A Therapist’s Guide To Navigating Standom In Celebrity Culture

Experts weigh in on how celebrities can set better boundaries for their fans

Halle Bailey broke the internet and sent stans into a frenzy over the weekend after her spontaneous Instagram post announcing the birth of her son Halo. “Even though we’re a few days into the new year, the greatest thing that 2023 could have done for me was bring me my son,” Bailey captioned.

Through the Internet’s celebration of a new nephew to adore virtually, The “Angel” singer subtly addressed the critics about the invasion of privacy she’s received throughout her voyage toward motherhood. “Welcome to the world, my halo; the world is desperate to know you,” she wrote. Despite the sentence being read as fun shade for the timeline, it spoke to the more prominent issue celebrities face when dealing with intrusion on their personal life. 

Over the past few months, we’ve seen a shift in the parasocial dynamic between celebrities and their fans. The way stans feel close to and communicate with their favorite artist has evolved from reading magazines and watching TV appearances to now interacting on platforms like Instagram, TikTok and X (formerly known as Twitter). 

“Parasocial relationships can be applied to stan pages with celebrities on social media,” says Psychotherapist Chase Cassine. “These individuals feel they know and trust celebrities, which may be out of familiarity, provide a safe space for others who feel uncomfortable in social settings and connect with like-minded individuals.”

Fandoms like Beyhive, Barbz, Bardi Gang and Swifties have probably hit your timeline a few times if you’re chronically online. Whether they’re making video collages, having streaming parties or debating online, the sense of community is strong regarding stans and celebrities. Still, the issue lies when the boundary crossing and entitlement lines are blurred. 

Recently, Cardi B became a trending topic after recordings surfaced on the timeline of her yelling at her fanbase, Bardi Gang, about their input regarding her relationship with her husband, Offset. “The last time I got dragged was because of my [expletive] fanbase,” she said on X Spaces. Though the approach caused a frenzy, the reasoning was valid: fanbases tend to interact with their favorite artists with a nonexistent claim over their decisions. 

“Communication is key, so it’s important to say what you mean and mean what you say,” says Principal Consultant and Strategist Shaneè C. Morgan. Though social media can be overwhelming, it can be a space to communicate with fans and set the tone for what you will and won’t tolerate regarding fanbases. 

Journalist and content creator Nasli Moha used to run a Barb fan page for Nicki Minaj in 2011 and learned the importance of setting boundaries as a fan and her fave. “I had no interest in gossip or her private life, and I was satisfied with what she shared with us,” Moha tells GU. 

“Every artist has the right to their own secret garden; they already share so much with us that they have the right to have some things to themselves. I understand that the line can be crossed very quickly because nowadays, people are keen to know everything about artists’ lives, especially thanks to social media.”

It’s no secret that social media has lit a fire under fans to be invasive and bold behind the screen. In November 2023, Halle Bailey responded to fan speculation when someone shared their opinions on Bailey’s having a “pregnancy nose” in an Instagram photo. “Listen, if I see one more person say something about my nose one more time, it’s going to be hell to pay,” she says. “You know why? Because I’m Black. I love my nose. What are you concerned about my nose for? Leave me the hell alone.”

No matter how celebrities respond to nosey fans and trolls, the consensus is that the Internet has created a hostile environment where celebrities cannot have a sense of privacy without intrusive opinions. Still, if they respond or lash out, they are seen as the aggressors in the situation. According to Dr. Morgan, the reasoning behind celebrities’ lash is not solely the entitlement of fans but for the upcoming burnout celebrities feel in their profession. “When it comes to people that are serious about how others see them, they tend to stretch themselves thin,” Morgan says. 

Regarding the Halle Bailey pregnancy conspiracies, that situation would have led to immense stress for the “Angel” singer, which is why fans were not granted access to know about whether or not she was with a child until she decided to share it on her own time. It is not our business to know what happens behind the scenes in celebrities’ lives because they are still human like the rest of us. 

Jaya Nicole, who ran a Rihanna stan account, realized the importance of knowing parasocial relationships are not the end game for stans. “Over time, I lacked the energy or bandwidth to respond to the hate,” Nicole tells GU. “I can only defend someone who I don’t know so much.”

As Zillennials continue to age, they break the fourth wall and realize that these celebrities deserve boundaries like anyone else. Though stans and former stans now have greater access to communicate with their favorite celebrities, we see a shift in the typical aggressive culture stans maneuver in. “The lines between social media and IRL (in real life) are blurred,” Cassine says. “It has become imperative for celebrities to engage with their fans on social media, where they can share personal insights, communicating through comments or live streams.”

Even though a new formula has transpired in celebrity culture, thanks to relatability, many celebrities are protecting their mental health by remaining firm and clear on their boundaries. From Cardi B to Halle Bailey, women in pop culture are taking a stand against those trying to invade their privacy and disturb their peace. 

About the Author: Kenyatta Victoria is the lead writer for Essence GU, working on all things pop culture, politics, entertainment and business. Throughout her time at GU, she’s garnered devoted readers and specializes in the Zillennial point of view. 

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