By Lauren Rhodes
Much has been written about Aliya S. King’s bestselling book Platinum. The novel is loosely based on King’s 2006 article, “Behind Closed Doors” (Vibe, 2006), that offered readers a glimpse into the not-so-glamorous lives of the wives of some of Hip Hop’s elite. In the wake of published works like this one, and those of Karrine “Superhead” Steffans (Video Vixen), it begs the question: Is it possible for couples to have monogamy and happiness after achieving commercial success in the music industry?
I was hesitant to pick the book up. As the divorcee of an aspiring music producer/rapper, watching my then-husband scratch and claw and push us deeper into debt to try to gain the fame and fortune he so desperately needed to feel complete, I knew in my heart of hearts, that if my husband did become the household name he longed to be, there would come a time when he would most likely betray his marriage vows. Little did I know that betrayal would come before he ever made a ripple in the music industry. When I steeled myself to finally read the book, I hoped it would help me find some answers.
King has said on more than one occasion that the characters in Platinum are composites of personalities in the industry. Yet, as I read the manuscript, like other reviewers, I played the name game, trying to guess the real life counterpart behind each fictional name. More than once, I found myself attaching a face made familiar by the media onto a character in the book. As I rushed through the salacious chapters, some characters morphed into other personalities. I finished it in one sitting and immediately pulled out my laptop to read the original article. The women seemed well developed and well defined, but the men, as is often the case in ensemble novels about women, played the role of backdrop. They didn’t offer much more than plot exposition or lovely scenery.
Everyone involved in the novel’s complicated relationships seem complicit in accepting their roles, but King, like so many before her, barely scratches the surface as to how behavior that she describes in vivid detail can be okay. She fares better with her female characters. Cleo, the video vixen turned auteur, identifies with other women like herself and, in so doing, defends their choices as well as her own. It’s a theme we’ve heard before on countless talk shows and in numerous little girl lost tales. Never do we get this same glimpse into the minds of the men who morph into creatures who see women as disposable. How does a woman come to be seen as nothing more than another commodity to be acquired and then cast off without a thought? That explanation is sorely lacking and I would have welcomed King’s examination of this aspect of male behavior.
In both the Vibe article and in Platinum, the reader may find it hard to understand, let alone empathize, with the women who marry aspiring celebrities. Perhaps those who set out to marry the wealthy and fabulous, are not seeking true love only their own 15 minutes of fame, possibly in the form of a reality show. Most are painfully aware that marrying a musician or athlete means welcoming a lifetime of nights spent alone and delving into one’s own creativity to fill the void as the novel’s Josephine was forced to do. Some women, like the novel’s Beth, enter into these marriages, steeling themselves for those future phone calls begging child support for babies conceived out of wedlock. Others, like Platinum’s Kipenzi, are even willing to accept a public life that demands a marriage, yet denies everything that marriage usually involves. All in exchange for what?
A part of me hoped that Platinum would offer some insight into the minds of the men who seemingly become intoxicated with the ability to have and do what they want without repercussions. Though an easy and enjoyable read, Platinum, Karrine’s books, and countless others that simultaneously exalt and defame the men of music, fail to explain why men in the sports and entertainment spotlight find it so difficult to be faithful. That book has yet to be written.
Aliya S. King
Lauren Rhodes website is www.itsthelaurenshow.com