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Celebs aren't role models



Everyone, please repeat after me: "Celebrities are not role models."

Take a deep breath and say it again: "Celebrities are not role models."

What does that mean for you exactly? It means you're going to have to be the role model for your child that you seek in so-called stars.

I cannot believe that David Letterman's scandalous ways are still at the top of the news cycle after two weeks. The man, who was victimized by being blackmailed about his sexual liaisons with staff members, has been lambasted over screwing his employees while he dated his current wife, (whom he also met at work, but before he married her, allegedly). Folks have completely forgotten that the boyfriend of an ex-girlfriend (say that really fast) was trying to extort $2 million from him. I guess that's not seedy enough.

Now the media has latched onto the "himbo" angle, interviewing every sex partner/staffer that he bedded over the last 20 years in a quest to find out who the "real" David Letterman is? My question is ... who cares?

He's a celebrity and his public persona is crafted. Have we not learned from the many pastors, politicians, entertainers and athletes that very often what is shown to us in public is in complete opposition to what is really happening in their private lives?

Letterman took former President Clinton to task for his affair with Monica Lewinsky, and cracked side-bending jokes about Sen. John Edwards' infidelity and alleged "love child," while he was knocking boots with young female staffers in a "special room" on the set.

Why are we surprised? Many people date at work, even when there are anti-fraternizing policies. We all know that guy or girl who got around the office for more than just professional performance. Bosses sleep with their subordinates all of the time. It's a dumb move to make because it puts said supervisor in a vulnerable position, sort of like what Letterman is experiencing, but it happens all of the time. It doesn't make it right, but it is what it is.

I don't know why folks think that Letterman is above that behavior. We don't know who he is as a person and in my mind, he seems like just the guy who would have to leverage his power at work in order to get laid. We all know this dude -- the guy who has to get rich or drive a fancy car or become famous to get a girl because he's average in looks, intelligence and personality. Not to diss, but it is David Letterman, not Brad Pitt (who by the way, meets his women on film sets, too).

At any rate, I don't understand why people are still pretending to be surprised when celebrities get caught with their pants down. It is standard fare and not worth hogging the news cycle when we're at war, unemployment is still going up and the economy is still in the toilet.

Celebrities are not infallible. They make poor choices and bad decisions just like the rest of us. People are saying that they're disappointed and surprised at Letterman because he seems smarter than that and they looked up to him. My question is: "Why?" Just who in the hell is David Letterman, whom I watch every night by the way, such that we should measure anything by his behavior?

People need to be paying attention to their own behavior. We keep looking outward to celebrities to uphold values and virtues that we don't even acknowledge or practice at home. "I'm going to go out here and act like a damned fool, but hopefully my children will learn how to act by watching a celebrity he or she will probably never meet." What kind of sense does that make?

Just like Letterman learned how to treat women and himself in relation to women at home, so do your children. What you do at home, the expectations you set and the way that you behave spiritually, romantically, professionally and privately, has a much greater impact on your children than some celebrity. If it doesn't, you're not doing your job as a parent.

This obsession with perfection and the expectation that celebrities should behave better than the rest of us must cease. They are no better than you, and as Oprah Winfrey would say, what I know for sure is that you can only really count on yourself. Hell, sometimes you can't count on your relatives, so why are you trying to count on a celebrity to do the job that you should be doing -- behaving with some type of decorum and respect for women and the workplace. Do you?

I'm not trying to dismiss all celebrities -- many of them do wonderful things for the community and treat themselves and others with kindness and respect. I'm simply saying that, like Letterman, they don't always make good decisions. We have been let down by so many celebrities that I don't understand why the public continues to insist on their perfection.

So, don't get mad the next time that you hear Jay-Z or Colin Farrell say that they're not role models. Believe it because it's true. If you're looking for a role model, you need only look in the mirror. If you don't like what you see, do something about it -- but don't keep looking outward when looking inward is where we all need to be searching.

Nsenga K. Burton, Ph.D. is managing editor of She is an assistant professor of Communication and Media Studies at Goucher College and writes the blog Tune N (, which examines popular culture through the lens of race, class, gender and sexuality.

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