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After fame and fortune


RIGHT AFTER the elections, there will be celebrities who will no longer turn heads when they walk through the mall, even without face masks on. Those who are about to be obscure need to get ready for their rude awakening.

Are there behavioral experts who specialize in counseling “has-beens”? Erstwhile celebrities who no longer make movies, host noontime TV shows, manage fortunes, run large corporations, or address rallies with video-enhanced crowds enriched with photos from other countries or enlarged by inanimate objects like red onions made to look like people, need to deal with their new normal… of being ignored. No more invitations for debates to worry about.

Is there a profitable consultancy in counseling the newly undistinguished? Here are some insights from those joining “Anonymous Anonymous” (AA), an NGO promoting the acceptance of a status of anonymity.

We ask the head of AA if he has a good following. The recent elections seem to have revived his pandemic-stricken consultancy for fallen idols. He says most of his clients have been referred to him by psychiatrists dealing with depression and loss of appetite. It seems the adoration of crowds feeds the hungry ego, now starved for affection.

The world of the famous is a distinct culture, worthy of anthropological interest, like growing up in Samoa. It’s a tribe, even if a temporary one. Being simply rich is not the same as being rich and famous.

Celebrities are fussed over in restaurants and parties and given special treatment just because they’re famous. Their birthdays are remembered not just with greetings from their Viber group, but with extravagant presents delivered by anonymous messengers. They don’t even need to remind others who they are — Do you know who I am? (Sorry Sir, but I can’t help you. Why not just check your own ID?)

One of his immersion programs at AA involves being totally ignored. A roomful of people are chatting away in merry abandon. The new client enters the room and the conversation does not stop even when he joins the group. The buzz continues with no appreciable pause or even lowering of volume. (Do you know who I am?)

This simple simulation exercise prepares the subject for the continually rising occasions when he is totally invisible. (Can I have a cup of coffee, please?) The new experience of no one greeting him at the door and fussing over him can cause dizziness to the newly obscure. But it’s an important exercise for the nobody.

Another simulation exercise involves interruption techniques. While a celebrity must only clear his throat or even unceremoniously jump into an ongoing discussion to be given the floor even with a nonsensical comment, the once-powerful one is now just ignored. Impudent challengers just talk over him for all the throat-clearing he is trying to interrupt with. When allowed to finally talk, the others just have their side-conversation or catch up with their Viber groups.

The trainee is advised to keep quiet and just listen passively to the noisy exchange. Maybe when they run out of things to say, the animated debaters will ask for his opinion as a neutral bystander. If they don’t, he should not be upset. It’s what non-entities are routinely used to.

It’s not the expected loss of friends (or acquaintances) that the newly anonymous must guard against. It’s not about becoming invisible and getting fewer Christmas presents. What must be avoided is the gnawing envy at the rise of previous unknowns (sometimes previous subordinates) that used to kowtow to the former celebrity. This is given special prominence in the coping course.

The fall from grace must simply be accepted as part of the cycle of life. Maybe the wheel will turn again, and maybe not.

The worst thought to be entertained involves revenge or some comeback scenario to punish the disrespectful. Much energy can be wasted in this unproductive use of the imagination.

Fame has sped away like a missed bus. The most difficult task is to dispense with the adoration of strangers and move on. Anonymity can be a blessing too to be embraced, like freedom to just be oneself and not worry about the high opinion of others. This is not as easy as it sounds. It just takes some getting used to… like working from home.

Tony Samson is chairman and CEO of TOUCH xda


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