As we approach the close of 2018 and prepare to welcome 2019 it is hard to move forward without our minds turning to those who have transitioned over the past year. Mac Miller, Aretha Franklin, Joe Jackson, Anthony Bourdain, Kate Spade, Steven Hawking, and most recently Stan Lee and Kim Porter are a few names that may resonate with us because of their celebrity status. A celebrity is defined as a famous or well-known person. If I were to ask who you’re favorite celebrity is your answer may range from an actor or actress, singer, dancer, rapper, television star, scientist or politician. Known and famous for whatever reasons celebrities serve as a link that connects everyday people of all backgrounds.
The general public’s reaction to celebrity deaths has always intrigued me. When you really think about it we don’t know them personally, we are not related to them, we have probably have never met them in our lives and other than the persona presented to us on television and in magazines we know very little about who they truly are. None the less an out pour of emotion and grief is seen many times worldwide. The earliest memories I have of observing an out pour of grief and emotion upon a celebrity’s death was in August of 2001 when singer and actress Aaliyah passed away. Everyone everywhere was speaking about her passing as if they were personally connected to her in some way. Though many celebrity deaths had previously occurred, this was the first time that my understanding of death aligned with a celebrity’s transition that seemingly affected everyone around me. I can remember sitting in my mom’s car and listening to callers on E93 Jams crying and talking about how much they loved Aaliyah. I also recall watching MTV News and listening to Sway announce her death with images of fans crying, embracing one another and fainting as huge memorials consisting of art, candles, and flowers panned across the television screen.
Similar expressions have been displayed upon the deaths of other celebrities such as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopez, Anna Nicole Smith, Michael Jackson, Biggie, Tupac, Heath Ledger, Paul Walker, Amy Winehouse, Whitney Houston, Steve Erwin, Selena, and Elvis. I have been in countless public settings and observed conversations started by someone asking “did you hear about…?” This seemingly simple question opened the door and led complete strangers passionately discussing and debating causes of death, hidden connections, occult ties, family and celebrity responses, and what might eventually happen with to all of the money of any given deceased celebrity. Celebrity deaths bring us all together in a very unique way. But Why?
Here in the United States, we are obsessed with celebrities. So much so that we have entire television and radio shows dedicated to discussing and dissecting what famous person ate what last night and where. Paparazzi become rich overnight for being in the right place at the right time capturing the right shot of the right person. In some cases, celebrities achieve more fame upon their deaths because of the enormous show of emotion and condolences expressed by fans and other celebrities alike. I am always very fascinated by the amount of emotion and condolences expressed on social and in mass media when a celebrity passes away. The younger the celebrity and the more tragic the circumstances surrounding their death; the more creative and captivating the headlines become. The more captivating the headlines; the more acquisitive we become for details, insight and to be a part of the conversation.
Of course, it is understood that through their contributions to the arts, film, music and other mediums celebrities have managed to touch our souls and move our spirits. However, I question if we are we truly moved by celebrity death OR if their passing serves as an opportunity to safely express our own personal losses without fear of judgment and criticism? Perhaps we are all deeply yearning to be connected in some meaningful way and the celebrities passing gives us a common ground to freely express ourselves?
I’d love to hear from you! What are your thoughts and opinions about the grief that is expressed in response to a celebrity’s death? Has there been a celebrity's passing that has touched you deeply? How did you express that grief? Has there been a celebrity's passing that has made you think about or moved you to express grief related to your own personal loss? Or do you feel as if people express condolences and grief in response to celebrity death to simply be a part of the conversation? What celebrity death totally shocked you?
Joél Simone Anthony, also known as ‘The Grave Woman,’ is a licensed funeral director and embalmer. She is dedicated to eliminating misconceptions about post-life preparation while stimulating an open, honest and straight forward discussion about death. You can submit your comments, questions and requests to firstname.lastname@example.org or by using our contact page.