Charlamagne Tha God is continuing his hot streak with a new book coming out and a new show on the way. The book, “Shook One: Anxiety Playing Tricks on Me,” has recently been released and will likely do well, just as his prior book did, “Black Privilege: Opportunity Comes to Those Who Create It.”
In “Shook One,” Charlamagne talks about his own battles with mental health issues, but he goes a step further. He gives people practical advice they can follow while facing their challenges. He shares how he put his fears to work for him to propel him in his career and life. While Charlamagne doesn’t pretend that what has worked for him will work for everyone suffering from mental health issues, he offers his tips in case they can help someone deal with it in a constructive manner.
“Shook One” isn’t the only new thing on the horizon for Charlamagne tha God — his new VH1 show aired in November. It’s a set of four interview specials described as a live therapy session. Charlamagne has called the show a safe space for his guests to talk about their stories. To keep that conversation going, Charlamagne has joined forces with Dr. Jessica Clemons, a psychiatrist who hosts a show called Ask Dr. Jess. It even gave viewers the opportunity to participate in the session through social media.
Earlier this year, HBO announced they were hiring Charlamagne for his own show called, “The Gray Area with Charlamagne Tha God.” Although he’s often controversial, Charlamagne has a knack for getting people talking. That’s a good skill to have for a topic like mental health awareness that people seem to shy away from.
A popular radio show host from The Breakfast Club, Charlamagne’s talents seem to know no boundaries. He’s as comfortable in front of a camera on his television shows as he is in the studio for his radio shows. But he’s also not afraid to shake things up a bit, by talking about things that make other people uncomfortable. Mental illness is one topic others tend to shy away from, but Charlamagne embraces it, even discussing his own fight with anxiety.
Some people like to sweep their issues under the rug, hiding them from friends and families. When you’re on a public stage like Charlamagne is, the pressure to pretend you have a perfect life can become even more intense. When you’re successful, wealthy, popular, talented, and good-looking, people assume you have it all, and some celebrities embrace that image. Then there are celebrities like Charlamagne who feel that the best thing they can do for themselves and others is to be their most authentic self by sharing their hardships, struggles, doubts, and fears – even if that might tarnish the image others have of them.
By shining a light on those mental health issues, they give hope to others who are suffering from them. Those people might not have the resources to deal with their issues or even the strength to mention them in the first place.
While Charlamagne has come up with his own strategy for dealing with his mental health issues over the years and has managed to overcome them enough to create an empire, he acknowledges that not everybody has managed to reach that level. Mental health issues can be crippling and they sometimes make people uncomfortable even to discuss them. He wants to help change that by creating a dialogue about the struggles some people face.
With enough discussion and work, Charlamagne believes people can overcome their issues, whether they are suffering from depression, fear, anxiety, or insecurities. With his own background, Charlamagne had every reason to become a victim of his mental illness instead of a success story who has become a champion of bringing mental health issues into the forefront.
Before his days co-hosting The Breakfast Club with DJ Envy and Angela Yee, Charlamagne lived a very different life. In his teen years, he was no stranger to trouble, getting into scrapes with police and even netting some jail time. No one could have predicted he would end up where he has today.
While he was growing up, his dad encouraged the same views of masculinity many men do – that men don’t talk about their feelings and should always be strong. That kind of atmosphere can make it even more difficult for people to open up and talk about any mental health struggles they’re facing. The only way to change that perception of what people think a man should be is to discuss it.
After his interactions with the law, Charlamagne made a conscious decision to alter the course of his life. He began attending night school and ended up earning a radio internship. One opportunity led to another, and he eventually began working with radio host Wendy Williams. That was the springboard to bigger and better things, including an MTV2 show called Guy Code that ran for several years, hosting the MTV2 show, “Uncommon Sense with Charlamagne,” and serving as co-host for MTV’s New Year’s live show.
And once he had a solid platform upon which to discuss mental health issues and his struggle with them, Charlamagne began shedding the idea of manhood his father always had, whether knowingly or unwittingly, encouraged. He began to question whether it was right to keep all his thoughts to himself, and later learned that discussing his problems had a therapeutic effect for him. Talking about things helps him cope better while bottling things up doesn’t.
These days, Charlamagne said he has noticed a shift in more men in the hip-hop industry feeling comfortable enough to reveal their fears and worries. Instead of making them weaker or less popular, it has seemed to help their careers, or at least hasn’t hurt them any. Kayne West, for instance, who has had on-air discussions before with Charlamagne still has a great career despite being vocal about all the struggles he has faced in recent years.
The Double Standard for Celebrities
Many people might assume being a celebrity and having to deal with mental health issues is easier than being a regular Joe who has to handle the same condition. But that’s not always true. Charlamagne has been vocal about how celebrities don’t have it as easy as everyone thinks when they are going through issues.
The problem is people tend to dismiss when celebrities complain about things because the public perceives their life as being perfect and glamorous – they forget that celebrities are regular people who have just as much baggage as the rest of us. And other times people assume celebrities are lying about their issues just to gain attention or sympathy, or to further their career.
But, while that may happen sometimes, other times celebrities feel the need to hide their conditions and suffer in silence for fear of damaging their careers. That can be especially true for celebrities who have an image of being tough or are in an industry where the public believes they should be tough, such as rappers and athletes.
Celebrities do often have more resources than the ordinary person who is dealing with mental health issues – they have money they can afford to spend on therapists and they have access to the top mental health professionals. But they also have more people waiting around every corner to tear them down. It can be difficult walking into a therapist’s office or having one come to pay a house call when the paparazzi could be lurking around every corner waiting for a big payday if they manage to snap a picture of it.
So while people think celebrities have it made – that’s not always the case.
Charlamagne has made it a priority to change the public perception of mental illness – not only as it relates the everyday citizen, but also when it comes to celebrities. If a few well-respected celebrities open up about their struggles, it can only add to the discussion and give people the strength to feel as if they can open up too. Having people who are in the spotlight and widely admired discuss the issue can only be a good thing for a long-ignored subject.
The Problem with Social Media
Social media has become one of the most powerful tools in our modern-day society. It has made careers and it has ruined careers. It gives people the ability to only share the best parts of their days and those happy, smiling photos that make their lives look perfect to the outside world. But that’s all an illusion – nobody’s life is perfect. Unfortunately, social media can add to the feelings of anxiety, depression, and self-doubt that run rampant through our society. It can be easy to try to compare your life to the heavily filtered lives you see on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
Charlamagne has acknowledged how slippery of a slope that can be to someone who is struggling and believes the illusion they see on other people’s social media pages. But there’s power in realizing it’s all an act and in mentally calling people out on it.
In his newest book, he talks about how people need to realize no one’s life is perfect and understand that, despite what their social media page might lead you to believe, everyone has issues. Instead of letting their need to appear perfect get to you, you should realize it’s all smoke and mirrors. Charlamagne believes in letting them pretend all they want – but you don’t have to believe it, and you certainly don’t have to compare yourself to that. You do you, and don’t compare yourself to other people’s images they’re trying to convey.