The mental health strain of unwanted fame

What would you do if over a period of months you awoke to the reality that you were some sort of a popular celebrity? And what sort of a celebrity? The kind that features everywhere across the world, and has your face recognised and seen by many people.

The welcoming image of Shubnum Khan is one of the first things that people to countries such as Canada and Uruguay might notice. It is probably one of the things they have seen before they arrived, actually – because they will have had seen the face that welcomes immigrants to various countries such as Canada and Uruguay in a newspaper advertisement. But Khan is a muti-skilled entrepreneut. She manages a career as a writer and artist, in addition to being a consultant to a business in New York that sells carpets. She has also led treks to far flung regions such as Cambodia, she has appeared on advertisements by the McDonalds group in China, and also is involved in dentistry in Virginia. A multi-skilled lady, she also has links with a French dating website.

The wide scope of her involvement is amazing. Unfortunately none of it is actually real. It turns out that the South African author’s image was used without her knowledge when she unwittingly signed over the rights for her image to be used as a stock photo image. She claims that she was unaware, perhaps slightly naive in her thinking then, but many years earlier she had participated in what was called a 100 Faces Shoot, where a photographer promised professional portraits in exchange for being snapped.

So her image is plastered all over the internet, and she cannot do anything about it because the legality of the matter is that she HAD indeed signed off the rights to those images. I suppose anyone who woke up to that reality of unwanted fame may have cause for mental health concerns from others around them. After all the unwanted publicity can be detrimental to health. But Khan seems to have embraced it well, and the publicity from her sharing of her story can be actually leveraged to make the public familiar with her work. Her real work, of course.

A lesson to be learnt is that sometimes being shrewd and cautious are good skills to have in business dealings and can work to your advantage. In this particular case, owning the rights to your own image and other things you create can work to your advantage. So don’t be too keen to join things such as the Creative Commons Licence, because it is signing away your developed work. The composer Irving Berlin, for example, made sure to own the rights to Alexander’s Ragtime Band, a tune that made him millions in royalties and leveraged his career. (You can read more about this from the Piano Teacher N4 blog.)

But if you ever find yourself a victim of misrepresentation, because an image of yours was used without your knowledge, don’t panic – calm down and seek proper avenues of redress.