I have been thinking recently about the impact of an icon.
My icons largely inhabit the world of art, literature, fashion, music and science. This month we lost Hubert de Givenchy and Stephen Hawking – two titans in their respective industries.
It seems my world is being stripped, with increasing regularity, of so many people I consider to have attained iconic status. People who have inspired me throughout my life, through their authenticity, artistry, intelligence or creativity, and whom I revere.
For example, Givenchy and Stephen Hawking are a type of benchmark of excellence in their fields, and personally I find there is a sort of comfort knowing my world is filled with such talent.
Icons do come in many guises, but I feel, they are the type of people who have legacies that span decades, who leave an indelible mark on history through their life’s work.
A frustration of mine though is that these days, we seem to be living in a world where “celebrity” dominates our newspapers and social media. Over the last 20 years or so, we seemed to have fashioned a new strata of society largely borne out of reality TV. And to me, celebrity is about just being “known” which is not the same as deserving fame, and is worlds apart from being an icon.
My earliest memory of losing an icon was Elvis on 16 August 1977. I remember shutting myself in my room crying and crying. To my mind he exuded star quality. My mum often used to say that certain people had a “God gifted talent”. Elvis definitely fell into that category in my opinion – and I wonder if that is part of the essence of being an icon?
My life is especially filled with icons from the music world, artists whom I have admired and whose creativity has coloured my life in so many ways and in some ways has shaped my own artistic direction. And whilst I didn’t shut myself in my bedroom when Michael Jackson died in 2009 – I was shocked and saddened.
And I’m sure you remember a few years ago, in 2016 we lost a startling number musical stars: David Bowie, Glenn Frey, Maurice White, Keith Emerson, Greg Lake, Prince and Leonard Cohen and George Michael. I’m pretty sure I have missed someone out…. It felt unrelenting and made me, and a few of my friends, wonder what the universe was trying to tell us.
I feel that is the part of the pull of an icon. Their craft or work is so compelling and strong that when they die it feels like there is a void.
So as I type I’m wondering who my kids would consider icons, given they have grown up surrounded by people with celebrity status.
I have just asked them both and they can’t seem to give me an answer. But maybe it is a bit unfair of me as my daughter has just come home from Uni and my son is unwell. Their icons are undoubtedly present and I suspect they will hail from the sporting sphere…but I’ll ask again later and report back…