Fame is a two-edged sword. When it is well managed, it is a door that opens to limitless opportunities and makes dreams come true. When it comes suddenly and unprepared for, it can be a trap that compels people to lose their personality.
Indeed, the case of Olajumoke Orisaguna, former bread seller turned model, is interesting. Last weekend, Olajumoke revealed she is walking out of her 9-year-old marriage which had produced two children.
A grass to grace story and a love gone sour
Olajumoke got married to her husband, Sunday in 2010. Both partners lived together in Ire, Osun state and are from humble backgrounds. She later came to Lagos with one of her children and started hawking bread on the street to make ends meet.
Olajumoke found fame while hawking bread in February 2016, when she unknowingly walked into a photo shoot session of British rapper, Tinie Tempah, by Nigerian photographer, TY Bello, for ThisDay magazine. TY Bello, while making edits, found an image of Olajumoke and Tinie Tempah amongst the photos. The iconic photographer found the Cinderella and brought her into the limelight. Jumoke’s fortune changed instantly.
She had several photoshoots and started appearing on the covers of magazines. She was enlisted into a modelling agency with the help of TY Bello and started making money from modelling for brands. Her husband joined her in Lagos with the other child. She was enrolled into a finishing school to obtain finesse and her two children were given scholarships.
The union has become increasingly tumultuous since the 30-year-old lady became a celebrity. Initially, things appeared rosy between them as Olajumoke regularly appeared with her husband in public functions during the early days of her fame. She also wouldn’t stop talking about him and how close they are during interviews.
The problems in the relationship escalated this year, and it became apparent that the marriage was ending for a crash.
In February this year, Olajumoke responded to allegations by her husband that she had been rude and disrespectful to him. When asked if Sunday was displeased because she no longer gives him money, Olajumoke said, “Now, you understand what I have been saying. I do not need to break it down beyond that; you already know what I mean. I will not say anything bad about him. I have handed him to God.”
However, her major frustration is summed up in one statement she gave to the media: “Can you imagine a man not working for two years and being fed by a woman?”
It is simple; her level has been elevated significantly, relative to her husband’s. They are no more on the same level and she suddenly finds it difficult to relate with him because they now have separate experiences.
We must not rush to judge Olajumoke, neither should we waive off the enormity of what had happened to her. It is likely that she is currently not happy with the choices she has had to make with her new found status and is suddenly confused and frustrated that she can no more be her innocent self while everybody tells her what to do.
Sudden Wealth Syndrome
Sudden fame and wealth sometimes change people in ways that are unimaginable, even to the person concerned.
There is a certain malady associated with the stress, guilt, social isolation and confusion that often accompanies a giant leap in fortune. American psychologist Stephen Goldbart called it the Sudden Wealth Syndrome. It has happened to many people including lottery winners, new football signings, newly discovered actors, etc.
It happened to late Nigerian rapper, Oladapo Olaitan Olaonipekun, known as Da Grin, and may have ultimately contributed to his untimely death.
It happened to Sophie Turner, the actress who played the role of Sansa Stark in the world’s biggest TV show; Game of Thrones. Turner became a member of the cast 9 years ago when she was 14 years old. She is 23 now and wealthy beyond her wildest dream. She recently opened up about how fame had affected her, especially with negative comments about her on social media.
“I used to think about suicide a lot when I was younger. I don’t know why though,” she said
Coping with sudden wealth and fame
Experts describe four different stages in the lifecycle of sudden wealth. The first stage is the honeymoon, in which you are still basking in the euphoria of your new found wealth. The second stage is wealth acceptance, in which you start to come into the reality of your new status and notice some of the responsibilities it has placed on you. The third stage, identity consolidation is when you successfully resist the urge to lose your identity under the pressure of new realities brought about by your new status. The last stage is stewardship, when you have learnt to be responsible with your wealth and think about it in terms of something to use for a higher purpose.
Usually, the transition from Wealth Acceptance to Identity Consolidation is where the problem occurs as there is tendency for a loss of identity, which creates confusion for the victim.
Alice Robb of New republic magazine describes it thus:
“From an initial desire to become successful, the celebrity experiences personal confusion and a loss of ownership of life in a depersonalizing ‘entitization’ process, in which participants reported feeling like a thing rather than a person of unique character,”
Licensed professional counsellor, Trudi Griffin recommends a series of steps for those dealing with sudden fame. She advised newly-made celebrities to reflect carefully on the nature of their fame and understand that it will come with some changes. People who have found fame should also keep up the healthy habits of their daily lives and not allow their wealth and fame to change their schedule of those activities.
Moreover, the counsellor advises newly famous people to learn not to take judgment and criticism personally and keep a tight inner circle of friends they love and trust. Another practice that helps people to deal with fame is sticking close to the art that got them famous initially, because fame may start to look like a destination rather than a journey. Lastly, famous people should hold their ego in check and limit their expectations of other people because people may disappoint.
Nigeria may be different from the Western world, but the sudden wealth/fame syndrome affects people in both societies. However, the phenomenon is usually not widely acknowledged here, and many people don’t seek help until it is too late.
According to a foremost Nigerian psychologist, the extent to which people are able to cope with sudden wealth or fame depends on the age, personality, extent of religiosity, and social support available to the person.
“The age at which success is attained is sometimes a critical factor because maturity comes to play in handling fame. Also, the personality of the individual, even before becoming famous, is very important. People who are normally impetuous are more likely to yield to impulses when they have resources at their disposal.”
The expert psychologist describes religion and the social support that comes from a closely-knit family as critical factors in managing the pressure that comes from fame.
It is pertinent to give Kudos to TY Bello for discovering Olajumoke and lifting her into prominence in a true Grass to Grace fashion. However, the side effect of this Cinderella story is a failed relationship, which could have blossomed if the situation had been managed effectively. Olajumoke’s story shows that the Sudden Wealth Syndrome does not only affect the victim, but can also devour those they truly love. �<