Image Credit: OE3BLS/Flickr
Celebrities traveling during this pandemic is nothing new. Throughout the year, we have been treated to pictures of sunny beaches and expensive cocktails while Britain has undergone various stages of lockdown. Whether it's the Kardashians’ multiple holidays and exclusive parties or the Biebers’ summer road trip, it's enough to make anyone jealous, particularly if the most exotic place you've gone in months is the big Tesco.
Often, these flagrant, vicarious displays were followed by profuse apologies or reassurances that every possible safety method was taken, and during the spring and summer this was easier to swallow. In the UK, we were having some of the warmest weather on record; staycations boomed in popularity and if you were lucky, going abroad was an option. It was easier to excuse their behaviour as cases fell in the summer and a few of us were able to have some form of holiday. Even if you couldn’t go away, the sunshine extended nationwide.
However, the dull monotony of subsequent lockdowns, combined with inevitable seasonal depression, has been hard on everyone. With cases continuing to rise in Autumn, the appearance of an alarming new strain, and confusion over Christmas restrictions, it is no surprise that people have been struggling. Christmas may have been a joyful break, but for some, it was a reminder of what they were missing the most – friends, family, or even just a hug.
So, with Abu Dhabi and the rest of the United Arab Emirates open for travel, is it surprising that in December many opted for a sunny Christmas in Dubai? With around 85 percent of its population expatriates, the city was always going to struggle with implementing an effective lockdown, and so took the opportunity to begin rebuilding its economy via tourism. Virtually everything was opened, and visitors only had to provide a negative test and show they were in good health to be allowed in. While it may not have been the most principled decision, most of the public returned home, just as Britain began to feel the effects of easing Christmas restrictions and we were plunged into another lockdown in early January.
Yet from the celebrities and influencers, the pictures kept on coming; if you have a private jet and mansions spread across the globe, why would you not use them? Being stuck at home in the cold is simply a problem for other people. The indignation which has been brewing all year understandably peaked as we watched numerous influencers try to justify their flying to Dubai, trying to explain it was for purely business purposes. In an interview on This Morning, influencer and personal trainer Sheridan Mordew argued people were “inspired” and that she was “increasing people's mental health” as well as her own. This is reflected by other influencers including Geordie Shore, and some The Only Way is Essex and Love Island stars. All have insisted they fall into the ‘essential travel for business’ category, which allowed them to leave in the first place.
It seems unconvincing, and the incredulous attitude of disbelief expressed by Philip Schofield and Holly Willoughby has been emulated by the public. Many stars have been criticised online and lost hundreds of their followers, doing detrimental damage to their image and most likely their income. The attack has also come from fellow stars who remained in Britain. Love Island star Olivia Atwood dismissed the claim that the travel was necessary for work, arguing she was “working more than all of them” in Manchester and urged fans to stop posting negative comments as commenting still counts as interaction. Instead, they should simply unfollow those accounts.
Meanwhile, it seems we can use this as an opportunity to acknowledge the gruelling work undertaken during the pandemic by healthcare workers but also those who generally go unnoticed. Delivery drivers, cleaners, supermarket staff, and countless other key workers have been thrust into the limelight; as a country, we have appreciated their necessity and how much we rely on them more than ever before. Would these individuals have considered jetting off to Dubai? Would they have been allowed?
Furthermore, celebrities such as footballer Marcus Rashford and Love Islander Dr Alex George have shown us it's possible to be famous while working hard to bring about real, meaningful change. Recently, Dr Alex has been appointed the UK's youth mental health ambassador, a position ever more crucial as concern for rising cases of mental health increases. A glance at his Instagram page will show no lockdown beach holidays nor frivolous brand deals. Instead, it's ‘doctor’s orders’ with posts encouraging the public to exercise, eat well and sleep well. I know which I find more inspiring…
Alongside the physical health aspect of Dr Alex’s content, many of his posts encourage us to reach out and support our friends and family as well as being able to ask for help ourselves. So, while it is easy to judge these influencers and jump on the bandwagon of criticising their rule-flouting, we have to question the negativity it promotes. With the vaccine rollout gaining pace, it seems we finally have an end in sight. Or, at least some hope for a return to normality. Rather than directing our energy towards judging others, we can celebrate those working tirelessly every day to make sure food is delivered and vaccines are administered.
It may feel like it’s one rule for the influencers and another for everyone else. But we should relish in the inspiring work of a great many, not wallow in the flippant disregard shown by just a few.