Can a celebrity change their spots? That’s a question I’ve been asking myself a lot lately.
A number of stars have made headlines in recent weeks after offensive historical tweets came back to haunt them.
The latest is YouTube star Jack Maynard.
Most people over the age of 18 hadn’t even heard of the Vlogger before he entered the ‘I’m A Celebrity’ jungle on Sunday night.
After amassing 1.2million subscribers to his YouTube channel, combined with 700K Instagram followers and 600K Twitter followers, it’s fair to say he’s a big cheese on social media, and this was the 22-year-old’s chance to take it up a notch or ten.
But he blew it.
Just two days after entering the jungle he made a swift exit after a series of homophobic and racist tweets, posted between 2011 and 2013 when he was a teenager, surfaced.
His removal from the show was orchestrated by his management, who were keen for him to “defend himself” - and no doubt, for them to protect their dollars.
Prior to him quitting ‘I’m A Celebrity’, his reps issued an apology on his behalf.
He was “ashamed” about the tweets, and whilst they admitted that “age is no defence” they still insisted he “was a lot younger” when he sent them.
And here lies the crux: is age an excuse?
British fashion and beauty vlogger, Zoella, is another young star who was recently at the centre of a similar Twitter storm after she posted a series of offensive tweets between 2009 and 2012.
She’s 27 now, That would have made her between 19 and 22 when she tweeted about “lesbos”, “trannys” and “fat chavs”.
The tweets were subsequently deleted and an apology was issued. She, just like Jack Maynard, insisted she “would never say those things now” and was “sorry if I have offended anyone”.
Her statement, whilst not as offensive as the tweets themselves, still stuck in some people’s craw with its dismissive tone - mine included.
The use of “if” and the arrogant yeah-I-said-it-but-let’s-move-
She should try telling that to the thousands of young people who are bullied every day at school and online for being different.
Both Zoella and Jack could do with taking a leaf out of Stormzy’s book. The British rapper also had a load of historical tweets unearthed where he repeatedly used homophobic language.
Within hours he had issued a thoughtful apology citing the fact that he was “young and proudly ignorant”.
But the difference in his response compared to say Zoella’s was that he addressed the homophobic language head on and apologised to the LGBTQ community directly. Above all, it really sounded genuine.
Zoella and Jack owe their careers to their young fans. Easily influenced young fans - most of whom are the same age as they were when they thought it was ok to tweet offensive stuff online. If they see their idols doing it, then the message is that it’s ok for them to do the same.
Whilst age definitely played a part in their behaviour, it could also be the thing that redeems them.
There is a huge opportunity here for the likes of Jack and Zoella, who has been a victim of online bullying herself, to admit that yes, they screwed up, but they‘re going to make it right.
Because people do change, as Stormzy is testament to. And with age comes maturity, insight and experience, so if Zoella and Jack have really changed, as they say, shouldn’t they use their position of influence to make a greater stand against any kind of prejudice?
Instead of another beauty tutorial or funny video, a vlog about online bullying and the importance of being kind to one another would be far more powerful.
The message would come through a lot louder and clearer to their fans if they did, and even the non-fans amongst us would be far more willing to forgive and forget.
And they have a bigger platform to do that than most.