The year was 2015. The date was 31st of August. I had traveled to the United Kingdom to spend my vacation and had just one day left before I was due back in Nigeria. So when a friend offered to take me to see the annual Notting Hill carnival, I was excited as I figured it would most likely be the highlight of my holiday. I had heard about the carnival, and watched it a couple of times on TV, so I was quite enthusiastic about finally being able to experience it firsthand. We set out, and two trains later we were joined by four of his other friends, consisting of three guys and a lady.
The gang was a lively, boisterous one, and our journey to the venue of the carnival was filled with a lot of fun and humour. The other lady in the midst fascinated me. She was dressed in a low cut top and shredded jeans. No big deal, except that the cut in the top was dangerously low, and half of her boobs were out. Of course, we were going for a carnival, a huge number of the people in attendance would be half-dressed. No surprises there.
However, I was intrigued all the same. Not only were her boobs threatening to pop out of their “enclosure” she had long artificial lashes and a few piercings too. The typical “Akata” look, as we would call it over here. The guys too didn’t exactly have your conventional good boy look. Anyway, we were soon on the carnival grounds, and soon enough, the pomp and pageantry was in full swing.
To cut to the chase, what struck me the most about our little posse was how kind everyone was to one another, especially me! The lady was particularly nice to me. She paid for my food, made sure I was having fun, and the guys kept on checking on me to be sure I was comfortable and enjoying the spectacle. They dedicated time, money and effort to ensure that my last day in the UK was memorable. They were the kind of people that would easily have been judged as being “bad” because of their looks, but on the contrary, they were some of the nicest people I have ever met. The few hours I spent with them reaffirmed my belief in not judging a book by its cover. It’s incredibly shallow to take people at face value.
Last Saturday, American rap artiste, singer and songwriter, Onika Tanya Maraj, popularly called Nicki Minaj put a smile on the faces of some her fans on Twitter when she acceded to requests for financial assistance. It wasn’t planned. Once she accepted to help one fan pay their tuition, others began to ask for help too. And soon enough, she had agreed to foot the bills of at least 30 students. It was a generous gesture from the artiste, especially when one considers that she had no prior plan, nor had she budgeted to be set back by some thousand dollars in a few minutes.
Nicki’s generosity has been applauded by many, and rightly so. More importantly, it’s testament to the fact that people should not be assessed solely based on looks, popular opinion or media reportage. While the rapper is famous for her vocation, she’s also well known for her colourful costumes and wigs (earlier in her career) and her plastic surgeries; factors that have earned her her fair share of criticisms. Her infamous relationship with Meek Mill didn’t do much for her reputation either, as well as one or two feuds with other artistes.
In this part of the world, Nicki would be regarded as a bad girl, a bad influence. What with all the “indecent exposure,” sexual innuendos and raunchy videos that have defined her person. The young ones would be admonished not to emulate her. In all of the condemnation, no one will remember the kind heart she has. No one will point out the acts of charity she does to give some hitherto hopeless college students hope that they can finish school without having to worry about money. I don’t know Ms Minaj personally, but I know one thing about her now – her generosity. And I choose to remember that kind deed whenever I come across the next uncomplimentary remark or news about her.
Our own Toke Makinwa is another celebrity who gives to her fans quite regularly. On several occasions I have spotted tweets where she opted to assist a follower who was in need. The interesting thing is that no one talks about this part of her life. Everyone would rather view her from the prism of a messy marriage and subsequent divorce, and her reputation as a party girl and bleaching Queen. Now, she may not be your favorite person, but it doesn’t negate the truth about her generosity; something that cannot be said of many of our celebrities and even regular folks.
I think we dwell too much on people’s shortcomings. We’re always quick to point out the other person’s flaws (as if everyone doesn’t have them). It’s why I make a conscious effort not to form a fixed opinion about someone I haven’t had a direct encounter with. It’s so easy to sit on one’s high horse to judge others based on what we have read or heard about them.
Barring any extreme personality defects such as chronic lying, stealing, or a propensity for violence, I believe everyone should be given the benefit of the doubt before being considered good or bad.
There’s good in everybody if only we choose to see it.
P.S: Here’s wishing my one and only brother a very happy birthday! Your patience in adversity, and graciousness in victory will always be an inspiration to me.