Words by Munson Steed
Images courtesy of MAC Cosmetics, Pepsi, Samsung
Beyoncé is a queen of commercial and financial success. Her image has permeated our entire cultural landscape. From the White House to the 2013 Super Bowl halftime stage, billions of individuals around the world see her as the quintessential example of African American progress. Jay-Z has shed his past of profiting from ill-gotten gains to now hobnobbing with presidents of nations and endorsing beverages and spirits. NBA baller and iconic sportsman LeBron James’ family values are illustrated in television commercials with his sons. Pop star Rihanna graces the world’s largest fashion magazine covers and pages, highlighting beauty and talent. Nicki Minaj has achieved global success partnering with M.A.C. Cosmetics, Pepsi, adidas and OPI, among others. Each of these celebrity trendsetters has crossed over and proved their commercial value. They are all selling something to us, but are they selling greatness, fortitude or significance?
These celebrity ambassadors of African American descent might be projecting an “illusion” for those who crave their celebrity, leading them into denial about the true reality of African American progress. The illusions, at best, are examples of self-deception for a community with low high school graduation rates but basks in and celebrate accomplishments of those in music and sports.
The contrast between celebrating Facebook’s founder Mark Zuckerberg, a hip-hop generation billionaire who has created a social platform that we all utilize, and entertainment figures is that few in the urban community actually recognize the need to emulate Zuckerberg’s skills, or to develop an appreciation for science and the know-how to make money by being powerful, intellectually.
Take actor Denzel Washington, a box-office phenomenon. He sets an example as one of Hollywood’s leading men and illustrates his commitment to the African American community by educating his children at Historically Black Colleges and Universities like Morehouse College. To illustrate, Dr. Dré earned his early fortunes as a rapper and producer, and now the co-founder of N.W.A. has his name on premium headphones, Beats by Dré. Forbes reports that Dr. Dré earned $110 million by May 2012, largely in part to the sale of Beats by Dré. From high-end headphones and HD TVs to laptops, smartphones and tablets, the economic potential really illustrates there’s a place for us in the world of technology. Our career goals and aspirations should include engineer, sound engineer, graphic designers, IT specialist, computer programmer, app developer, Web developer, and so on.