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The curious case of Fantasia Barrino

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It's old news by now that, a little more than two weeks ago, former American Idol winner, R&B singer and Charlotte resident Fantasia Barrino allegedly tried to commit suicide. It was reported that she took an overdose of aspirin and sleep medication in an effort to escape the media scrutiny related to her role in an alleged affair with Antwaun Cook, a married T-Mobile salesperson. Cook's wife Paula filed for divorce, naming his affair with Barrino as a factor and alleging that the two had made multiple sex tapes. Barrino maintains that there are no sex tapes and that Cook was separated, so she did nothing wrong.

Since the report, news outlets across the global have lambasted Barrino; and there's rampant speculation about whether the overdose attempt was real and most recently that she's getting married to Cook. Uh, huh. I find it interesting that Barrino is getting raked over the coals in the media and taken to task for her dealings with a married man — as some would argue that she should be — while other celebrities have escaped such scrutiny.

R&B singer/musician Alicia Keys recently wed hip-hop super producer Swizz Beatz (a man whom she "dated" while he was married), got engaged and pregnant — all before he was divorced. She actually married her formerly married lover just weeks after his divorce was finalized. Keys' alleged affair has been rewritten as a fairy tale in the mainstream media, while Barrino has been painted as a homewrecker by the very same media. Clearly Keys has a better publicist — in fact, it doesn't seem like Barrino has one at all (and certainly not a good one if she does). The mainstream national media seems quite comfortable painting the scarlet letter "A" on Barrino's forehead while looking the other way at the gall and actions of America's favorite "superwoman."

I recently wrote about the hypocrisy of how mainstream media covered the Barrino and Keys "affairs," which I attributed to a number of factors, including professional standing in the industry, standards of beauty and regionalism. Keys, valedictorian of her high school and Columbia University dropout, built a career in the tough New York music scene. She is as lauded for her talent, intelligence and cool aesthetic as she is for her beauty, not to mention the charity work that she does in Africa. I often chuckle when celebrities like Keys and Angelina Jolie are let off the hook for helping to break up families because they do charity work, but that's another article.

Barrino, whom many view as a "contest winner" in spite of her obvious talent, is chided in the tabloids for being a "hot, country mess," stomping around on the stage, barefoot and sweaty. Barrino, a native of High Point, N.C., the birthplace of jazz legend John Coltrane, is rarely given props for her fantastic performances. Even her turn on Broadway, something that Keys has yet to accomplish, was marked by hateful comments on message boards about Barrino's looks, calling her ugly and unattractive.

In my opinion, Barrino is far from ugly. Perhaps it is the fact that Barrino has been so open about her challenging childhood, teen pregnancy, domestic abuse, illiteracy and her stressful family life as documented in her reality series Fantasia For Real, that has made the mainstream press feel comfortable raking this young woman over the coals for her alleged indiscretions.

Is it because she's a poor black girl from the South that she's ripe for pummeling by the mainstream press? If that is not the case, how do you explain the local mainstream media's recent fascination with the star? Barrino, a national star, lives in the Queen City but is rarely covered by the local press ... unless it is for something negative. Her house going into foreclosure was widely covered, as well as the suicide attempt and sordid details about the affair. Even when her reality show was all the rage in the national press, pun intended, there was very little coverage of it in the local press. Media around town seem to be enthralled by the "affair scandal," but not by the rest of who Barrino is. And that, my friend, is truly a "hot country mess."

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