Over the last two weeks there has been a little chatter about whether Jamie Jackson was an exploited victim or a rock star in the making. With James Brechney confirming today that he has split as manager for the aspiring vocalist, Queensland LGBTI community figure Michael James has thrown in his two cents worth. He reckons he knows a thing or two about being a pop-up ‘celebrity’ — as he was one himself.
IT was interesting last week reading the opinion pieces from Jesse Matheson who took a swipe at James Brechney (who in turn swiped back) regarding Jamie Jackson, his new-found “fame”, his career path and his “branding” as his manager called it. For me what was most interesting was the overwhelming sense of entitlement etched across it all.
Jamie Jackson joins the ever-growing list of nobodies poached from queer obscurity and thrust into the limelight. It’s become a pretty repetitive cycle. With queer journalists carefully on the look out for the next gay news story, everything has the potential to gain traction and to go viral, if you will.
This is perfectly acceptable, but what’s not acceptable is this idea that we should somehow become sustainable overnight celebrities, ringing in endorsements and cashing in on nice big pay cheques because of it all.
Fortunately I can write this piece with some perspective. I, too, was a gay who suddenly found myself dead centre in the middle of the spotlight.
One day quietly at home planning our future and the next on national television arguing with Wendy Francis, sporting the worst hair style ever and trying to sound intelligent. I refer to the RipnRoll “controversy” in 2011, a short-lived, fiercely fought campaign in Queensland that had a shelf life of a few months of which I was front and centre. But this isn’t just all about me. Well, some of it is.
What this is about is the celebrity trap of today’s youth, our new emerging culture of social media and the idea of instant fame and celebrity.
We live in the era of the “Kardashian”, where we are spoon fed the notion that we should be celebrated and rewarded, not for talent, but for simply being “known”.
Rearing its ugly head from within this culture is the rampant sub culture of the celebrity gays, those of us in the centre of the gay spotlight for our fleeting 15 minutes.
However, as is the case with Jamie, many before him and the many who will follow is this unsubstantiated idea that it should last, that the world owes us something and they are left standing empty handed and unsatisfied as the spotlight fades while wondering, “what now?”
Don’t get me wrong, the irony of the fact that the only reason this piece is being published or written is because of my own lingering notoriety. But I’m ok with that, I’m perfectly okay with the idea that I’m pretty average and I very quickly came to terms with the fact that despite whatever we went through, the world owes me nothing and I will in turn receive just that, nothing, unless of course I want to work for it.
My friends are never slow in pointing out the fact that I’m a “media whore” as they so delicately chose to lovingly label me. Fast forgetting the years I spent at university studying film and media.
My love has always been for performing, telling, writing, reporting stories in any number of manners, so when I found I had an audience, I of course used all the leverage I could muster from whatever lingering notoriety I may have had to get myself work in community television, radio and print media.
I’ve had a suitably enjoyable time, being fabulously average, being largely unsuccessful commercially and not earning a single dollar from it all. It’s fun and you’ll never catch me calling myself “famous” or a “celebrity”.
But I get to do all this talking about the things that are important to me and my community. I do these things because I enjoy them. I’d be doing them eventually irrespective of what happened, but my point — if there is to be one — is that I have never once been under the illusion that anything was owed to me. The same cannot be said for Jamie and his manager.
In his piece James Brechney writes about the struggles and trials of Jamie Jackson as though for everything negative that he was put through, there should be some justifiable reward for this journey. Sadly, this is where James is so desperately wrong — there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. The queer spotlight does not rain down riches on those who fall beneath it, for the Jamie Jacksons of the world to be standing with arms wide open waiting for the gold is senseless.
Jamie and James should be stepping back to look at the good that can be taken from their experiences and how they can better use them to engage with their community to make a difference. People didn’t connect with Jamie’s story because he was the hard working aspiring rapper and underdog ala Eminem in 8 Mile, it was because they saw an injustice in his story.
Despite Jackson comprehensively winning his case, getting $40,000 in legal fees, all I read here is someone not happy and still looking for something. So sadly, his story has no happy ending, but maybe it will?
But what we can know is that if financial gain and rewards are expected from his experiences he will be left bitterly disappointed.
Michael James tweets under @Michaeljames_tv