R&B singer Alicia Keys married producer Swizz Beatz this weekend and gossip column Page Six covered it with blissful excitement. In an article titled "Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz make beautiful music," The New York Post article describes the dress (Vera Wang) and how spiritualist Deepak Chopra officiated. But as anyone who follows black gossip sites and blogs there is a giant, grumpy 800 lbs gorilla in the room named "infidelity" and "controversy" and "scandal" and "divorce" and "outside chidlren." But you won't see any of that in Page Six, or any major media outlet because in the world of gossip, not all black gossip is equal.
I thought about this after reading this comment regarding Swizz and Alicia's marriage on Gawker this morning:
"So Alicia Keyes starts an affair with this guy while he's married and is about to become his fourth baby mama (ok, "love," but, yeah, it's kinda trashy). He apparently doesn't acknowledge the 3rd baby. Now, I know that gossip blogs primarily catering to African-American readers have blown up about this, but her reputation in the mainstream press stills seems sparkly. I feel like with a number of other pop stars Us and Star and Page Six would be all over that, and yet this Page Six (PAGE SIX!) announcement is absolutely glowing and respectful. Is it just because her music and image otherwise is considered more "respectable" or are there other aspects at play?"
There's a reason why you will find black people impassioned about Alicia Keys' relationship with Swizz Beats and heated debates about whether or not she's a homewrecker or whether or not he's a poor excuse for a human being or whether or not Mashonda is a crazy person. (Or even opine on whether or not Alicia should name her child "A'Dulteree.") And there's a reason why outlets like Page 6 and others don't seem to know or care about the controversy. It's the same reason why the affairs of Tiger Woods were reported intensely, yet the ups and downs of Shaq and Shaunie or Dwayne Wade and his wife are lucky if they even end up on TMZ on a slow day.
Gossip, like everything else in the media, is a business. This is why Angelina Jolie and Jennifer Aniston are still "allegedly" getting revenge against each other in the tabloids more than five years after Aniston's divorce from Brad Pitt and about a billion adopted and biological kids later. The gossip press is still humping this dead horse because it was the most profitable gossip horse ever ridden into the ground. It doesn't matter that no one has seen Brad Pitt and his ex-Aniston photographed together in five years. Surely they're still sending texts to each other and calling each other in the fevered imaginations of magazine reporters. The press hypes this story because it involves a former TV sweetheart, a leading male movie heart-throb and one of the highest paid actresses in Hollywood. They're also all white people.
That doesn't hurt at all.
For gossip about black celebrities to "cross over" there has to be some hook. Either the person they get into it with has to be A) as big of a star as they are or bigger (Chris Brown and Rihanna) or B) have an Oprah/Michael Jackson level of fame all on their own. The reason why Page 6 doesn't care about Mashonda or Swizz Beatz's past is because Page 6 has no real clue who the hell those people are. Or if they do know who they are, they do not care because they know that Swizz Beatz and Mashonda don't sell ads. If Alicia Keys had broken up, say, Kanye and Amber Rose (that's some fan-fiction there), they might have cared. If Alicia Keys had broken up Will and Jada they would have definitely cared. The problem with Alicia Keys' relationship drama is the same problem with Wade's and Shaq's. Because the other people in their love triangle (or octogon in Shaq's case) are relatively unknown to the white mainstream, they aren't interesting to advertisers and consumers. Now maybe if they turned up dead they'd get interesting, but short of the drama of a murder investigation, no one cares.
Until the age of the black blogosphere, most black celebrities didn't even have to worry about negative press in the black media. Ebony, the black race's PR magazine, would never put out anything truly critical of Whitney and Bobby. All flaws, inconveniences and rumors were painted and glossed over. Everyone, even the most messed up, were given a healthy, bright sheen. Illicit affairs were inescapable whirlwind romances or were never examined at all. Abuse, both of the spousal and drug kind, were neglected (unless it benefited the main star's comeback story). And the paparazzi were only interested in photos that would bring the highest bids. Even situations that seemed inescapable for bad or embarrassing press, like the break up of Lionel Richie's marriage in the 80s, the black press was a refuge, where someone like Lionel could get out "his" version of the story without the ugly stain of ego and infidelity.
Or just ignore the whole sordid mess altogether.
Sites like Bossip, Young Black and Fabulous, MediaTakeOut and Nicole Bitchie killed the black celebrity gossip gatekeeper. It was hilarious to watch an outlet like Huffington Post grapple with the break up of Shaq's marriage and rumors about him and Gilbert Arenas' finacee in comparison to their wall-to-wall Tiger Woods coverage. The fact that they had to defer to Young Black And Fabulous, the site that originally broke the story by reproducing texts and emails between Shaq and Laura Govan. The fact that they were completely clueless about the players and the history. Late to the game, they played catch up as best as they could with something that was decidedly old news in the black blogosphere.
But because gossip is still largely segregated, here are some tips for black celebrities if they never want to see their stories make it to the mainstream:
1) Make sure at least one person in your love triangle is a black woman no one outside of Jet Magazine has heard of. (See: Jackson, Shar)
2) Avoid entanglements with people who have already "crossed over" who are much, much more important and celebrated than you. Don't have an affair with Denzel Washington and get both of you caught. You will pay the price. Not Denzel. Never Denzel.
3) Make sure whatever crime you commit is against another black person who is not as famous as you. Any story involving nothing but black people will get ignored.
4) If you are a black man who's famous, be nice to whatever white woman you're schtupping. Even if no one has ever heard of her, the minute you cheat on her or she comes up missing or she files a rape charge against you, you're going down in the ugliest way possible.
5) Don't cross over. Ever. If Tyler Perry were white and that rich and famous everyone would be all in his business all the time. So far the only person who's called him out is another black guy, Aaron McGruder. Embarrassing? Sure. A gossipy death-blow? Hardly. Your grandma doesn't watch Boondocks.
If their goal is to stay off CNN, I would advice Alicia Keys and Swizz Beatz to not sleep around with any white people, for Mashonda not to come up dead, for Swizz Beatz to never become any more famous than "Mr. Alicia Keys," that Swizz not abuse Alicia or cheat on her with someone as famous or more famous than she is and for Swizz to never, ever produce anything that would give white people a reason to remember his name.
The segregation of celebrity gossip is the only glass ceiling that has an upside.