you donated ?”
Additionally, Cardi claimed she donated $1 million for coronavirus relief, $1 million to fans through Cashapp, 20,000 meal supplements to New York-area medical staff, and supported several relatives throughout the year.
Despite her defensiveness, however, the rapper eventually apologized.
Cardi’s tweet speaks to a larger issue, one in which privileged individuals often fail to see past their social advantages or at the very least empathize with those who are less fortunate. While she showed generosity amid a global pandemic, Cardi’s decision to ask her social media followers for advice on buying an $88 thousand purse seemingly dampened her humanitarianism. Cardi can spend her money wherever she pleases. However, one could argue the rapper’s inquiry via Twitter unintentionally mocked those who struggled monetarily, physically, and mentally throughout 2020.
Also, her question “What have you donated” when firing back at critics was arguably insensitive considering the financial strain many faced due to coronavirus. Even though Cardi later apologized for her behavior, within the apology she went after critics for not — in her eyes — reprimanding President Donald Trump for his failure to adequately address the pandemic’s impact on US citizens. Despite the rapper’s claim, however, she was greatly mistaken.
Year in review
Throughout 2020, once knowledge about coronavirus and its impact became more widespread, several celebrities wound up speaking or acting in ways that were just as, if not more, insensitive than Cardi. In mid-March, just days after several states began implementing lockdown procedures as a response to the pandemic, Wonder Woman star Gal Gadot and a collective of well-known celebrities, including Natalie Portman, Maya Rudolph, and Will Ferrell, each filmed themselves signing the words to John Lennon’s “Imagine.” Gadot shared a complete, pieced together cover of this song to her Instagram page, hoping to inspire fans and onlookers. Despite her intentions, however, many criticized this video for being tone-deaf.
In response to Gadot’s video media analyst Mark Dice tweeted:
“What would I do without celebrities posting videos on social media telling us little people it’s going to be okay?”
Moreover, Twitter user Access wrote:
“Celebrities at home thinking “How can we stay relevant?” Ah yes — sing a song from our plush mansions talking about a world with no possessions! This video is worse than the actual virus!”
Both tweets, which garnered thousands of likes and retweets, echoed the same sentiment. Each celebrity in Gadot’s video, being financially stable and living comfortably, could not relate to the lay public. Additionally, singing about having “no possessions” seemed odd coming from those who possess many resources unavailable to millions of Americans being impacted by the pandemic.
During March, actress Vanessa Hudgens was also condemned for making insensitive remarks about the potential length of lockdown procedures and social distancing protocols in the US.
In an Instagram Live video, Hudgens spoke to millions of followers, saying:
“It’s a virus, I get it. Like, I respect it. But at the same time, like, even if everybody gets it, like, yeah, people are gonna die, which is terrible but, like, inevitable?”
Those who criticized Hudgens felt her comments disregarded the lives of those who died or lost loved ones to coronavirus.
Disregard for those impacted by the pandemic was also seen in April when singer Justin Bieber, his wife, and an influential friend all took to Instagram Live. During their meeting, Bieber said:
“How blessed are we? A lot of people obviously in this time have a crappy situation. They look at us and obviously we worked hard for where we’re at so we can’t feel bad for the things that we have but I think us taking that time to acknowledge that there are people who are crippling is important. We send our love and support to them.”
Many felt this comment was disrespectful and gave no hope to those negatively impacted by the virus. Instead, Bieber seemed to gloat over the fact that he and his loved ones “worked hard,” which helped them remain comfortable during a crisis. Oddly enough, the singer has often been accused of being an industry plant, which, if true, would negate his words.
Adding to the celebrities mentioned earlier, others experienced backlash for their insensitive comments regarding coronavirus during 2020. Names include Justin Timberlake, Idris Elba, and Evangeline Lilly.
If anything, last year should have allowed the lay public to see the true nature of celebrities. Oftentimes they are normal people who have perfected a skill. Therefore, no one should expect celebrities to set good examples or be a voice of reason. Praise and admiration for them should be no more than what an educator, a health care worker, or a parent receives. While some might marvel at a celebrity’s craft, perhaps the best course of action is to leave it at that. Otherwise, their actions may come as a disappointment to many who hold them in high esteem, especially during a state of emergency.