Finally.

IMG_1163The perfect word to describe my final semester of college would be “finally.” In addition to finally earning my degree, I finally had my first graduation ceremony after earning my high school diploma, as well as my associate’s degree. I finally became a member of the international non-profit organization, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. And I finally had an answer to the most asked question after finishing school: “what’s next?”

In high school I suffered from traumatic brain injuries while being an athlete on the varsity cheerleading team. I had to be homeschooled the majority of my high school career. I barely graduated on time because of the poor organization of the school system’s home education program for students unable to attend their public school. During this time, my grades, mental health, and motivation suffered. By the grace of God, I was able to finish my school work a few weeks after graduation and begin community college that fall. After two years, I transferred to North Carolina Central University,  where I earned my Bachelor of Arts Degree in Mass Communication with a concentration in Public Relations last Saturday. Getting to this point was not easy, but I worked hard enough to join two honor society’s, earn a degree of distinction, become the salutatorian, and graduate first in the mass communication department, all while working two jobs. I excelled much higher than my own expectations. I was able to go through four and a half years of school without a single C. At Central, I only received two B’s, earning my summa cum laude, 3.93 cumulative and final college GPA. I made it to the finish line, and I made every course count.

IMG_5124On November 12th, I became a woman of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc, the first greek-lettered sorority created for African American women. Words can’t describe the emotions felt with the initial information released in September. The wait was finally over. After going through the process, I now have 32 sisters (co-initiates) and over 290,000 sorors around the world I can count on to be there for me whenever needed. I am able to participate in projects designed for the betterment of woman and girls and encourage others to be best leaders and scholars they are capable of being. I am blessed to be a member of this wonderful network of talented, educated, women and to carry on the legacy of my mother and the organization, and to do so alongside my younger sister who also was newly initiated this fall.

IMG_1164“What’s next?” is a question I have been asked countless times and I am more than happy to tell the inquirer I am employed full time at Duke University Press! Since May, working at DUP has been amazing. My colleagues have always been extremely welcoming, friendly, understanding, and encouraging. I couldn’t imagine a better workplace.

Bella Thorne Love Triangle

In December of 2016, Bella Thorne, Tyler Posey and Charlie Puth were caught hashing out their love triangle problems on Twitter. According to E News, Puth’s fans began questioning his relationship with Thorne after she posted a photo of her supposed ex, Tyler Posey, to her Twitter page. The photo was captioned “taking a trip down memory lane.” The next day Paper magazine released an interview with Thorne where she discussed Posey and their public relationship. After being bombarded with tweets from his fans, Puth then posted a stream of tweets expressing his stance on the situation. Puth started with “I can’t believe what I’m reading.” He said he did not know that they were together because she told him differently. His final tweet said he only wanted peace, so he was removing himself from the love triangle situation. After Thorne realized what had happened, she took to her own twitter to slam the claims of her cheating on the Teen Wolf star with Puth. “Ty and I have been broken up for like over two weeks and charlie and I ARENT DATING we are friends. That article was written forever ago.”

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Image including a photo of her and Posey via Thorne’s Twitter

The former Disney star’s Paper magazine interview and timing of the release played a major role in the Twitter dispute. Ironically enough, social media was heavily discussed in the interview. Most young stars have their public relations representatives handling their social media, but not Thorne. She stated social media is a major part of her life and if someone can’t understand that or does not understand social media itself, it could cause problems. She explained her willingness to share relationships and her life on social media because it’s her responsibility to control her image when the public is going to end up with the same images. When discussing how public her life is, she talked about her relationship with Posey:”For instance, dating Tyler [Posey], when we first started dating, paparazzi got a photo of us kissing outside and it sucked that people got that photo because we really didn’t want it out at that time. We were obviously dating and hanging out, but it just wasn’t necessary to put that in front of everyone’s face, you know? That one sucked.” Charlie Puth must understand her love for and candidness on social media as his Tweets were very blunt and open abut the situation he was facing with coming between Thorne and Posey. Puth explained his stance in six simple yet direct tweets. Thorne’s response, saying she and Posey had already broken up, held true with her interview answers.

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Bella Thorne and Charlie Puth via INSTARimages

Thorne, Puth and Posey are not the first stars to have all been involved with Disney and had a love triangle.  During Nick Jonas and Demi Lovato’s Carpool Karaoke on the Late Late Show hosted by James Cordon, Lovato was able to make Nick Jonas confess to his love triangle with Miley Cyrus and Selena Gomez. Paparazzi images of Jonas while he was back and forth between the two entertainers allowed the situation to become consumed by the public but a YouTube video, The Miley and Mandy Show!!!! Is my makeup to dark?, Cyrus and her best friend and back up dancer, Mandy Jiroux, were seemingly mocking a video made by Lovato and Gomez, all while they were still on Disney Channel. When the video was compared to the original video made by Lovato and Gomez, was compared to the spoof, many related the taunting to the love triangle created by Jonas. Hollywood Scoop captured a brief interview with Gomez where she is asked about the feud with Cyrus. She denies the feud but is immediately asked afterwards if she is dating a Jonas Brother. Cyrus did discuss the “non feud” with an interviewer where she apologized for the video she created mimicking Gomez’s. Other well known Disney love triangles to be noted are Hilary Duff, Aaron Carter and Lindsay Lohan, Demi Lovato, Joe Jonas and Chelsea Kane (Staub).

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Selena Gomez and Miley Cyrus on the set of Hannah Montana via FanPop

Though there have been many Disney love triangles throughout the years, the more time that passes, the more digital and public celebrities’ personal lives. This case is unique from the others mentioned because it did not last years like many of the other triangles. The use of photographs in online magazines and social media is to thank for this. Through the use of Twitter, Thorne was able to defend herself immediately after she saw the issue arise. The luxury of responding instantly is something stars and their public relations representatives previously did not have until more recent years. Media sites also did not have “receipts” of conversations until social media created these online documents. Previously the media had to rely on speculation, inside sources and direct statements made to them. Ultimately this situation is a he said, she said, and what he did not say as Tyler Posey never reacted to the drama online. Only Thorne and Posey know the whole truth including whether or not the pair were truly broken up.

Mental Health

According to the World Health Organization one in every four people will suffer from mental or neurological disorders. Because of this, mental health is currently very relevant in the media. Celebrities such as Demi Lovato and Demetrius Harmon are advocates for mental health and often speak about education and treatment for mental health. Lovato, who is now 23, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and spoke out about the relief she has had since she was diagnosed (Elle Magazine). “Getting the diagnosis kind of explained why I would act out,” she said. “So when I was diagnosed, I went back and told my manager and my parents and my closest friends. I was like, ‘Hey, so I’m bipolar …that‘s why….Four out of ten people with mental illness get help,” she says. “You have to wonder about the other six.” The level of care Lovato has received motivated her to become an advocate. Demi Lovato performed and spoke at the Democratic National Convention. Her speech highlighted mental illness in America. (USA Today). “Untreated mental illness can lead to devastating consequences including suicide, substance abuse and long-term medical issues,” she said. “We can do better. Every one of us can make a difference by getting educated on this epidemic and its frightening statistics and by breaking the stigma.” Mental illness is not something that should be taken lightly and Demi Lovato knows this and shares this with her fans and anyone that may need to hear what she has to say about mental health.

Harmon’s message in his video short titled “Be Happy” is that “A large misconception is that depression and happiness can’t coexist; depression lies dormant in all of us until something triggers it” (Affinity Magazine). It released on September 18th of this year. Harmon explained why he chose the title. “J. Cole has a song ‘Intro’ on Forest Hills Drive, and the night my aunt passed away I played that song over and over. He goes, ‘Do you wanna, do you wanna be…happy.’ When it came time for to name the short, I automatically knew to name it the one thing I wanted all those dealing with depression to know, that they can Be Happy.” The online short was provided to motivate anyone who may have been watching to do whatever it was necessary to be happy and to let them know that even if they were not happy in that moment that it dd not mean they couldn’t be happy ever again. With over 3,500 RTs and over 7,200 likes on twitter, the short was a powerful media tool to raise awareness for mental health.

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Harmon via Affinity Magazine

Red Nose Day

Red Nose Day, organized by Comic Relief, uses entertainment to raise money and awareness to help kids who live in poverty (Red Nose Day). They have raised over $1 billion dollars for kids around the world in the last 25 years. In 2013 One Direction visited Accra, Ghana headed to Accra, Ghana and visited a pediatric clinic that benefited from the charity (Daily Mail). The boys in the band released a cover song of “One Way or Another”. All of the proceeds from the song went to help those in the clinic suffering from severe sicknesses such as malaria. With over 3 million sales worldwide, Niall shared this message to than fans for the support of the band and the cause: “We just want to say thank you to our fans for their generosity. They never cease to amaze us. We’re so very proud of our involvement and knowing that this money will make a real difference is the best part of what we do. Please continue to support Comic Relief and do what you can for this incredibly important cause. Love Niall. X” (Comic Relief). In its first week, the single topped charts in 63 different countries. According to Daily Mail, £850k was raised for Red Nose Day through single sales when their story was written. They were able to raise a total of 2 million British pounds to help the children of Ghana.

A series of videos were released by the band to raise awareness. The Daily Mail described one of the videos in their story. “As Styles sat on the hospital bed next to Kofi he was overcome with emotion and burst into tears. Using his white T-shirt to cry into the floppy haired star was inconsolable. He also met and was rather taken with two month old Gwendoline who was suffering with pneumonia.Gwendoline’s mother Philomnia held her daughter in her arms while Harry affectionately played with the tiny baby.” The videos shared helped people realize how privileged they are. In one of the released videos, Zayn Malik, a now former member of the boy band, repeatedly said that it only costs 5 pounds to pay for a vaccination to save a child’s life from malaria (Comic Relief YouTube video). It was an emotional day for the number one boy band in the world and brought a lot of attention to the cause to their millions of fans. Combined the One Direction Red Nose Day YouTube videos had nearly 18 million views, a major impact for the organization.

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Justin Bieber and Sofia Richie. Photo credit: Justin Bieber via Instagram

Justin Bieber threatened to make his Instagram account private if his fans continued to post hateful comments about him and his girlfriend Sofia Richie (Daily Mail). The comments began after Bieber began posting several images of him and Richie in the backseat of a car (People).  A few days later his ex girlfriend, Selena Gomez got involved. She commented on his post “If you can’t handle the hate, then stop posting pictures of your girlfriend lol- It should be special between you two only. Don’t be mad at your fans. They love you and supported you before any one ever did” (Time). Bieber then responded It’s funny to see people that used me for attention and still try to point the finger this way. Sad. All love.” He later commented again “I’m not one for anyone receiving hate. Hope u can all be kind to my friends and eachother. And yes I love my beliebers.” actually deleted his Instagram account all together after making it private and public again all within a few minutes. The singer had 77.8 million followers. Gomez then posted a collage including pictures of her with her fans with the caption“My whole life. You matter most. Thank you letting me do what I love every day.” It did not directly mention Bieber but People wrote that the post “seemed to throw shade” at the singer.

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Selena Gomez’s comment on Justin Bieber’s Instagram via Buzzfeed
When Bieber threatened his fans, many beliebers took to twitter to make fun of the fact that the singer did not realize that the 77.8 million followers he had would still be following him and would still see everything he posted if he went private. One tweet by the user @niazartkid said “does justin bieber knows that even if he puts his Instagram on private theres still about 77million ppl following him who will see his posts” the tweet had 138 retweets and 178 likes. Another tweet by @girlhoodposts had 106 retweets and 229 likes. It said”#SelenaEndedJustinParty Justin does realize that he has 77.7m followers and going private isn’t going to get rid of those… dumbass smh”. The hashtag used in the tweet trended with over 1.17 million tweets (Pinkvilla). According to Time many tweets in the hashtag were Gomez’s fans suppporting her, some were Bieber’s fans happy that someone stood up for them, others tweeting were just living for the drama and the shade. After Bieber deleted his account, Gomez took to Snapchat, sharing to her story an image that read “What I said was selfish and pointless” (Us Weekly).

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A message from Selena Gomez via her Snapchat
This incident was not the first time Justin Bieber and Selena Gomez, AKA Jelena have hashed out their disagreements using social media and it certantly wasn’t the only drama Justin found himself in on the app. “Rumours have been a flying that Justin has been flirting with and dating Victoria’s Secret model Barbara Palvin, taking her to see The Lion King and getting close to her for pics; and now Selena has tweeted a picture of Justin that has ol’ Babs in the background,” shared Sugarscape in 2012. Lil Twist orriginally posted the picture and quickly deleted it. Gomez reposted the image with the caption “……” to Twitter (Hollywood Life). Instagram comments tend to get Bieber in Trouble. In January Bieber commented on Ariana Grande’s post saying she looked good. Grande then took to Twitter: “not today satan !!!!!! gtg finish this music & live my cute, drama free life !!” Another instance where Bieber got burned on Instagram was when he shared an image of Cindy Kimberly with the caption “Omg who is this!!” Apparently he didn’t notice the icon in the corner of the image signifying that she was tagged. Fans did and called him out on it in the comments saying “N*gga ifk why your 4th grade IQ equivalent ass brain didn’t think to look at the tag instead of sending us on a mission like we’re the next installment to blues clues” (Twitter).

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Justin Bieber, Lil Twist and Barbara Palvin via Selena Gomez on Twitter
When you have 77.8 million followers, sometimes when you’re sharing personal things with that many strangers, it can get out of hand. The absence of Instagram in Beieber’s life may enhance it by creating less drama. Of course, it would also be easier for the singer if people weren’t so outspoken behind a keyboard. Many of the things said the the singer online would not be said to his face. This is especially true with fans and people he does not know. If other people did not get involved with his relationship with Richie, he may still have Instagram and the fight between Bieber and Gomez on Instagram may not have happened. Though it is one less social media platform to use to promote his music, the internet can unfortunately distort the way phrases are meant to be said. Sometimes taking breaks from social media can help keep a person sane. Bieber is learning to be more vocal about what needs to be done for his own mental health.

Zayn Malik’s Anxiety Battle

Zayn Malik made his struggles with mental health known to fans in June when canceling a performance at London’s Captial Summertime Ball (E News). Malik released a statement on Twitter the day of the performance apologizing to fans who were waiting to see him and letting them know that his anxiety had been “haunting him for months.” Malik said he was experiencing the worst anxiety of his career. In September, after canceling his June performance, Malik then canceled an October performance that was supposed to take place at the Autism Rocks Arena located in Dubai. “With the unfortunate cancellation of this show 117Live will ensure that ticket holders will receive full refund from their respective point of sales,” 117Live assured their customers in a statement. A letter written from Malik to his fans, apologizing and updating his “Zquad” on his mental health progress was included on the webpage.

Zayn Malik at the amfAR Gala Photo credit: Getty/Kevin Tachman

 

The approach the former One Direction star’s representatives took was an honest one. In the statements that were released, fans were given the chance to understand what the singer was dealing with instead of guessing and assuming the reasons the shows were being canceled. The official statements were both signed by the singer. This tactic removed the middle man and gave Malik’s fans a chance to understand the extent of his anxiety. Malik directly opening up about his struggle provided fans with a truth they could accept more easily than the message it from a representative. The statement for the first cancellation was posted as an image to his Twitter account without a caption. “I know those who suffer anxiety will understand and I hope those who don’t can empathise with my situation,” Malik wrote. In the second statement, The progress Malik has made with his anxiety was highlighted. He then went on to say he did “not feel confident” continuing with the plans to perform in Dubai. Both statements were person and sincere.

Zayn Malik’s Twitter statement announcing the cancelation of his performance at London’s Capital Summertime Ball. Photo credit: Zayn Malik via Twitter

 

Malik’s anxiety situation is very similar to Justin Bieber’s. According to Us Weekly in March, Bieber canceled the remainder of his meet and greets because the meet and greet events had been causing the singer to feel “exhausted to the point of depression.” Bieber also broke the news on social media, using Instagram to share his struggles with his mental health (Hollywood Life). “Love you guys,” Bieber wrote. ” I’m going to be canceling my meet and greets. I enjoy meeting such incredible people but I end up feeling so drained and unhappy…” According to Celebuzz, in 2013, Bieber’s battle with depression was worse than what outsiders could see. Scooter Braun, who is Bieber’s manager, feared that if The singer continued to work and tour at that specific time, Bieber could have died. Both Malik and Bieber and putting their mental health over anything else while still caring and respecting their fans.

Justin Bieber’s meet and greet Instagram cancelation statement. Photo credit: Justin Bieber via his now deleted Instagram page

 

Going from a group with four other people to being a solo artist, Malik’s situation is an unfortunate situation to be in. His anxiety is taking a toll on his ability to perform alone but Hhe and his team took the right steps to keep a connection with fans while informing them of his anxiety predicament. When being dishonest the truth sometimes finds a way to expose itself anyway, so it’s commendable that the statements or letters to fans were honest about his personal situation. As Malik mentioned, the fans that have anxiety can relate and understand the anxiety struggles he is facing when it comes to major solo performances. The opennes of the statements also gives others the chance to empathize with what he has been dealing with as a newly solo artist.

One Baby, One Direction

In July of 2015 the media lit up with rumors of Louis Tomlinson of the boy band One Direction impregnating a new girl just two weeks after splitting with his former girlfriend of four years (Billboard). Briana Jungwirth, the now mother of Tomlinson’s child, is a Los Angeles hairstylist. “Louis is happy and very excited about becoming a dad and he thinks Briana will be an amazing mother. It was a surprise at first, but he and Briana are very, very close friends and this has brought them even closer,” a mutual friend of the pair told People. On the Fourth of July of 2015, the couple’s moms and stepdads met for the first time and were reportedly “excited and totally supportive,” the friend added. Freddie Reign Tomlinson was born on Jan. 21 in Thousand Oaks, California, making Louis Tomlinson the first member of One Direction to become a dad.

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Tomlinson and Jungwirth via Sky News

When news broke, Tomlinson’s reps had absolutely nothing to say to the media about the new baby. “Reached by Billboard, a rep for the band had no comment.” Us Weekly wrote “A spokesperson declined to comment on the news.” Sky News also did not receive a statement. “When contacted by Sky News, Tomlinson’s representatives said: ‘No comment, thank you.’” This approach kept everyone talking and wondering if the story was actually true or not while giving Tomlinson and the mother of his child privacy. Though they could have taken the situation and spun it to create an even larger story, his representatives took the high road and the more honorable one. They allowed Tomlinson to be a normal human, something he does not get to be often since he first appeared on X Factor in the United Kingdom in 2010. Tomlinson then only confirmed that he and Jungwirth were having a baby in a Good Morning America Interview Aug. 4 of 2015 (Mirror). When asked about the news he responded “Obviously it’s a really exciting time, so I’m buzzing, thank you.”

The news of Tomlinson’s baby came just a few short months after bandmate Zayn Malik decide to leave One Direction (Billboard). Though the bands representatives were very head on with their approach on the news, the silent approach representatives took when Tomlinson was in the hot seat was not uncommon. “A rep for One Direction had no comment on the split reports,” wrote E News when rumors of bandmate Harry Styles and Taylor Swift breaking up circulated. In some instances, their representatives may think it’s necessary to confirm personal facts to avoid other issues arising. When Tomlinson and long-term girlfriend Eleanor Calder split, his representatives confirmed the singer was in fact single when pictures surfaced of him kissing another girl: “And a representative for Louis confirmed to MailOnline that he has indeed parted ways from 22-year-old Eleanor, whom he had been in a relationship with for around four years.” The representatives don’t seem to make statements on personal situations unless necessary.

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Tomlinson, a groomsman, and former girlfriend Eleanor Calder, a bridesmaid in Tomlinson’s mother’s 2014 wedding. Photo credit: Seb/FlameFlynet.uk.com

When media sources began announcing that Tomlinson had impregnated Jungwirth, many fans did not believe that it was true until the singer confirmed it himself (Mirror). If his representatives confirmed it sooner, they could have avoided fan confusion but it would have taken away from allowing Tomlinson to make his own decisions about his private life. There wasn’t a particular need for damage control or for promotion. Of course, the representatives could have fed off of the current attention and kept Tomlinson in the spotlight, answering questions about his unborn love child and his friendship with the mother of his child, but instead they took the humane route. They allowed Tomlinson to answer on his own and did not exploit him or his at the time unborn child for attention for the band – a praiseworthy decision.

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The first public picture of Tomlinson and Freddie Reign Tomlinson. Via Louis Tomlinson’s Instagram