Gaga and Oprah
If you’re like me, you probably have complicated feelings about celebrities. I can acknowledge the systems that produce celebrity: rampant capitalism, an at times cult-like worship and an underlying commodification of the self are all preconditions for celebrity in the 21st century.
At the same time, I generally subscribe to the view that if celebrities are going to exist and by virtue of being so well-know, they should be decent role models and, where appropriate, have something meaningful and insightful to say.
This brings me to a recent episode of Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Vision Tour Visionaries’, available on YouTube. You’re probably rolling your eyes at this point; I know I was. I have an almost inherent aversion to self-help discourse and cannot help myself from cringing and eye rolling when people share their ‘wellness journey’. Having said that, I am a fan of, at the very least, the product, of one of Oprah’s guests, as Oprah introduces her, ‘the imitable Lady Gaga’. So, I thought I would give it a try.
If you can stomach the occasional clichés and constant pleas to ‘work on yourself and practice self-care’, the episode is actually a very insightful and moving conversation about mental health. Gaga shares her story of being sexually abused and the connection between mental anguish and physical pain in a surprisingly candid and accessible way.
What most stood out to me was Gaga’s openness to taking a pretty large number of different medications every day in order to, in her words, ‘keep her sane’. I have blogged about this before and while in no way advocating for anyone to take medication or pursue that route if not recommended by a medical professional, I think it is important to reduce and ultimately eliminate the stigma surrounding not only mental illness but the medications scientists have developed to deal with it.
Gaga also goes to great pains to stress that she is sharing only her story, and that what has worked for her may not work for everything, showing uncommon self-awareness and restraint for a celebrity of her stature. All in all, I think the episode is worth a look.