For some of us, it’s more like “New minute, new me!”
It’s a silly concept that so many of us stay enamored with. We think that the changing color of a leaf means that it is time for us to change as well. Is this out of insecurity, or are we just trying to remain relevant?
Do you stay on top of your public image? Or do you go by an “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” kind of philosophy, making your persona as timeless as the t-shirt?
This Sunday’s Precollege class at FIT was centered around the concept of branding. What is a brand? Why do companies work so hard to establish a certain image or reputation through billions of dollars in marketing and promotion? Why do even the youngest of children know that the Nike swoosh means the person wearing it is “cool”? We watched a documentary on such “superbrands” and had an enriching class discussion to explore these questions.
The concept of the “brand” is a very controversial one. Many people are wary of the near monopoly certain brands seem to have on the market, at the expense of smaller businesses. Even more people worry about the literal brainwashing aspect of the phenomenon.
It’s not just in fashion, or even in food and other highly marketed, factory-produced products.
Since the rise of social media, branding has taken on a new meaning. Because we now have more direct control over our image than ever, everyone is obsessed with their aesthetic, persona, and vibe. Such attributes, which were once exclusively found in the moment, in interpersonal interactions, are now highly calculated. People realize that they will not be given a chance with anyone if their social media page does not line up with the person who they want to be, or who they think they are. It’s a very interesting growing phenomenon that is unique to Generation Z.
We can see this especially in celebrities, the best example being the Kardashians. They built an empire out of nothing but decent genetics and being in the right places at the right times. They then used branding tactics to expand their images onto TV shows, ad campaigns, clothing lines, makeup lines, and more. Everyone wants in on their gold touch, which is why so many people buy their products and “keep up” with them. I consider them to be superbrand superstars. They know how to play the game and win. Even the newest addition to the clan has been named Dream Kardashian; straight out the womb, brand already on point.
Love them or hate them, you know them. They have been drilled into your mind whether you want them there or not. You can probably name each of them, list their age orders, and reference some memes about them without so much as an “um.” Some people are resentful of this factor. This “forced” factor, in which people feel as though their subconscious is being invaded, has oftentimes turned public pedestals into social stakes.
Think of that person who’s more popular than you, or who simply gets more attention than you. You get jealous, right? It’s human nature. If an additional factor comes into the scenario in which you feel they are undeserving of such recognition, you have a recipe for pure resentment. Have you ever known a person that you have come to hate, even though they’ve never technically done anything bad to you personally? It was likely due to this “forced” factor. You were expected to be obsessed with them, and you weren’t, and it burned you inside. It is the same thing with celebrities. The only difference is that they are on a much larger public platform, so it is more socially common (if not acceptable) for people to voice their discontent.
As an aspiring artist, I’ve inevitably dealt with my fair share of criticism, particularly regarding the way I brand myself to the general public. After all, art is controversy. And the way I’ve developed my character? It’s art! My public relations technique took years of training through observation of everyone (taking the good and leaving the bad from each person) and researching others who I wanted to embody. Maybe it’s because I’m an actor, and being a chameleon of sorts is only natural to me. I don’t know. Nonetheless, in order for any craft to have meaning to anyone, it must first spark some strong reaction in someone.
Due to my acting career, I’ve had to grow especially thick skin in very short amounts of time. Whether it’s criticism of my weight (which I’ve since lost, and which is an example of applying constructive criticism), or someone not “getting” my jokes, or even a risqué costume that was beyond my control but necessary for the character, you can’t please everyone. I try to live by the mantra “Don’t try to win over your haters, focus your energy into impressing those who already love you.”
In a further effort to avoid wasting my time with the naysayers, I am learning to separate art from self.
For example, if someone criticizes a performance or an article I’ve written, or even just the way I carry myself and my personality (which took years of artisanal craftsmanship to develop), I accept their statement and move on with my life.
This was a hard balance to achieve, considering I take everything I do very seriously. There were times when I’d just sit and sulk over it. I even rejected the idea of this balance at first, since my entire brand was built initially out of more of a “Be yourself, and if people don’t like it, change” sort of philosophy. (I don’t debunk this statement completely, as it was necessary for me in a different way at an earlier time).
Then I realized my own worth. I began focusing more on myself in a way that actually wasn’t selfish; I started viewing my output as a more spiritual kind of thing. God (or your spirit guide, or your parents, or whatever you do or don’t believe in) gave me these gifts, and I have no right to throw them away. In a way, I’m more humble now. This balance was so necessary to achieve in order to keep moving and inspiring others through warmth. Because you can only be warm toward others when you are well-adjusted in yourself.
You cannot stop for people who ultimately don’t actually care and are just speaking to fill up time and distract from their own lack of hustling. In the wise words of Alyssa Edwards, “Don’t get bitter, just get better.”
It’s okay if they don’t know why you do what you do. As long as you are secure and truthful in your own intentions, you can do no wrong. Never. Your conscience will be clear and so will your skin.
You don’t need to be controversial for your art to have meaning. As a matter of fact, the shock value approach is often the worst from an artistic standpoint, as it encourages extreme vapidity and lack of purpose (often from the perspective of a maladjusted artist). The real key here that separates the good shock value-ers (known as artists) from the bad (known as capitalists, exhibitionists, exploiters, etc) is the intention of the artist. This creates even greater controversy, because how are we to know this? Still, for better or worse, if your art is controversial, it guarantees some sort of meaning. Even if the people are talking poorly of your work, they’re talking. And conversation is the key to progression. Even if you took the easy way out through shock value, as an artist, you did something.
You did something.
Are you conscious of your own brand? Are you aware of others’ opinions of your brand? Should you even be aware? Do you really even care?