This might sound a little odd, but I often forget that I’m a so-called ‘public figure’. Every time somebody recognizes me in the street or approaches me for a photo or an autograph, I’m suddenly re-awakened (as if from a dream) to the reality of the existence of my on-screen alter ego. I have to quickly remind myself, “Oh right, to this person I’m that guy from TV. Time to wear the hat!” And by that I don’t mean putting on an act, but rather being gracious and sensitive to people’s expectations of that on-screen facade I’ve had the pleasure of piloting for the past decade and a half. And it’s been my experience that there are always expectations and preconceptions of some kind. Of course, before studio dates, shoots and public engagements its easier to make the mental shift and assume the professional mantle that’s required to represent the show because there’s plenty of lead time to prepare – but as soon as my director yells “That’s a wrap!”, I shed my other self and stow him away until he’s next needed. He isn’t me. He’s merely an extension of me.
Don’t worry, I’m not schizophrenic! Nor am I in denial. It’s simply that – although my public figure status is certainly a very real part of my life – it doesn’t define me. Or rather, I don’t allow it to. When I was younger I certainly revelled in the ‘fame’ and attention, but these once coveted things are so incidental to me now. And the yearning for them seems in hindsight to be a little… well, silly. In fact, people who know me know that I view the whole culture or cult of celebrity with ever growing disdain – and no-one uses the “C” word in my company unless it’s done with tongue firmly planted in cheek (I literally cringe whenever someone refers to me as one).
If it sounds like I’m ungrateful for the accolades, the recognition or the regard that people have for me, rest assured I’m not. Quite the contrary. I’m consistently touched and deeply appreciative of the warmth and kindness bestowed upon me by complete strangers – even though I find it disproportionate and misplaced at times. Of course, it’s always gratifying when people express genuine appreciation for the work you’re doing – not to mention quite flattering when everyone from grannies to teenagers flirt with ya! And although I know that their attraction to me has very little to do with the actual me, it’s still quite charming.
All the same, at this stage of my life, I’m about more meaningful aspirations than getting my picture taken or being considered one of the who’s who of South African celebrity-dom. Now I know that there’s this perception some folks love to entertain that I’m arrogant and full of myself, so let me appease them with a healthy self perspective check : For the record, I don’t consider myself to be “special”. I don’t buy into my own publicity. And as far as VIP’s in this country go, I reckon that I currently occupy a lowly spot in the crowded bottom half of the ‘celebrity’ food chain. There was a brief period when I was considered a “national treasure” (chuckle), but I suspect that I’ve long since been bumped off the official schlebrity A-List! I think that’s because the industry figured out that I didn’t really want to hang on to my membership – or rather, that I was no longer willing or prepared to do what it takes to retain it.
It’s all a bit like a game – and I grew out of playing it years ago.
I pop up once a week on local television screens for approximately one hour, but that’s it.
Much to the annoyance of event co-ordinators and their clients, I notoriously decline invitations to openings, launches, galas and premieres. I don’t do the cocktail party circuit. You won’t find me at the hottest restaurants and clubs that everyone is trying to get in to. Not that I consider myself to be above all of this. It’s just that it’s not part of my value system anymore. I don’t solicit any press – but oblige, out of professional courtesy, certain ladies and gentlemen of the media with interviews when asked. To protect my privacy and that of my family’s, I don’t invite the media into our home or my personal space. I don’t travel with an entourage. There isn’t a mini-industry built around me. I have no merchandise or products to promote or sell. No big endorsement deals. I mean no disrespect to other luminaries out there, but I personally wouldn’t (on principle) advocate any product or brand that I myself wouldn’t be proud to use. I think I would feel like a whore if I did. But then I suppose we all prostitute ourselves in some way during our careers (this is a theme that I’m saving for another article). And finally, I have a small social and familial circle – and we’re all homebodies at heart, so I’m hardly seen out and about.
So, much like Garbo (though definitely not in the same league), I have let myself slide into obscurity, eschewing all the trappings of my former glitzy lifestyle for a simpler, humbler existence – and, as a result, I have drifted off the public interest radar.
Or so I thought!
In recent years I’ve discovered that there are some unexpected and ironic results to going all reclusive and incommunicado…
For starters, you become the subject of intense curiosity and morbid fascination.
I never set out to be deliberately enigmatic but it would seem that I’ve become shrouded in an aura of mystery and intrigue.
Most of my colleagues and friends report that one of the most frequently asked questions they find themselves having to awkwardly field is, “What’s Imraan really like?”
There appears to be an inordinate amount of interest in my private life in particular. In what I do off-camera – and putting it not-so-delicately, who I’m doing it to!
Certainly, there’s some small measure of interest in my professional life, but almost all the search engine phrases associated with my name – that direct thousands of visitors to our websites and this blog each year – invariably include the words “personal life”, “married”, “family”, “wife”, “partner” or “gay”.
Comically, one individual actually typed “Tell me more about Imraan Vagar” into his or her Google search! As if the mega search engine had in its employ some oracle waiting on the other end to deliver an in-depth and insightful character assessment in under 0.5 seconds! Now that would be some algorithm! There has even been an “imraan vagar naked” and a couple “imraan vagar nude pic” searches. I couldn’t decide whether to be flattered or creeped out by these ones!
Yes boys and girls, site owners are privy to your online searches!
I’m somewhat flattered and amused by all the interest, but I honestly don’t get what the fuss is about.
Of course, I know that it comes with the territory when you sign up for a career like mine, but I thought that it would all die down with the passing years (and my fading relevance). And yet, the colourful rumours and wild speculations still freshly abound – some pretty scurrilous and dangerous. The curiosity quest is still at a fever pitch. Like an itch that everyone is dying to have scratched!
It’s these and other invasive queries that continue to drive traffic to this blog – and while I’m grateful that people are visiting, I worry that it’s for all the wrong reasons. I have an important message and an earnest agenda with this blog – and it’s a little frustrating to me that so many people are coming here hoping to satisfy their more baser instincts – only to leave, presumably, without reading its contents.
Look, I get it. There’s a little bit of the voyeur in all of us. It’s understandable to be curious about public figures and their private lives.
And granted, this is my personal blog – so it figures that I should be getting ‘personal’.
But I think that I’ve been most revealing and transparent in my blogs – but only about the facts and experiences that I feel might add appreciably to other people’s lives. Now seriously, how does knowing who I share my bed with add any real value?
So if you’re here hoping for sensational tabloid-esque revelations, I’m afraid you’re going to be disappointed. There are some things that are off-limits – which of course makes them all the more enticing! But since you’re here anyway, I invite you to read some of what I have to share. Because if you’re genuinely interested in getting to know who I really am – you’ll find all the answers contained within these blogs.
Or you could start with this picture…
It’s one of my favourite photos because it shows me at home, at play, unaware of the camera, unposed, unshaven, uncoiffed and most importantly, unguarded – enjoying a glorious summer’s day, surrounded by friends, children and dogs cavorting in the garden. Such wonderful chaos!
It’s an intimate portrait and window into my private world. And I’m sharing it with you.
Now that there is the real Imraan Vagar.