Chadwick Boseman, Niecy Nash, and the power of boundaries
Privacy is an extremely valuable resource — and when it comes to celebrities, it's the one thing fame and fortune can’t buy. Having your personal business become tabloid fodder can wreak havoc on a person's mental state, rich and famous or not. Yet, there’s a prevalent narrative out there about being “open book” — sharing everything about your life and living it unapologetically, a la Cardi B on IG live, discussing her Offset drama while eating crab in nothing but one of those stick-on bras. But there’s another side to complete transparency, as we’ve recently seen. Being an "open book" is not for everyone, and I’ve been thinking about the emotional benefits that come with setting boundaries.
On Friday, 43-year-old actor Chadwick Boseman passed away after a four-year long battle with cancer. It was a journey he kept secret from almost everyone aside from a few closest to him. His family announced both his passing and his diagnosis at once on social media, sending a shockwave of sadness, tributes and disbelief. News updates later that weekend emphasised his “shocking” and “extremely private battle” and those words offer a theory on why Boseman kept his health close — filming Black Panther (which he did post-diagnosis) was historic and inspiring, for him and every Black person like me watching. A serious diagnosis inevitably changes how people treat you. And sometimes, sympathy can get in your way.
Spike Lee, who directed Boseman in Vietnam war flick Da 5 Bloods without knowledge of his cancer battle, called the actor a “trooper,” reflecting that “he never complained. He was there every single minute, in the moment, and his performance is testament to what he put into that role and all his roles.” I imagine that Boseman may have felt more ease in keeping a boundary between his health and most people so he could keep being himself. He could decide, on his own, what he could and couldn’t take on.
In happier news, Niecey Nash, the star of Claws, (a campy, neon, and wackadoo-in-the-best-way show you should absolutely be watching) got hitched for the third time — this time, to a woman: musician Jessica Betts. Her wedding was also Nash’s coming out party, as the public (and even Claws superfans) knew little about her love life or sexuality.
Nash’s two previous marriages were to men, so for many, this was a surprise. And Nash kept her new relationship private without posting anything about Betts until the big day — which is maybe the best coming out party ever? Nash appeared to join the LGBTQ+ community publicly at a moment that felt right to her.
What all of this shows me is that establishing boundaries about what you share with the world is not about being secretive or embarrassed about your choices. It can be about preserving peace and being clear-headed about your own goals and how you decide to achieve them. Boseman showed me that it’s okay to keep some things for yourself so you can contribute to your community and the world. Nash taught me that our happiness can remain just for us until it feels right to share.
Both Boseman’s health battle and Nash’s coming-out wedding were figurative door openings, and they changed how we look at both stars, their resilience and their fabulousness. They opened up to us on their own terms. “Keeping it 100” is not helpful, and quite frankly, not always an option. Sometimes, keeping it 0 with certain things may be better for a person’s equilibrium — and their health, too.