On Celebrity Suicide

_Let not the friends of these poor melancholics.png

I’ll take this moment to say that I know this topic is difficult to cover and I struggled with this all during the process of writing it. But know that I would never post something without giving in a great deal of thought and I think it’s a narrative worth exploring. I am sorry for those who are affected by topic negatively and my goal is never to cause emotional pain. I’ve been touched by the specter of suicide in my life, I’ve lost someone close to me this way; know that I am not writing this for the sake of a hot take or just because I can. I gave this post time to become what it is. I left it, came back to it and returned to it before deciding it was worth discussing. Once more, I apologize if this post finds you in crisis and I sincerely hope that you find healing and comfort.


June 8th, I got a lot of messages on my phone. It wasn’t because I was paneling, it wasn’t because I was at A-Kon, it wasn’t because I was back in my corner of Texas: it was because one of my idols died. Anthony Bourdain meant the world to me. Even in death, he still does. But I got messages from those I love and that love me asking if I was okay. There’s a bit of a terse statement that suicide is contagious and in so many ways, it is. It’s like a virus, a miasma that lingers in the air and poisons those who are most vulnerable to it.

I wanted to talk about celebrity suicide in an attempt to help me work through some of my own grief.

Celebrities ending their own lives is not new or recent. Unfortunately, many famous people leave us through accidental means like car wrecks and accidental overdoses. But far too many leave us intentionally. And when I say “celebrity” I’m willing to be very open in this definition so this covers anyone who is “famous” and “important”. Bourdain’s death hit especially raw after the recent suicide of Kate Spade.  And the flood of support that comes and then quickly leaves after the suicide of someone famous is almost just as exhausting as the grief that comes with that loss. Suddenly, folks who normally would have much more puritanical views on suicide and mental health are “advocates” only to return to their staunch views once the zeitgeist fades and moves on to another Kardashian storyline. And that’s what makes celebrity death so frustrating. When Chester Bennington died, I was distraught. His music helped me work through some of my own dark demons and knowing that he suffered so much in plain sight was disheartening.

But there is one thing that the recent string of celebrity suicides is that it has brought to light a very ugly aspect of supporting those that are mentally ill: sometimes, the illness is too much. The suicide rate in the U.S. has been steadily ticking up for the last several years and the amount of celebrities that unfortunately take their own lives helps shed a light on the countless others whose death did not make a large ripple in the pool.  It’s one of the reasons 13 Reasons Why is so intoxicating, to people that are not mentally ill, it’s a valid and important part of the conversation. To people who are mentally ill, it’s just another television show that does a damn good job at glorifying suicide which is a dangerous game for anyone who has danced with those thoughts before.

This time seems different, though. This time around seems different. It has seemed different since Robin Williams died. We lost such a funny and bright man. How could he experience any sadness at all? But his death reminded us that oftentimes, it’s the people smiling the most who hurt inside. Bourdain was similar: so many said that he had never seemed happier.

Even writing this post was really difficult and I had to ask more than one person about the ethics of writing about such a thing. It always seems a little egotistical to write about such a subject after someone dies. It’s the main reason there’s an Avicii post deep in my document cloud that will likely never be published: it all just feels like a way to turn tragedy into narcissism. That isn’t my goal, however. I’m a big believer in fighting stigma by confronting the evil (most of the time) note that I was glamorize or glorify the act but I will continue to prop up the people who we have lost. Because each death is a tragic loss. There is a void left behind knowing that Anthony Bourdain will not be able to enchant us with tales of exotic lands. There’s a void left knowing Kate Spade will not design another piece that perfectly encapsulates what it means to be a woman on the go. I am sad knowing Robin Williams won’t make another generation laugh like he did mine and the one before mine and I am heartbroken knowing that Linkin Park will never be the same. That pain is valid and sure, it’s egotistical going through and writing about it but I am hoping that  in talking about it candidly will start a conversation and in my opinion and experience: a conversation can be life-saving. Check on your friends. Check on all your friends. Be there for everyone that you know and love.

Know that I am here for you even though I’m far from a professional.

I’ve seen this sentiment echoed a lot recently so I’ll mimic it here: I won’t share the hotline number. If someone is really in danger, they can find it. It’s not wanting to find it. Instead, I’ll offer again my love, my support and my empathy. I’ll offer my heart.

And to Mr. Bourdain, god, I am so sad that there will be many who don’t get to see your special brand of cynicism, wit and humility.

I’ll end on one of my favorite quotes of all time, it’s one of yours, Mr. Bourdain; and it’s one of the few quotes I’ve ever considered permanently putting on my body.

“Happiness is the absence of cynicism.”

Rest well, Mr. Bourdain and to all the others that have joined you in your rest. The world is a little less awesome because of your collective loss.

Dear Kanye West

It seems we living the american dreamBut the people highest up got the lowest self esteemThe prettiest people do the ugliest thingsFor the road to riches and diamond rings.png

Let’s get a little mood music going, shall we?

Hello, Mr. West.
I’m sure you won’t read this (though I’d be certainly flattered if you did) but it felt appropriate to address you formally regardless. I’m a longtime fan. No, really. I still have the censored copy of your first album College Dropout that my aunts purchased for me under the condition that I accept the censored version that Walmart so graciously offered to us back in the mid-2000s.

I wanted to talk to you today about how important your album was to me and why it’s been so difficult to watch you go a little bit insane.

So when I was younger, back in high school, I loved your album. I loved Jesus Walks. I loved your message. And there’s a reason for that and it’s sort of personal. But I’m in the spirit to share, so I’ll do it. I’m culturally abandoned. I’m not very tied to my blackness. I was raised in a mostly white neighborhood and had very little of the struggles that the average African-American youth faced. I didn’t traditionally struggle with money. I faced very little racism. We lived in nice areas and I was smart, in a good school and was surrounded by mostly white people and had mostly white friends. I just simply did not have the experience of the “average” African-American youth in America.  And while my father’s taste in music was diverse, my aunts had less diverse tastes in music. And while I was being raised with my aunts, it was easy for me to get lost in a sea of J-Pop and heavy emo music.

And then College Dropout arrived.

Mr. West, your album was fantastic. It still is, I can’t and won’t take away the greatness of your album. By focusing on more universal struggles like inferiority and boosting those feelings that are inexorably tied to race, you helped me tap into my blackness: even if it was only for a moment. Songs like School Spirit and All Falls Down were emotional, raw, intense but still clever, humorous and authentic. Your rhymes addressed so many of my concerns and feelings with hip-hop and rap and while sure, they still were misogynistic and homophobic: I ate College Dropout up. And you even managed to tug at my Catholic heartstrings. Not too many African-Americans I knew back then were Catholic, hell, most of my friends weren’t Catholic. You, Mr. West, became like the Catholic friend I never knew I needed.  And when your next album: Graduation dropped, I was even more sold. Heartless seamlessly blended style and genre while Good Morning was literally my moodboard song for months.

And then it all seemed to go to hell. I’m empathetic to the loss of a parent. I understand that one can even go a little mad after someone you love dies. But, you Mr. West, Mr. Fresh… you went more than a little mad. You proclaimed to be a god over and over again. Which, by the way, one Catholic to another: isn’t in any of the catechisms. You hooked up with some strange hellbeast (though most know her as a Kim Kardashian). Procreated and continued to spout out racially divisive, culturally insensitive and outright outlandish nonsense from then onto now.

Your music has seemed to suffer as well. While there was always a healthy level of egotism in all your music, it was in the past, almost self-deprecating. Now, you think you’re a god-king. Now, you’ve alienated your friends and fanbase. I worry about you. I know facing mortality is difficult. I know being surrounded by people who either don’t get you or only valid you can be trying. I get that being creative, being a creator and being an icon must be exhausting. But I want you to know; I need you to know, that you were an important part of my teen years and that I’m grateful for that.

Thank you.

Sincerely,

Amanda