Emotional Impact of COVID-19 on Entertainers and Professional Athletes

BY MICHELLE TAFOYA | EMOTIONS

Today, Americans are experiencing many distinct types of emotions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Among all of the significant sectors being affected, one, in particular, is hit the hardest, Entertainment and Sports.

Why is it important to pay attention even more so to entertainers’ emotional wellbeing and professional athletes? Entertainers experience higher rates of depression and suicidal thoughts than a normal average American.

According to Billboard, 70% of musicians have suffered from depression and anxiety, 33% have experienced panic attacks. 

57% of the individuals reported their worries related to severe mental health and emotional wellbeing. 

41% of the respondents stated that they get stressed several times a day due to fear of failure, financial instability, and the pressure to succeed.

Reality vs. Illusion of High Profile Individuals & Emotions

A high-profile life as an artist or professional athlete encompasses a place with the highest highs and lowest lows. It can be a place where you build a strong sense of community and family but, at times, a place of extreme loneliness and a place where you are always watching your back, not knowing who you can trust.

Unlike years ago, where sports and entertainment were completely different animals, and there were clear lines between them, they are now one beast. Sports is entertainment, and entertainment is as competitive as any sport. 

There is a constant need for survival and to stay current.  There is also a constant living in a fishbowl under the public eye. The two combinations are a toxic concoction that will weigh heavily on artists’ and athletes’ emotional wellbeing. 

Although there have been financial conversations surrounding the impact COVID-19, there is little if any conversation being had surrounding the emotional impact COVID-19 is having on entertainers and professional athletes, whether one has directly or indirectly been affected by the disease.  

One would think that because they have big homes and lots of people around them that they wouldn’t have a care in the world when that could be the farthest thing from the truth.

The effect of COVID-19 goes beyond just the artist and their immediate circle. Entertainers and athletes are socially connected and, yet at the same time, can be natural introverts. They are also creative, sensitive beings with people always around them such as; teammates, coaches, training staff, doctors, entourages, stagehands, lighting directors, stylist, make-up artist, musicians, road managers, tour managers, managers, house staff, agents or fans. The entertainment industry is an ecosystem. Each individual will go through a vast scale of emotions, especially when an entertainer or athlete is at the core of this ecosystem and responsible for many other people. 

These artists and professional athletes’ responsibilities go beyond into communities such as; security, concessions, merchandise sales, parking attendants, ticket takers, and so on. They continuously feel every bit of the pressure. Imagine all this on the back, an individual’s life’s purpose. 

Most high profile individuals make a majority of their money by touring and live performances, and if you’re an athlete, your physical body is the engine and your money maker. Each high profile individual could have responsibility for anywhere from 20 to 150 people at any given time. Many depend on them to keep the “engine going,” which primarily means “filling stadiums, theaters, and arenas.

AGENT OF CHANGE

As a Life Transition Advisor and Change Manager for nearly thirty years, I have experienced many aspects of change and emotions in my client’s personal lives, professional lives, and corporate infrastructures. 

Although my clients’ initial goals are more focused and inclined towards the practical side, my clients’ emotional wellbeing is the driver of my life’s purpose for creating long-term sustainable changes.

Working with some of the most emotionally complex individuals and major corporations, I have come to understand with great depths the two main pillars of change. One is emotional, and the other one is practical. The key and one of life’s most significant challenges is how to balance the two.

Over the years, I have been fortunate to be educated and mentored on some of the industry’s top leaders’ practical side. This enabled me to learn about all aspects of the industry; label, management, agency, promoter, branding, streaming, etc. With all this knowledge, it is the emotional complexities and demands where most of my experience is obtained.

What exactly is the difference?  It comes down to Thinking vs. Expressing!

Mental & Emotional are two sides of the same coin. Mental health refers to your ability to process the practical steps of change. Emotional health refers to one’s ability to communicate and express emotions and feelings for long-term changes and transitions.

WHY IS EMOTIONAL BALANCE OF IS LIFE HARDER FOR ENTERTAINERS AND PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES?

When asked what it is like to work for a famous “A-list” individual, I often compare it to ascending in space; the more famous you are, the higher you ascend, the less oxygen there is to breathe. 

Take that analogy and think about Michael Jackson, and you will get a small glimpse into the extent of life he lived. It is safe to say to fulfill his life’s purpose; he was suffocating most of his life. The life of a high-profile individual is consistently unpredictable and highly competitive. It requires constant multi-dimensional focus to balance the uprising and continuous levels of stress.

This lack of “oxygen” is an unfortunate and expected part of famous individuals’ lives. It involves constant burnouts concerning significant facets like:

  • contract negotiation, 
  • performance expectations,
  • career uncertainty and support staff transitions,
  • depression,
  • trying to set clear boundaries,
  • the pressure to gain and maintain success;
  • self-doubt;
  • social and financial anxiety,
  • weathering negative critique,
  • mental health challenges,
  • addiction;

And, the pressure goes on and on. 

Being around artists and professional athletes, I have learned more about people’s emotional components and the highest level complexities surrounding individuals and companies than anywhere else in the world. I call it “school of hard knocks” life. 

THE COVID-19 EMOTIONAL IMPACT

The outbreak of COVID-19 is having a dual impact on these individuals. One is the emotional triggers from not being able to function in their purpose. Two, they are responsible for many people around them from; make-up artists to stylists, security guards to stagehands, and even trainers, agents, managers, attorneys to promoters, band members, personal assistants, record labels, and the list goes on and on.

There are vast depths of emotions behind this, including fear, fatigue, anxiety, depression, anger, and many other emotions. 

The pressure is so vast that many of my clients are fine one day, and the next day they are not. The coronavirus pandemic has hit them hard because of the self-isolation which they haven’t practiced to this extent before. The abrupt and prolonged disruption into their daily routines has emerged a new batch of emotional and mental complexes.


COVID-19 has the same impact as if you are an artist having a sudden vocal surgery and not knowing the outcome of your singing career. Or if you are an athlete having a sudden season-ending injury or even a career-ending injury, not knowing what other talents lie within you because the only thing you have ever known is gone.


One of my clients once said, “we are egomaniacs with inferiority complexes.” Meaning they always want to be the center of attention (me, me, me), and yet at the same time never feeling worthy enough to accept the “love” so many throw at them. Many of my clients have suffered from depression, loneliness, stress, fear and anxiety, and many paranoia.

They’re only seen as the public figure that the masses see them as, and now they have to wrestle for a new way to frame themselves. A new narrative for themselves that authenticates who they are or not, and what others imagine or want them to be.

Also, the range of emotions during COVID is a tragedy. They can’t be around band members, teammates, and fans. Entertainers and players face one of the biggest challenges: searching for effective measures to stay connected with the world and finding possible ways to keep them far from falling into loneliness rather than just being alone while isolated.

Many artists and players learn to identify and work through what it means when touring, screaming fans, stage/onfield performance hasn’t resumed to be a part of their life again. From that standpoint, this can be a scary time. They face their greatest challenge in front of them as they face their biggest fear; “Who AM I OUTSIDE OF “BEING FAMOUS”?

JAW-DROPPING STATISTICS REVEALING THE STATE OF EMOTIONS OF ATHLETES & ENTERTAINERS

Amid the era of COVID-19, many famous personalities have witnessed a significant identity crisis. For the first time in many years, they have spent moments with themself (and family of course) and have tried hard to accept the new way of living while not being on the road. 

Entertainers, in particular, experience higher rates of depression, and suicidal thoughts than the average American. They are also more likely to experience insomnia, mood swings, trouble concentrating, and negative feelings about themselves and those who surround them daily.

Surveying my clientele, here are some statistics relating to their emotions:

-90% of my clients have felt negative emotions such as stress, anxiety, and/or depression in relation to their career.

-65% said that they talk about personally close to them instead of professionally when it comes to their emotional well-being. 

-When it comes to their emotional wellbeing, 90% confide with their close inner circle of spouses and friends. In contrast, only 31% talk to band members and just 6% percent to their top “sphere of influence,” such as attorneys, agents, or managers. 

-Of the individuals who didn’t talk about their emotional well-being, 29% said they didn’t trust anyone around them when discussing the overall concerns about emotional well-being and how to address it without third-party inputs and/or self-serving motivations. 

-As per the research conducted by State Of Emotions (SOE), 65% of the individuals suffer from mental instability, fear of failure, loneliness, and financial uncertainty contributing to significant factors.

It can be said that their life has resulted in contrast. They are propelled to be around people, but it is also people where some of their most significant anxiety is found.

WHAT EMOTIONAL IMPACT WAS THERE ON ENTERTAINERS & ATHLETES WHO CONTRACTED COVID-19?

“When I got tested, and it came back positive, it became very real. It was always real for me, but it became very real. And I felt compelled to tell people that this is very real.

Idris Elba

“It was terrifying at one point,” she said. “He’s been really, really sick. It’s been really, really scary. It’s been really up and down” She added that it’s not only been a physical toll but an emotional one. 

Pink

“When I found out in the morning, that’s when it really hit me. Like ok, this is real, and it mainly hit cause I didn’t know what it was. I was healthy,” said Mitchell. “I’m like, am I going to get symptoms? That was the scariest part. I can say that was the craziest thing in my life.”

Donovan Mitchell

“I have gone through so many emotions since learning of my diagnosis…mostly fear, anxiety, and embarrassment.

Rudy Gobert

Has experienced a rollercoaster of emotions amid her husband, Nick Cordero’s, recovery from coronavirus complications. “I think being brave enough to say it out loud actually acknowledges the fear that you have deep down.” 

Amanda Kloots

 REALITY OF UNRESOLVED NEGATIVE EMOTIONS FROM ARTIST OF THE PAST.  

And while talking about emotions, let’s remind ourselves on how emotions and the lack of emotional wellness played a role in the artists’ lives from the previous generation. Amy Weinhouse, Rapper Mac Miller, Prince, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston all suffered from an accidental drug overdose, and Soundgarden’s Chris Cornell and Linkin Park’s Chester Bennington took their lives.

Here is a surface look at the emotional wellbeing of some artists of the past:

 Singer Amy Winehouse, once regarded as the brightest young star in music, died at the age of 27 of a suspected drug overdose. 

”I do suffer from depression, I suppose, which isn’t that unusual. You know, a lot of people do.” 

Amy Winehouse

“I don’t think your ability to fight has anything to do with how big you are. It’s to do with how much anger is in you.”

“If you have no heart, you have nothing. The Heart is what keeps you from quitting on a bad day. The Heart is what leads you to your destiny.” He was saying your emotions are the driver to life. 

“Time is something we created to measure the span of our lives. It’s not meant to create fear in you or paralyze you from moving forward. You are never too old, and it is never too late to start over.” 

Prince

“I’ve turned down a lot of arena dates because I’ve done the big-arena thing. Now, I want to do something where people can feel me, and I can feel them.”

“When I decided to be a singer, my mother warned me I’d be alone a lot. Basically, we all are. Loneliness comes with life.”

Whitney Houston

“Let us dream of tomorrow where we can truly love from the soul, and know love as the ultimate truth at the heart of all creation.”

“You can’t hurt me; I found peace within myself.”
– Michael Jackson

“The meaning of life is contained in every single expression of life. 

Michael Jackson

It is present in the infinity of forms and phenomena that exist in all of creation.”

They often sabotaged themselves with unhealthy people around them. Their most generous gift, their talents are often their most significant burdens. I would agree that it is essential to offer help to these artists and athletes; being on the front lines, I see very few people they can trust. Even the best friends of many years and family members are the most significant enablers.

Living what is already an isolating lifestyle can be even hard for entertainers and professional athletes to find balance and find support when on the road touring or traveling for games.

Research shows individuals who have a more significant impact on their livelihood from quarantine, such as entertainers and professional athletes, face an even higher risk of depression, anger, and irritability about the future’s uncertainty. The longer a quarantine lasts, the more severe the impact will be on the emotional wellbeing of so many in the entertainment industry. 

The uncertainty of COVID-19 measures can be very confusing and drastic for people in the entertainment and sports industries, which can have an even more significant impact on their emotions.

CONCLUSION

In the end, sports and entertainment have always been a great comforter in America and have helped maintain peace, regardless of background. Sports and entertainment provide laughter and excitement. They invoke hope, help us dream bigger, show us a path, and help us forget and face our troubles.

High profile individuals suffer from a high amount of addiction and mental and emotional instability at an alarming rate. But the bright side is there is a new wave of initiatives and organizations seeking to help, the industry like never before. 

Where and how artists and athletes make, their money is becoming more competitive and more challenging. Album sales continue to decline, and label and digital distributors continue to take a large portion of the pie. And you have big corporations becoming more selective and demanding with their corporate sponsorship partners for athletes. 

COVID-19 is taking a toll on the business, emotions, and sentiments of entertainers and professionals, making life challenging. We must protect the emotional wellbeing of the artists and athletes, along with the team around them. 

Many struggle with mental health, but there is also the emotional health that needs to be addressed. Neither is more important than the other, and each needs to be in balance. Although many feel that the quick fix is a prescribed medication, it is more about having a trusted advisor who understands both the emotional and practical dynamics of life as a high-profile individual during and after COVID-19 and after we get through on the other side.

RESOURCES TO HELP: 
Backline: an organization dedicated to connecting musicians and anyone in their orbit with mental-health resources. 
MusiCares: MusiCares provides a safety net of critical assistance for music people in times of need.
Sweet Relief Musicians Fund: help artists pay for living expenses
HAAM: helps musicians access affordable health care for 15 years
Tour Support: which gives artists, crew members, and vendors on a given tour 24/7 access to a therapist via phone or online. 
Music Industry Therapist Collective: To provide access to high-quality psychotherapy to those working within the music industry. 
State of Emotions: Conducts public surveys and polling focused on understanding the emotions of the American people and the impact demographics, political, social, and economic matters have on the overall emotional wellbeing and success of all Americans. 

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