It was Selena Gomez’s first public appearance since her career hiatus. She looked absolutely beautiful. Standing in the centre of the stage at the American Music Awards, it felt like Gomez was the essence of radiance.
For this was a woman who had triumphed against the odds, the media and herself. This was a woman who had battled her demons and come out the other side.
“I had to stop because I had everything and I was absolutely broken inside,” she said in her acceptance speech, her words filling the attentive silence, before imploring the many viewers afflicted by mental illness:
“If you are broken, you do not have to stay broken.”
On another stage, just days prior, Kanye West was making a speech.
“I am putting my career, my life, my public well-standing at risk when I talk to y’all like this,” he yelled to his confused audience from a suspended stage. “It’s a new world, Jay Z. Hey don’t send killers at my head, bro.”
Standing at the edge of a fading spotlight, he held the microphone to his lips and looked out into the distance. “Right now, press get ready to write your passive-aggressive, Lebron James, racist comments… get ready to have a field day press… because the show’s over,” he concluded.
And that was it. Those were the last words to be spoken on West’s ‘Saint Pablo’ tour. Immediately after, Snoop Dogg posted a video calling the rapper ‘crazy’. Kanye’s Instagram was flooded with thousands upon thousands of hateful comments and amid a rant about Beyonce and Donald Trump #KanyeIsOverParty began trending on Twitter.
It seemed like everyone was out to get him. However, what seemed to many as just another ‘crazy’ stunt became deadly serious when on 21 November, West was hospitalised for psychiatric evaluation.
Being checked into the UCLA medical centre under a false name, West was listed as suffering from temporary psychosis brought on by lack of sleep and dehydration. As of the today, he is still yet to be released. Several celebrities have tweeted their support, but the response from the general public has been largely one of taunts and insensitivity.
Now, I understand how it can be easy to make fun of Kanye. This is a man who, after all, has a track record for acting out indecently. When he took over the stage to interrupt Taylor Swift’s speech at the 2009 VMAs, even President Barack Obama called him a ‘jackass’. His entire life is lived through tabloid headlines. However, amidst all of this noise, it is easy to forget that underneath the ego and the designer clothes, there is a human being.
A quick read over the symptoms of psychosis is nothing short of chilling. When someone experiences it, their brain function has been disrupted to the point that they are no longer able to distinguish what is real.
Hallucinations, delusions and paranoia are all part of the condition. Now imagine facing those symptoms in the public eye, where you know even the most minor slip-up will be scrutinised for the world to see.
Imagine having people who you’ve never met commenting on your character, making judgments on a situation they’ll never fully understand. Add to that, your wife has recently been held at gunpoint, which disturbingly became an international punchline.
West has been through a lot more than what most of us can ever understand. He has experienced massive success, but with that comes exposure many of us would not be able to handle. Any normal person would struggle with the experiences Kanye has been through. Let’s not make light of a man who is clearly struggling with a mental illness.
After all, we have experienced this story before. Think of Selena. Months earlier, the young singer cancelled the remainder of her ‘Revival’ tour to seek help for her anxiety and depression. She wasn’t expected to make an appearance at the AMAs, but when she did, she was received with open arms. She had triumphed.
One can only hope that, whenever he is ready, Kanye will be able to return to the public eye not as a man who formerly ‘flew off the rails’, but as somebody who is just human.