One of my favorite YouTube vloggers, Funky Diveva, gave the best piece of advice that one can apply to their lives: “Don’chu EVER let another bitch spray you with your own tea!!!” And as a mental health clinician, I strongly agree with this statement. Essentially, being transparent about your struggles in life leaves very little room for anyone to hold yours fears, past, or insecurities against you. While truths can make some people uncomfortable, it can be cathartic to both the sharer and potentially their audience. Dishonesty has proven to be a trigger for individuals, hence the ever-increasing rally cry of “Keep it real!!!” From the cheating spouse to your local politician, honesty has been slated as the best policy. Because the assumption is no legitimate reason exists to mask the truth. But what happens when you share your truth and you’re torn apart for it?
Celebrities have been known for being candid. Their pain and insecurities have been used as the very foundation of the music we listen to. It has also been used as the very foundation for other’s ministry. Other times, people in the spotlight choose to share their stories in hopes of relating to the human experience despite their life’s status. In doing so, a glimpse is offered into the real life and mind of the ‘celebrity.’ This glimpse may offer audiences the opportunity to see that these ‘celebrities’ are just as human as anyone else. So when Ayesha Curry, wife of Golden State Warriors phenom Stephen Curry, appeared on Red Table Talks with Jada Pinkett-Smith and had a human moment, she quickly found out that keeping it real can go really wrong, really fast.
Essentially, Ayesha Curry expressed that while she knows her husband loves and adores her, she oftentimes feels like she no longer has “it.” Because her husband is wealthy, famous, and relatively handsome both women and men fawn over him both in and out of her presence. She, on the other hand, receives the treatment of being both untouchable and unapproachable; and all because she is the wife of Stephen Curry. As such, she has been left to feel attractive for one reason only: because her husband is obligated to be. And that does not feel good. Once this human experience was exposed to the public, the floodgates of criticisms and assumptions flooded social media. Every comment from ‘ungrateful bitch’ to ‘attention whore’ flew across the timelines of all my social media platforms. And I could not understand why. Well, I had an idea, but I curtailed my assumptions to keep them at a minimum. Here we have yet another celebrity of sorts being honest about experiencing human emotions, and the very humans begging for said honesty took it and slapped Ayesha across the face with it. Akin to when Frank Ocean announced that he is bisexual and that his hit, “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Cha,” was inspired by his first intimate relationship with another man. And closely resembles when NBA player Jason Collins, who came out as gay in 2013. All three individuals, from the most general perspective, were demanded to ‘keep it real,’ as this is the only way that an active audience will receive you openly and without judgment. How ironic is it that the judgment is heaviest when the request for honesty is acquiesced?
What is this truth that the masses incessantly seek? What exactly does it look like? Does it come wrapped in gift paper and topped with a bow? Is it the truth the masses crave, or the opportunity to criticize what does not make sense to them? Based on the masses reaction to Curry, Ocean, Collins, and many others I’m inclined to agree with the most latter question. Because what is the point of dictating to people how and when to reveal their truth when all you asked for was the truth? Why does it matter that Frank Ocean chose not to keep the background of “Thinkin’ ‘Bout Cha” a secret any longer? He was being honest, which is what has been asked of all humans since time began. So why was the response “I mean, you could have kept that to yourself; now I can’t listen to the song without feeling gay.” Really? Another man’s interpretation of love, or his TRUTH, which was demanded, is the foundation for yours? Since when?
Who cares that Collins is gay? Are you, as a man, so conceited that you feel that because a gay man is near you that he is going to make a pass at you? Will you have played better had he continued to remain in the closet? Because if he did the latter, the first response would have been “Dawg, I don’t care that you’re gay. Just keep it real with me about it.” Collins did, and was vilified.
Since when did craving attention become a crime? One of the primary hierarchy of needs for human is connection. Celebrities may not always feel that with their spouse, especially if the spouse is as world-renowned as Stephen Curry. This is no different than the average housewife of a traveling doctor who feels like she’s lost whatever milkshake brought her husband to the yard and kept him there. This isn’t to say that her husband ignores her. But when he’s virtually the only man in the world giving you any kind of attention, your brain may wander. For some reason or another, however, black men and women defaulted to her needing to be grateful that she has a husband at all, let alone one that provides for her and her family and loves her. HER experience does not matter even if it were asked; only Stephen’s money, feelings, reputation, and standing in the NBA Playoffs do.
Unfortunately, I am left with my original assumption: people do not want truth and honesty. They want an illusion. They want their version of honesty. But let us venture beyond the shallow waters of being hypocritical: what black people, male and female alike, want is the ability and access to tear you down as you lift yourself up via your transparency. Your truth, as messy as it may present itself, may look a lot better than the lies others tell themselves about their own lives. So instead of taking one’s truth for what it is and as what was asked for, it’s taken and torn apart at the liberty of the individual receiving it. The black community’s reaction to Ayesha Curry, Frank Ocean, and Jason Collins is why so many black men are so emotionally defunct. It is why black women do not reveal their sexual trauma(s). It is why our black children act out their struggles and cravings for attention versus expressing them verbally. The recent reaction of black people to Ayesha Curry is exactly why black people are as emotionally fucked up and misaligned as we are. We don’t want truth. We don’t want honesty. Because we don’t know how to handle them once we receive them.
So continue to keep it real if you want……….let’s see how far that gets you among African-Americans.
Kawana N. Williams is a native Chicagoan and the author of, “Coming to My Crossroads", a memoir about her diagnosis of and struggles with ovarian cancer. She is currently a licensed Professional counselor with the State of Illinois.