“I am not a role model.” – Charles Barkley, 1993, Nike commercial
It’s a sentiment that’s been echoed by celebrities for decades. “[Kids] have to be parented by their parents,” according to Nicki Minaj during a recent interview on The View. Though that is a true statement, it is one in which celebrities also deny their influence on young children. Today more than ever before, media is everywhere in our lives, more so than when Barkley made his statement, and, barring a complete failure of the world’s power grids, media’s influence will only increase. Because of media’s pervasiveness, celebrities, especially those with a younger fan base, have a responsibility to serve as role models and should be accountable for the image they present. As former NBA legend Karl Malone pointed out in a Sports Illustrated article responding to Barkley’s commercial, “I don’t think we can accept all the glory and the money that comes with being [famous] and not accept the responsibility of being a role model.”
Parents should be the primary role models for their children, but in reality, we know that’s not always the case. Parents teach values, but children’s values are also shaped by their peers, teachers, preachers, athletes and entertainers. Children are very impressionable and will often follow examples that appeal to them. Those examples may not always come from the people or places we expect or desire. So we cannot fault children for viewing celebrities as role models, but celebrities cannot shirk their responsibility as role models simply because they don’t want to be one. To again quote Karl Malone, “We don’t choose to be role models, we are chosen. Our only choice is whether to be a good role model or a bad one.”
So Ms. Minaj, which will you be?