Rihanna and the photos she posted on Instagram (Instagram / AKM Images / GSI Media)
Call it what your want… Hollywood - especially the music world - has always been progressive in its approach towards marijuana. From hip-hop’s Snoop Dogg to country singer Willie Nelson, stars from various genres have long been forward with their advocacy of the recreational drug. And now that marijuana is legal in both the states of Washington and Colorado, attitudes regarding its restriction are starting to change rapidly. Recently, debates have arisen surrounding the drug involving a new crop of younger stars. But does marijuana carry the stigma it once did? For many of today’s young celebs, the answer is “not at all.”
This past weekend, it was superstars Rihanna and Justin Bieber who were drawn into the fray. For Rihanna, 24, who has posted many photos on her Instagram that some fans and critics alike have widely-assumed promote drug use, the latest debate began on January 2 after she posted an Instagram photo of what appears to be pot with the caption, “This nug look like a skull or am I just....?” When several fans wrote back and criticized her for not being a strong role model, the outspoken singer responded online with another photo reading, “I don’t really give a f—k.”
Bieber, however, was dragged into the controversy by celebrity news outlet TMZ. The website posted photos last Friday evening of what they claim sources told them were the 18-year-old singer smoking weed. Biebs, who has many young teen and pre-teen fans, turned to his 32 million Twitter followers the next day and wrote, “everyday growing and learning. trying to be better. u get knocked down, u get up.”
Singer Frank Ocean, 25, is a multi-Grammy nominee following the release of his first album, Channel Orange, in 2012. He was arrested on New Year’s Eve for speeding when cops in California (where marijuana is legal only for medicinal purposes) discovered a small amount of the drug on him and cited him for possession. But Ocean didn’t try to hide his fondness for the drug. He took to his Twitter a few days later to post for his 2 million plus followers, “hi guys, i smoke pot. ok guys, bye.”
These progressive attitudes towards marijuana use are being passed down to the next generation as well. A few weeks ago, expectant couple Wiz Khalifa, 25, and Amber Rose, 29, told E! News that they planned to be very open with their unborn child about their attitudes about pot use.
Justin Bieber performs at Madison Square Garden, November 2012 (Kevin Mazur/WireImage)
According to Howard Bragman, Vice Chairman of Reputation.com and a longtime celebrity crisis counselor, from a fan base point of view, pot is not an issue. “From the target demographic, this is not something that they judge,” Bragman explains. “It’s hard to find an 18 or 19-year-old kid who hasn’t smoked pot. If you look at young people though, they don’t judge. Look at Chris Brown. He beat up his girlfriend and he’s still doing fine.”
However, he points out that there are other repercussions potentially involved when you’re a teen idol. “Marijuana is still illegal. A lot of Bieber’s audience is teen girls and they rely on their parents to drive them to his concerts and buy them his music,” he adds. “And the last thing you want is them not driving the kids to your concerts.”
Giles Raine, a publicist and Vice President at The Professional Image, Inc., a medical specialty PR firm in California, says that he believes association with drug or alcohol use will significantly taint the image of celebrities, and more importantly, inhibit Hollywood’s willingness to be associated with them.
“I believe from the business perspective of Hollywood, any type of drug use indicates a red flag of potential problems and as money does and always will fuel Hollywood, drugs will always have a stigma,” he explains. “From the perspective of Hollywood Casting agents, producers, and other decision makers who are making multi-million dollar investments decisions in casting or promoting a celebrity, the moment that the shadow of drugs or alcohol starts to taint the celebrity’s image, they will question if this is an increased risk and should they continue to take the chance of casting that person in a show, movie or performance.”
Although many of the celebs who enjoy marijuana are musicians, Bragman doesn’t think there’s a difference in the repercussions of pot use for musicians vs. actors, other than “the cool factor” associated with potentially “partying like a rock star.”
“There are plenty of actors who are stoners. But I do think it’s easier in the music industry, in that for musicians, there’s just more time,” notes Bragman. “Musicians have two speeds, either they’re recording or performing … or, doing nothing. But addiction is also a serious concern, and although a lot of people don’t get addicted to marijuana, addiction is always something to take seriously.”
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