Recently, R&B singer Summer Walker claimed that she had social anxiety in attempt to explain her lackluster performances.
I would not say I am a fan of her music, as I have only heard a few songs, but I am also not against her. She is very talented and worthy of her fame. When she said she had anxiety while performing in front of people, it was not a surprise to hear because many artists do. Her first performance on NPR’s “Tiny Desk Concerts” was not enough for me to say she was unfit to be an artist, but as time went on and she performed more, I started to think about a few things.
Being a celebrity is a job. At a job, there are duties and guidelines to follow in order to keep the image of the company in good standing. I would hate to say that Summer Walker is allegedly “faking” anxiety because it is a feeling that many people have, and many celebrities come forth about it. My issue is that she tends to be shy or timid during almost all her performances and that no one on her management team seems to be helping her try to get over it and become a better performer. Some may feel that coaching her is not their job, but let’s look back on a similar artist from the past.
Aaliyah was a young R&B artist in the late ‘90s and early 2000s, who also came forth about her anxiety while performing in front of audiences. She found a way to get over it by wearing sunglasses when she performed on or off camera. If you watch her interviews and music videos from the start of her career up until her passing, you see that she eventually got rid of the glasses and her confidence heightened. It may be wrong to compare the two, as they are different individuals who may process things differently, but it is merely an example.
At this point, I feel she is taking advantage of her fans emotions because they are the only people backing her up against said “bullies” on the internet who doubt her mental state. The arguments are that she does not have to prove anything to anyone and that she is not obligated to explain herself, but come on. As an artist, that is literally one of your biggest obligations if you choose to stay in the limelight. Besides that, she apparently never wanted to be famous and at the point in her career where she is, she has enough money to step down and still be a low-key artist. However, because she has not done that, has not shown how she copes with anxiety or even tried to sympathize with others in the same predicament, I believe she is using the pity of fans to keep a base.
She recently took to social media to address how she has been treated after telling the world she fears performing. “I just want to let y’all know… this is how people commit suicide. When people tell you what’s literally going on with them and then people still continue to bully them,” she said.
I found that very disrespectful and almost sarcastic because it’s a used excuse- yes it is an excuse- and there are people who have actual mental issues that should be taken seriously but instead of using her platform to address it, she used it to cover her back as to why she walked off stage at one of her performances.
Since she has many college-aged fans, she could work in many ways by teaching and helping people her age understand anxiety and what it means in the professional world. I understand it may not be her duty, but she could be someone people look up to as a role model. There are better and more professional ways to address mental issues in the music industry or just life in general and calling people out and blaming them for increased suicide rates was not the right move.
As for Sam Houston State University students, if you feel you may suffer from social anxiety or anything similar, there is an on-campus counseling center with walk-in hours in the Student Health and Counseling Center. All on-campus students have free access to this service and it is accessible five days a week Monday through Friday. If you feel that you may have any issues, even in the slightest way, please do not be afraid to talk to someone about it. Your mental state is serious and should be taken in such a manner.