‘They say you can’t wear white after Labor Day.”
“They’re wearing short hair this year.”
“You know what they say about that candidate.”
Growing up, although an only child, I felt my house stuffed with other people I had never met nor had any idea of their names. My mother was forever using “they” as her reference point for fashion, food, restaurants, news, opinion ... just about everything.
I always wondered who “they” were and how they got to be “they.” Back then, “they”was rarely a specific person, but part of a phrase that indicated some sort of style, popularity, or point of view. But somehow along the way we have all found out who the “theys” in our society are, and they are constantly telling us what we should think, eat, wear, or more accurately, what we should buy.
“They” are now called “influencers,” and to major companies pushing products, they think nothing of paying the right influencers boatloads of money to get to us. Former football great Joe Namath used to lie around in Hanes pantyhose, now the government is paying him to cheerlead Medicare supplements along with Jimmie “J.J.” Walker whose claim to fame was yelling “Dyno-Mite!” on an old ’70s TV show. Somehow, knowing the net worth of Namath and Walker, I don’t think a Medicare Supplement or Advantage Plan is in their future, since they could likely pay out of pocket for any needed overage.
“Blue Blood’s” Tom Selleck selling reverse mortgages? That started way back with Jerry Orbach, the late actor from “Law and Order.” In both cases we are supposed to feel comfortable and secure because these trustworthy lawmen are telling us to buy these products ... and we do!
Social media is flooded with both celebrity influencers and the “theys” you and I may never have heard of, like Windersson Nunes Braz, Huda Kattan, Pewdie Pie and Cameron Dallas. Each of these adorable young things is making beaucoup bucks working YouTube, Tinder, Instagram and the like, and many are raking in millions of dollars a year for their influence. There’s a wonderful picture online of Huda Kattan, who claims she has a non-surgical way to fake a nose job. Ever hear of her? Me neither, but according to Forbes Magazine, her net worth is $510 million, and she started by selling fake eyelashes on social media from Dubai.
The difference between Mr. Dyno-Mite and Huda is that celebrity influencers are famous for their professions, like sports and entertainment. Because they already have television exposure they can automatically attract millions of followers on Instagram and the like. They are a true asset to those brands who seek partnerships. Social media folks get their followings strictly from social media and have an enormous and consistent fan base that “follows” them and loyally looks for their online content, hanging on their every word. That wholesome family, the Kardashians, was among the first to jump on that bandwagon, although they qualify as both (God help us) celebrities and social media influencers. Their little sister, Kylie Jenner, who probably can’t even spell Kardashian, is the #1 influencer on Instagram. She started a makeup company, and at 23 is worth $620 million, down from a previous erroneous report that she was worth over a billion. Hope she knows how to sign up for SNAP.
Then there’s that musical sweetheart, Cardi B, one of the most successful rappers in history, who is making a fortune with her current single, WAP. I cannot even put down on paper one single word of this disgusting trash, let alone call it a form of music. I have heard questionable lyrics before, but this is beyond the pale. Gershwin, Mozart, Sinatra, Janis Joplin, Fats Waller, Rosemary Clooney, Elvis must all be whipping around in their graves. Yet Cardi has a major deal with Reebok, sold out her line of sneakers in 30 minutes, and that’s the only lyric Reebok really cares about.
If this is what “they” is today, if this is how we’ve evolved, then I’d like to go back to those I always thought were influencers, even though they must have lost something: Martin Luther King, Abraham Lincoln, Shakespeare, Einstein, DaVinci, Gandhi, Jesus. I could go on and on, but I’ve gotta go remove my white wristwatch and put my white shoes away till next Memorial Day.
You see, it’s after Labor Day, and you know what “they” say.
Rona Mann has been a freelance writer for The Sun for 20 years, including her “In Their Shoes” features. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 401-539-7762.