As most of you probably know, Ke$ha is that singer/songwriter who is known for her glitter, her innovative colorful hair, her songs that revolve around party antics and drinking, and her support of individuality and diversity. She has become an icon of self-acceptance for our generation. Through her vulgar songs, her MTV show “My Crazy Beautiful Life”, and her twitter presence, she consistently shows her individuality and her lack of fear of others’ opinions. Not only does she fulfill her legacy of challenging the mainstream through her songs and performances, but she does so through social media as well.
With a reach (one of Nancy Baym’s 7 key media terms in Personal Connection in The Digital Age) of over 3 million followers, Ke$ha has the ultimate platform to present herself the way she wants to be perceived. Through mostly updates about her tv show, “My Crazy Beautiful Life” on MTV and concerts, daily activities, and fan retweets, viewers get an idea of who she is, and exactly what she is up to. She gives fans a glimpse of her personal life through her status updates of what she is up to (bubblebath, secret projects) and what she is passionate about (kitties, animals, music).
Through the social cues of those tweets, she embodies her individuality. The extra punctuations she uses, SMS language of shortened words, and vulgar, unfiltered language all constitute her indifference to opinions. She embodies the first line of her hit song “Animal”: “I am in love with what we are, not what we should be”.
While conveying this authenticity however, Ke$ha also uses Twitter as a publicity platform, an idea that Alice Marwick and Danah Boyd touch upon in “To See and Be Seen: Celebrity Practice on Twitter”. She shamelessly promotes her TV show, projects she works on, concerts, new singles and albums, etc. In fact, she even has hashtags for her show, singles, etc. (i.e. #TIMBER, #mycrazybeautifullife). She doesn’t use these hashtags in the way that Zizi Papacharissi associates them with, which is using them to reiterate or reinforce certain customs as norm. Instead she uses them to create a following and fan-base for those singles, albums, or shows.
Although it is obvious through her tweets that she is promoting those products, her authenticity still shines through. Those tweets still emanate her enthusiasm and positivity, two qualities that she greatly embodies. In another of Marwick and Boyd’s article, “I Tweet Honestly, I Tweet Passionately: Twitter Users, Context Collapse, and the Imagined Audience”, they state that some users reject personal branding by valuing authenticity. In Ke$ha’s case, I believe that she brands herself by showing her true self. Marwick and Boyd say that celebrities using Twitter for publicity are seen as “less authentic than those using the tool for dialogue and engagement with fans,” (142). Celebrities like Lady Gaga fit that statement, but Ke$ha doesn’t. She doesn’t only use Twitter as a publicity platform, but also as a way to engage with fans. She constantly re-tweets their tweets or responds to their tweets. In fact, she makes her relationship seem even more intimate by referring to her fans as her ‘animals’.
Even while promoting her own products and shows, she still comes off as authentic through the script and social cues of the tweets.
However, as Sarah Banet-Weiser elaborates in “Branding the Post-Feminist Self: Girls’ Video Production and YouTube”, “broadcasting yourself is also a way to brand oneself” (2). Branding is defined “as the deliberate association of products and trademarked names with ideas, concepts, feelings, and relationships” (13). As Kes$ha’s twitter page shows, she is associated with her products, her ideas of self-acceptance, her feelings about individuality, and her relationship with her fans. Her page is the epitome of self-branding. Contrary to Weiser’s belief that self-branding ultimately means giving in to social norms, Ke$ha’s self-branding instead strengthens her stance against the idea of being who others want us to be. Especially through her random tweets of her cats, videos she’s seen, things she wants, things she believes in, and selfies that show how she is feeling, followers see that she is not succumbing to society’s idea of normal. As Erving Goffman believes, identity is not a material thing we have and then display, it is a pattern of conduct. Even her twitter handle name itself conveys her lack of fear and lack of care of others’ thoughts.
Although her self-promotion may potentially take away from her authentic image, her casual linguistic style and status updates make up for that. By all her unfiltered status updates about her daily activities and thoughts and her open promotions of her show and music, Ke$ha has painted herself as an individual who truly cares about not only her music, but also her value of self-acceptance.