Judy Rodman - All Things Vocal Blog

Training & insights for stage and studio singers, speakers, vocal coaches and producers from professional vocal coach and author of "Power, Path & Performance" vocal training method. Download All Things Vocal podcast on your fav app!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

The Voice Of Kony 2012 ...Double Edged Sword of Fame

It was with great sadness that I watched Jason Russell, the voice of Kony 2012, the incredibly successful video put out by Invisible Children Organization, experience a now-also-famous complete mental breakdown. This is a powerful example of the double-edged nature of fame.

Voices need to be heard. It's the reason they exist; it's the reason they sound. If heard, the voice will attain some measure of 'fame'. When fame is experienced in large measure, a voice can experienced the greatest highs imaginable... and the greatest lows. I have experienced both in my own life. Rising to the top of the charts and then falling off the face of the music industry map for a few years gave me painful yet useful first hand insight into this condition. Because one of my goals in my work is to help other voices successfully navigate the treacherous waters of 'fame', I'd like to share a few thoughts with you.

There is an interesting definition of the word "fame" at World Dictionary:
  1. the state of being widely known or recognized, renown, celebrity
  2. rumour or public report
That should give you a glimpse into the double-edged sword nature of this condition. Fame gives... validity, financial benefit, and reach. It also takes away... privacy, control, and reputations ruined from true or false information.

Success in the music industry (aka 'music business') or the public speaking world requires fame. This is why we must be very sure of the nature of how we define ourselves as artists and speakers. If in creating our artistic definition we are not true to ourselves, we will find ourselves living double lives, always in doubt about our choices and about being 'found out', defensive about what others say and so on.

But even if we proceed with the greatest of integrity and purity of heart, fame brings with it an incredible vulnerability. Jason Russell will take a long time to heal from his severe public breakdown, and in fact is still in a psych ward as we speak. When you create a video that gets 100 million views in a matter of days, the fame it generates can undo a psyche.

I'm going to step out and use my voice to support this cause. Why would I take the risk, with the vicious degree of criticism heaped on these people?
  1. I have informed myself by researching the positive and negative articles, comments and responses.
  2. I personally know Jedediah Jenkins, one of the principle figures behind this movement. Jed's mother and I have been close friends for years, and I know Jed's motivations, utmost integrity and wisdom. With the education, talent, creativity and connections he has developed, he could do most anything he wants. Yet with very little financial support (for instance, he sleeps on the floor, no bed, in a house he rents with 5 other people) he chose to dedicate years of his young life to this cause... to stop Joseph Kony and the LRA from terrorizing communities, torturing and murdering people and abducting children.  For those who have read "Screwtape Letters" (CS Lewis), Jed wrote an interesting parallel allegory in a blogpost concerning Jason's breakdown here.
  3. I am thrilled at the seed this project is planting in people - especially the young - that their voices can truly make a difference, and their lives have great value. As Jed says, "If we stop blaming injustice on laziness, culture, and history, and start solving injustice with love and focused attention, then we have done our world a service."
  4. I like the transparency of the organization. I have come to believe that though honest differences of opinion may question their tactics, their motivations and integrity are beyond reproach. If you want to read Invisible Children's official responses to the criticisms, go to the 'critiques' page of their website. I've been notified there is a big Time magazine article that will hit the stands dated March 26th you can look for titled "The War Lord vs the Hipsters".
What would I say to a voice that is, seeks or needs for whatever reason to be famous?
  • Don't necessarily discount criticism. Ask yourself if it is warranted. Does it bring up something you need to change or tweak? Or... do you need to put up a defense of your position in an appropriate place to answer criticism? Positive criticism can help your voice succeed. 
  • BUT...Don't feed the trolls!! The only way to deal with them is to starve them of the interaction they so crave. Here's a good page about trolls.
  • Be sure that you take care of yourself. Your human body needs sleep, silence, food, hydration, play and wise physical exercise. Your mind needs time with friends and spiritual connection and grounding. Neglect these to your peril.
  • Always keep one foot out of the world of fame. If you give out everything you have or stay in a constant spotlight, you'll be of use to no one soon. Keep a small circle of accountability close to help keep you grounded... and listen to them!
  • Do a serious gut check on your core motivations. Remember that the god you serve will be the god you have to please. And the god of fame will crush you with demands. Indeed it has silenced/killed some of our favorite voices.
Something to ponder:

In Roman times, a conquering hero would drive his chariot
down a road lined with cheering crowds. As he accepted their
adoration, a servant was required to ride on the back of the chariot
whispering into the hero's ear: "All Fame is Fleeting... All Fame is
Fleeting... "

To your vocal success and your productive, useful, satisfied, prosperous journey... with love.
Remember to pray for Jason.

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  • At March 25, 2012 at 10:30 PM , Anonymous Fanofyourworks said...

    I find this really inspiring! You brought it nicely to the music industry, which I kind of think has been slightly overpowered by greed, not talent.
    Thank you for the advice and always keep posting! I'm always a fan of your works :)
    - 16 year old

  • At March 26, 2012 at 12:32 PM , Blogger Judy Rodman said...

    Thank you so much for your sweet comment! I do hope it is helpful to many who face the double edged sword of success:)

  • At May 21, 2012 at 10:16 AM , Anonymous Diane Hurst said...

    Appreciated your input here about Jason Russell. I was also very saddened about his breakdown-- and was just getting started with Twitter about that time, so encountered lots of hurtful and misinformed comments when looking for info about him.

    That video he created really touched me personally, and I truly believe, like you, that this organization is well-intentioned AND doing a good work. The message of the viral video (beyond the Kony story, just the idea of gaining support and momentum for a cause-- that together we can do something to help) was the inspiration for a song I wrote a few days after seeing the video. Am hoping to have a recording of this soon, to send to Invisible Children.

  • At May 21, 2012 at 3:08 PM , Blogger Unknown said...

    Hey Diane... thank you for your heart here. So cool about your song you'll be sending to IC... best of everything, sweet friend!


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