Friday, 15 January 2016

Mourning The Loss of a Celebrity

This week, the world lost two hugely influential and well loved British national treasures, music icon David Bowie and actor Allan Rickman. I've seen a lot of people who've been so incredibly broken by their deaths - friends, family, colleagues, other bloggers - but sadly I also know a lot of people who have laughed at people mourning the loss of a celebrity and questioning how you can feel true sadness and grief for someone you've never met. 

Personally, I can't say I've ever been a particularly big fan of either of them. I don't dislike either of them at all, but I think it would be fake to call myself a fan. I've only seen Alan Rickman in one film, Love Actually, which I did really like him in, but I didn't know much of this work, haven't seen many of his films and don't knew anything about him or his life. Last night in the news, they featured clips of him on stage in the West End which I didn't even know about, so to call myself 'a fan' would be hypocritical. Similarly with David Bowie. Having had a life long love of fashion and a keen interest in LGBTQA+ issues, I'm more than aware of how powerful his influence is. But personally, I didn't know or like much of his music. In fact, less than a week ago when '#UnpopularMusicOpinions' was trending on Twitter, I posted a few thoughts, one of which was 'David Bowie gets undeserving 'legend' status. He's not that great.' Although some probably think I should regret this tweet now, I don't. I can't and wouldn't want to take away his influence over any of his fans and it's obvious that he's very loved, but personally, to me, he was just another singer.

However, just because I personally wasn't huge fans of either, I totally get why other people are so deeply saddens by the news of their passing. A lot of the issue that people have with mourning the loss of a celebrity is 'You didn't know them, you'd never even met them, you only know the image that they chose to portray' which I don't think matters. Most people who mourn a celebrities passing don't claim to know them as people, but to know them as fans, to love their work and who'll miss their presence. In fact, as soon as I heard about Alan Rickman dying, my mind instantly thought of a friend of mine, a fellow blogger who is a huge Alan Rickman fan. I felt sad by the news for him, his family and his friends, but I also felt sad for my friend. My friend who I've never met. Quite ironic, eh? 

Handwritten tributes to Amy Winehouse on the roof of the ladies toilets of the Hawley Arms pub in Camden, London. 

I've been saddened by a lot of well known peoples' deaths, but two stick in my mind the most. Amy Winehouse was one of the first singer who I could properly identify with. She was weird and loud and rough around the edges and not conventionally attractive. Her music was honest and wasn't auto-tuned and not everything rhymed. I remember exactly when I found out she'd died. I was leaving work. It was closing time in the shop so the lift was full of people leaving too. They were discussing it, saying how young she was and how much their liked her music, but I couldn't worked out who they were talking about. Despite her demons, Amy never for a second entered my mind. It wasn't til I got properly out of the building that I could get wifi to social media that I find out my idol was gone. The ignorant comments about her addictions felt like someone pouring salt in a wound. I was devastated. I defended my love of Amy against all the people who called her a junkie or commented that maybe she should have gone to rehab. My mum was meeting me from work to go to Tesco, and we just walked around this huge empty supermarket in silence, in a daze, in shock. A few years prior to this, a friend and I had tried to get Amy Winehouse tickets, but decided not to when they were £120 each. We were both not working and this was a huge amount of money for concert tickets at the time. To this day, that is one of my biggest regrets in life and I now don't resent spending money on tickets for anything.

The second was Alexander McQueen. Alexander MCQueen was the reason I chose to take my love of clothes one step further and study a degree in fashion. My love for his work couldn't be more different to my love of Amy's. She was real and raw and honest, while McQueens was theatrical and beautiful and awe-inspiring. How somebody like McQueen's imagination could be that limitless is incredible to me. I remember the moment I found out he died too. I was in a lecture. My friend sitting next to me whispered it to me, I think someone had text her. I didn't have a phone at that time so I couldn't Google it to see. I had planned to go to the library after the lecture to do some work anyway but the time while the computer was logging on felt like an eternity. Finding out alone in a dimly lit silent library was horrible. I tried to stay and get work done but I just couldn't concentrate. Alexander McQueen was the unrefined creative mind I've ever known about and I was so deeply saddened by not only his death but the tragic circumstances of it that I just broke down. Crying for someone you've never met is very odd but completely valid experience. Last Summer, I made the 400 mile trip to London to visit the Savage Beauty exhibition of his work and it not only resinated with me how much he and his work mean to me, but also that when someone you don't even know means that much to you, mourning their loss, even years later, it's normal and okay.

Both the instances of me finding out of their deaths were so normal, so mundane, so everyday, they were just moments in my life, that exist completely independent to the people the news was about, but the news of these complete strangers dying crushed me. I was devastated. I cried for both. I've cried at occasions since for both. Both their works provided a level of escapism for me, so in a way, by not knowing them, it was even sadder. You see, the grief you feel when a stranger who inspires you dies is a completely different grief to when a loved one dies. It's the prospect of missing their influence rather than their company that's so hard. 

Death is a horrible, scary, heart-wrenching, gut-dropping thing to happen to anyone you care about. I've felt sadness, guilt, regret, emptiness and appreciation when a number of people have died, people know in real life and people I only wish I did. Regardless of your relationship with someone, in a world where we all need a bit of escapism every now and then, it's completely and utterly okay to mourn the loss of a beloved celebrity. In fact, it's more than okay. I think it shows that the arts can have huge influence and bring such positivity, inspiration and joy to people's everyday mundane lives.