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Celebrities and Public Figures Abuse Privilege During Pandemic

Despite advocating for others to adhere by safety and social distancing guidelines, many public figures have ignored their own advice.


It appears as though a celebrity can simply ditch their worries about the pandemic once someone’s birthday or Halloween happens rolls around. Despite urging their followers to maintain social distancing and adhere to COVID-19 safety guidelines, well-known personalities on social media flaunt their ability to choose how and when they decide to practice what they preach.

Gavin Newsom, governor of California, chose to ignore the safety guidelines he set in place during a rise in COVID-19 cases. In early November, Newsom and a group of 12 friends congregated for a birthday celebration at the expensive French Laundry restaurant near Napa. After news got out about the governor’s indulgence, Newsom released a statement claiming that the dinner was held safely, as it was outdoors and everyone “followed the restaurant’s health protocols.” However, pictures of the event taken by an onlooker reveal the gathering in a much different light. Dining considerably less than six feet apart around a circular table, the group was seated under an ambient light fixture that illuminated three visible walls and a ceiling that surrounded the party. The photos call into question Newsom’s statement that the party transpired outdoors.

Newsom was not alone in his defiance, as Mayor of San Francisco London Breed joined his side in abandoning the guidelines. The very day after Newsom’s spree, Breed decided to attend a birthday party with seven others at the same location. SF Chronicle writer, Soleil Ho, adequately put into words the frustrations provoked by the event in a sarcastic article: “Your friend only turns 60 once, which, unlike the holidays or funerals, is an occasion worth mixing households over.” With the holidays in full swing, Soleil Ho sardonically emphasizes the hypocrisy of the privileged elite while most of us yearn to visit and gather with our families. Yelp’s quick act to disable commentary on the French Laundry’s page illustrates how kindly the rest of the public took to hearing of the outings hosted by the restaurant.

Both Newsom and Breed expressed their regret for having behaved irresponsibly in the midst of a pandemic while simultaneously enforcing their decisions to shut down California due to an influx of COVID-19, a move that began on December 6. The lack of leadership and accountability that these two authorities have displayed is a gross reminder of the social divides that allow such recklessness to take place. While these leaders enforce limits on civilians’ lives, somehow they can deem sensibility in their own assemblies.

On the other side of the famous realm, Kim Kardashian doesn’t disappoint when it comes to showing the public exactly what not to encourage during a swell of COVID-19 deaths and quarantining. Toward the end of October, the reality TV star tweeted pictures of her brilliant 40th birthday party that took place on a private island. One tweet explains how she and her “inner circle” spent two weeks getting multiple health screenings for her to eventually surprise them “with a trip to a private island where [they] could pretend things were normal just for a brief moment in time.” In the photos, party-goers hug each other without face coverings and people chase each other on the beach.

Kardashian’s doting description of having danced, ridden bikes, swum near whales, kayaked, watched a movie on a beach, and “so much more” only adds to the utter disbelief of how out of touch celebrities can be. More photographs are captioned with, “40 and feeling so humbled and blessed … I realize that for most people, this is something that is so far out of reach right now, so in moments like these, I am humbly reminded of how privileged my life is.” While accusing Kardashian of failing in attempts to sound relatable with her overuse of the word “humble,” many viewers shake their heads at both her need to publicize how she has exercised her privilege and degraded people who are not as free to ignore reality.

Disappointingly, far more celebrities have abandoned the initial feeling of importance in demonstrating a fair model to the public about health and safety practices. An unusual amount of wealth and resources do not give anyone the right to have a party out in the town while other people who wish to do the same cannot. Defensive comments about meaning no harm and having followed health protocols are aside from the point. Famous personalities set the groundwork for how the rest of society will act, a liability that comes with fame. Instead of disregarding current circumstances and the majority who find themselves under them, celebrities must set a responsible example for handling this newfound situation. Any exhibition of their privilege otherwise is a stark dismissal of their supporters.