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Advice to Kanye West: Lean In

kanyeYou haven’t asked my advice, Kanye, but I’ll give it anyway. I like to help people.

You got yourself into another media maelstrom yesterday by allegedly suggesting that dealing with the paparazzi is like rape. Needless to say, you offended just about everyone in the process. Your comment was inexcusable; you know it.

I know you really wanted to call attention to what you feel is an unfair arrangement but it wasn’t necessary to go to such an absurd extreme. We know you didn’t mean it the way it came out. You’re far too intelligent.  Cue the public apologies.

It’s certainly no excuse but apparently the pressure of celebrity can make people say things without thinking them through like you did. Not long ago, actress Gwyneth Paltrow reportedly compared hurtful comments she received on the internet to the ravages of war. Hyperbole is not appropriate in all circumstances, conscious uncoupling notwithstanding.

Maybe we, the public, are guilty at times of forgetting celebrities are human too and have feelings.   Some of us ease the pain in our own lives by projecting our frustrations onto the rich and famous. But we expect there must be some downsides to fame and maybe these kinds of public intrusions are among them.

It’s clear the outrageous overstatements by the likes of you, Kanye, Gwyneth, and the like, are really saying “this hurts me”. So, beside making the situation worse by making ridiculous comparisons, what can you do about it?

The easy answer would be to hide. Limit your access to the public. Let your assistant(s) deal with the voracious media.

As we wrote here recently, Kanye, you seek control. You loom large over your own domain, to international acclaim. But you can’t control the paparazzi. You can’t select just the right photo to release, like you did with your celebrated, painstakingly edited, wedding photo. You can’t write their dialogue for them so they greet your appearance with appropriate pomp and circumstance.

Many of us in your shoes would have the knee-jerk reaction: avoid them. But in the end avoidance is what we call a maladaptive coping strategy. In other words, it just perpetuates the situation and usually make it worse.  The paparazzi will still be waiting for you. They might overstep further boundaries to get a rare shot.

On the other hand, there is a way for you to gain control. Now are you listening, Kanye?

It’s a simple strategy. Exposure. The reason your interactions with the paparazzi are so painful for you is that you expect them to be difficult. You expect to be provoked, angry, frustrated. That’s how the game works. Those photos draw higher prices.

So how do you change your behavior in these challenging situations? Through exposure. You’re a show business veteran. Rehearse. Have some trusted employees portray aggressive paparazzi. Tell them to be rude, ruthless, real. Be aware of the feelings you have before, during, and after the exercise. Write down your painful emotions in a journal. Talk to someone you trust, perhaps even a therapist. You voraciously work to control everything in your life, Kanye. You can master this, too.

The more you’re able to feel these painful feelings, the experience won’t be so hurtful anymore when you go through it the next time. Your increased ability to tolerate the stinging emotions the paparazzi provokes from you will shift the frustration to your enemies in the media. You’ll win! When Kanye West stops to pose pleasantly for a public photo, after a while, there’s no more story.  Subconsciously, that may be your fear—but that’s another story.

If it’s any consolation, Kanye, you’re not alone. Most of us can’t achieve our dreams in life for the same reason. We don’t take the risk because we’re afraid of how we might feel—not only the pain of failure, but for some, what success might bring.  Ironically, the best way to learn is through experiencing failure.

Give it a try, Kanye. Your outrageous outcries don’t work, they only bring unwanted negative attention. We get it; we feel your pain. Now it’s time for you to feel it, too.

Kanye West image available from Shutterstock.

Advice to Kanye West: Lean In

Henry Kimmel, Psy.D.

Henry Kimmel, Psy.D., is a Clinical Psychologist in Encino, CA. He's also been involved in the entertainment industry as a producer, writer, and director. Follow Dr. Kimmel on Twitter @geropsych.

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APA Reference
Kimmel, H. (2014). Advice to Kanye West: Lean In. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 26, 2020, from


Last updated: 9 Jul 2014
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