“Vanity; definitely my favourite sin.”
– John Milton in The Devil’s Advocate
The highly anticipated 9th Africa Movie Viewers’ Choice Awards (AMVCA) was held on the 20th of May 2023 at the Eko Hotel and Suites. The event has become synonymous with stars, guests, nominees, and well-wishers being dressed to the nines and the clamour to see who wore what. This year was no different from the other years, with all categories of attendees upping the ante. It quickly became evident why. Everyone was struggling to dress to kill. Kill, some people did when they started showing the receipt for their outfits. I must say fashion, fame, looking good and satisfying the audience are not for the faint-hearted! As I looked at the outfits, I almost jubilated at my inability to attend; wetin I for wear? I asked myself. Me, too, in trying to show I understand the assignment and the occasional “keeping up with the Joneses,” I come dressed as a book! Ehen, me sef for nail am!
The fallout from all this has been interesting to watch. First, there is a huge disagreement among fans that Beauty Tukura deserved to win Best Dressed.
Then there’s comparison between Tacha’s N9.5m dress that was recognised by policemen (I was particularly excited to read this bit of news because it renewed hope that the police are actually keeping an eye on the citizenry. Ok, keeping eyes on us) someone’s $6,500 dress and Mercy Eke’s dress. My mind boggled at the costs, and I swallowed hard. Now that I am considered a celebrity, it means that my vanity meter is expected to rise to boiling levels! Each foray into wearing a worthy dress strains the pocket.
So now the expensive, death-defying clothes, canopy eyelashes, real estate hair have been worn all for a few hours, awards won (and disputed), egos bolstered, careers on the rise or stagnant, rivalries born; only for the cycle to be repeated in exactly 364 days, and for what?
Here’s the dilemma; the outfits are worn literally once. I learnt the hard way with a closet full of showpiece outfits and nowhere else to wear them and money spent that will not be recovered. The second dilemma? The industry feeds on our vanity – all of us, entertainers and the entertained. There is always the innate need by our nature to do practically anything to be noticed or stay relevant.
Third dilemma: when do we draw the line? King Solomon retains the award for the most indulgent, extravagant wealthiest king, yet his most famous quote (abridged) is, “Vanity. All is vanity and chasing after the wind.”
I could don my Mummy GO hat and point out that people are dying of hunger and we are dying of fashion, how have we become so plastic, insensitive to those around us who need our help blah, blah, blah. So, I won’t, because I am also guilty.
In 1997, Warner Bros released a movie, The Devil’s Advocate. It had a supernatural eerie theme to it, just short of a horror movie, starring Al Pacino and Keanu Reeves. I was a bit frightened watching it, but I absolutely loved it. It was filmed as an allegory and, I think, masterfully delivered. It carried so many lessons: the wiliness of temptation, pride of life, the ego demand, the need for personal responsibility but centred on one: vanity or inflated pride in oneself. Kevin Lomax is a young, shark of a lawyer who had never lost a case and would do anything to win – anything, including using false witness testimony to secure a not-guilty verdict to ensure he maintains his popularity as the go-to-lawyer.
John Milton, a veteran orca of a New York lawyer, sees this and hires Kevin. Kevin neglects the home front because he fears that if he lost any case tending to his wife, he would resent her. Eventually she commits suicide. Fast forward through the maze of this film, Kevin eventually realises that if he had not allowed his vanity to overtake him, he would have done the right thing: lose his cases and justice would have been served. He would have walked out of the courtroom happy but not famous. As he steps out of the courtroom though, there’s a reporter who promises to make him famous if he does a high-powered interview. He takes up the offer. Another offer at placing himself in the spotlight. John Milton, who has been earlier revealed as the Devil, declares one of the iconic statements in movie history, “Vanity, definitely my favourite sin.”