DMX’s passing is another reminder that fame isn’t all it’s cracked up to be
I’VE lost track of the number of celebrities we have lost to substance abuse. But we never forget. How could we, when it claims the lives of so many icons every year?
The recent passing of Grammy award-winning artist DMX (real name Earl Simmons) was another painful reminder of this vicious cycle of fame and addiction.
He was 50 when he passed away from a “catastrophic cardiac arrest” linked to a drug overdose several days earlier.
As heartbreaking as it was to bid farewell to an incredibly talented artist, it’s also cause for concern.
The showbiz world is saturated with stars; they flash those million-dollar smiles at the drop of a hat. But don’t be fooled by the picture-perfect looks on the red carpet. While they might blow your mind with their accomplishments, there’s a lot going on in their world.
When you’ve achieved the holy grail of fame, it doesn’t signify only that you’ve arrived. It means everyone wants to have a piece of you.
The higher you are in the circle of influence, the more attractive you become to sponsors. Everyone wants to host you at their shindig. And the media appear too have a fixed GPS locator on you.
Your life no longer becomes your own. As much as you are surrounded by a lot of people, you are very much alone.
This is compounded by personal triggers.
Looking at DMX’s life and his rise in the industry, which is masterfully documented in BET’s Ruff Ryders Chronicles, he had a troubled childhood.
He suffered abuse at the hands of his mother and her various boyfriends. He turned to crime, petty at first, to escape the clutches of poverty.
Fortunately for him, he had talent. A stint behind bars for theft in 1988 saw him focus more on his songwriting and rapping skills. He hustled his way into the hearts of passers-by on the streets of New York, where he sold his mixtapes.
He even got a mention in The Source magazine. In 1992, DMX was signed to Ruffhouse Records. And that was the start of his meteoric rise on the hip hop scene.
That said, his entire career was dogged by substance abuse and run-ins with the law.
Given his childhood, though, some scars clearly ran deep. His talent was his salvation but, sadly, not from his vice.
In the industry, many exceptionally talented celebrities have fought addiction. The reasons for them turning to drugs vary. It could be they were child stars and ill-equipped to deal with fame. Perhaps they came from an abusive home. Or they were in a tumultuous relationship. Some also battle depression, which they hide from the world and even the people closest to them.
Our very own Pabi Moloi won her battle against alcoholism. Other South African A-listers like Kelly Khumalo, Nina Hastie and Trevor Gumbi have been down this dark road at one point in their life.
While some celebrities are able to get help and bounce back with a clean track record of sobriety, others, like DMX, have not been so lucky. Hopefully, this will be a cautionary tale for current and future generations to steer clear of the calamitous trappings of fame.
Read this and more stories in the first edition of our free quarterly IOL Entertainment Digi magazine.
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