Celebrities often fake class solidarity, while living in a completely different reality. To see Chrissy Teigen and John Legend continuously pretend to understand the needs of lower-class Americans is beyond maddening, but not surprising.
By Priyanka Bansal
While many of us were curled up on the couch in fear on November 3rd, waiting for results to pour in for our local/state/federal elections, multi-millionaire class celebrities took comfort in their mansions.
Chrissy Teigen is famously known for her “relatable” character. She performs curated accessibility and openness on her Instagram stories, shares her silly moments with her millions of followers online, and is seemingly vulnerable and “real.”
On election night, she tweeted, “It’s insane what *our* fears are if we lose, compared to their fears if Biden wins. like we will prob all die or be handmaids and they’re worried about bathroom safety.”
But I beg the question, what does Teigen mean when she says “we”?
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Teigen lives in a $17 million house, is provided top-notch, at-home health care and has personal help serving her every need. She is definitely not one who will die at the hands of or become a handmaid to the upper class. She is the upper class.
The harm celebrities do by pretending they are in the same category as “us” is tremendous. By ignoring her class privileges and insisting to her fans that she is one of “us,” Teigen further progresses a capitalistic agenda. She neutralizes the idea of class to her audience and distracts from the fact that she owns a $17 million house while half a million people in this country remain homeless and millions more are on the brink of losing housing during a deadly pandemic.
She pushes the very simplistic, liberal, and binarist idea that everyone who is not a Republican is a good guy and everything could somehow have been drastically reversed by this past presidential election. The reality is the election did not in any way change her material, wealthy-laden reality—nothing electoral would, for that matter.
During a pandemic in which so many are suffering in ways that someone with the wealth of Teigen could never fathom, during an election year that will impact lower-class Black and Indigenous people the most, Teigen’s “relatability” is a form of class-erasure. And this isn’t the first time she’s done this.
In November, she posted a photo on Instagram captioned, “someone interviewed randomly in a crowd today said they wanted joe to win just so they could go back to posting thirst traps on Instagram in peace. I respect this person very much.”
Teigen reminds us time and time again that wealthy celebrities don’t have the basic understanding of the consequences (or lack thereof) of major elections for most of America, no matter how relatable they might try to come across as. To her and other celebrities, it was a minor political inconvenience that they watched unfold from the outside. The election was merely something that was getting in the way of them living their regular lives.
Nonetheless, Teigen has been idolized by many because of her very “real” online presence. And so has her husband, John Legend. So the internet world came to a standstill when Legend and Mark Cuban, two extremely wealthy men, publicly disagreed upon the importance of mutual aid. After all the work that Legend and Teigen do as a family to come across as empathetic to human rights struggles, it was surprising to see that Legend was actually the one arguing against direct action.
When Cuban tweeted an ask for people to donate to foodbanks and organizations providing direct help to those in need, saying, “Lets put Americans in need above Politics,” Legend replied with, “Government needs to do this. Charity isn’t sufficient.”
To sway his almost 14 million followers away from donating to charities that need immediate relief is irresponsible on Legend’s part. Billionaire-backed establishment politicians do not need more funding over those in need of housing and food. Unfortunately, politicians aren’t with the people. And neither are wealthy celebrities.
Direct action is important. The endgame of electoral politics should not be to get back to posting thirst traps on Instagram, nor is it to wait on politicians to fix issues that direct giving and mutual aid could address immediately. Teigen and Legend’s hypocritical class erasure often goes unseen under their constant masquerading as the most relatable American celebrity couple. To see Teigen and Legend continuously pretend to understand the needs of lower-class Americans is beyond maddening, but not surprising.
Celebrities often fake class solidarity, while living in a completely different reality (see also Cardi B, who recently showed an extreme lack of compassion when dealing with the reputation of her wealth online, despite being one of the most “relatable” rappers). We have to stop idolizing celebrity culture. Their acts of charity and empathy are often performative. Don’t let them fool you—they are not your friends.
Priyanka Bansal is a South Asian American journalist, working to learn and write more about mental health, climate change, and anti-capitalism. Her work has been published on NBC, The Juggernaut, The New Twenties, and more. She can be found on Twitter at @priyanka_65.
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