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Celebrity Culture and COVID-19

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Label Editor Izzie Naish details the celebrity drama in Dubai, giving us her thoughts on the rule-breaking influencers who seem to be Instagramming their way through the pandemic.

With the UK in a winter lockdown, the reality of most British people’s lives right now is one that is lonely, difficult, and cold, with a daily walk providing our only sense of normality. The Internet is another of our only escapes, yet the life currently being lived by celebrities and influencers in hot, sunny, seemingly COVID-free Dubai feels worlds away from what we’re experiencing at home.

With influencers posting most of their life online, it is clear to see which are following the rules laid out by their respective governments and which aren’t. For example, many American influencers such as YouTube stars James Charles and Tana Mongeau have been attending parties and mass gatherings against the guidelines, and other celebrities like singer Dua Lipa and actor Timothée Chalamet have been called out for travelling overseas during the pandemic. Several have even attempted to hide their rule-breaking, with Kendall Jenner’s 25th birthday party in October having a ‘No Social Media’ rule and TikTok stars Charli and Dixie D’Amelio uploading old drafts while on a recent holiday to the Bahamas. Most of these celebrities stressed the importance of staying home back in March, yet aren’t now following their own advice.

However, the issue of celebrities resisting COVID restrictions is not just one that is exclusive to the USA. Over the last couple of months, many British influencers and celebrities have jetted off to Dubai or the Maldives to escape at first Tier 4, but now a full national lockdown. It appears the majority of the British reality TV scene is currently on holiday in Dubai, including most of the Love Island cast. Most have claimed that they are abroad for work, however, the nature of both their content and their occupations goes against their claims. Many have flown out during times when international travel has been illegal, leading the public to question the ethics of their decisions and how their holidays have even been allowed.

These influencers have faced a lot of backlash online from those who believe their actions to be irresponsible and wrong considering the current state of the UK’s epidemic. Most of the influencers have lost a large number of their followings, with Too Hot to Handle’s Chloe Veitch and Love Island’s Amber Gill losing around 25k of their following during the last month. Many have also taken to social media platforms such as Twitter and TikTok to call out those who have travelled. Influencers who have remained at home during this lockdown have even called out the behaviour of others; for example, Love Island season three’s Olivia Attwood called out those such as Laura Anderson and Georgia Harrison who claim they in Dubai ‘working’ by explaining ‘There’s a difference between being able to earn money from wherever you are and being on holiday for work. Whenever I go on holiday, I will post content which I can monetise, but I’m still on holiday’.

However, not every influencer can be put into this category, with some using their platforms for positive reasons. One such celebrity is Stacey Solomon, whose sharing of her daily lockdown life with her family, mainly filled with crafts and organising, has served as a reminder of how life is not currently what influencers on holiday are portraying it to be. Love Island stars Rachel Fenton and Anna Vakili have also stayed at home to work as an orthopaedic nurse and a pharmacist respectively. Dr Alex George from Love Island’s season four has been especially vocal about staying home during the pandemic while working as a doctor on the frontline. Following the tragic death of his 19-year-old brother Llyr in July, he has used his platform to advocate for mental health awareness and the importance of looking after your wellbeing in lockdown. His positive content and important messages couldn’t be more different from that of those out in Dubai.

Of course, no one deserves online insults or even death threats. However, with mental health becoming an increasingly large problem, influencers should understand their privilege in being able to escape the situation at home and be more mindful of the content they are putting out for those of us abiding by the guidelines at home to see. With many of these influencers having a following reaching the hundreds of thousands or even millions, every post they put out showing them flouting the rules teaches those who follow them that it is okay to bend the rules – a counterproductive approach to fighting the virus. What most of us need right now is not adverts for bikinis or photos of made-up influencers at beach clubs, but reminders of positivity and solidarity, that by being selfless and caring about others is how we’ll get through this quicker. Content of influencers in Dubai ‘living their best lives’ is only giving us more material for comparison, unlike content posted by those such as Dr Alex who remind us that we’re all in this together. The power of influencers to influence is undeniable, the clue is even in their name, so they must choose whether they want their effect to be positive or negative, especially in these times.

 

Header designed by Christos Alamaniotis

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Label Features Editor 2020-21

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