When Fergie and Josh Duhamel announced their split, the shock was softened by the fact that they told us it in fact had happened “earlier this year.”
“With absolute love and respect we decided to separate as a couple earlier this year,” the couple said in a joint statement. “To give our family the best opportunity to adjust, we wanted to keep this a private matter before sharing it with the public. We are and will always be united in our support of each other and our family.”
Same with Anna Faris and Chris Pratt, who also released a joint statement on their separation, saying they “tried for a long time”: “We are sad to announce we are legally separating. We tried hard for a long time, and we’re really disappointed. Our son has two parents who love him very much and for his sake we want to keep this situation as private as possible moving forward. We still have love for each other, will always cherish our time together and continue to have the deepest respect for one another.”
Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck had everyone confused as to the date of their actual split because it happened nearly a year before they announced their breakup—and they were still living together. For a while, it even looks like they would reconcile.
What’s with the trend of waiting so long to tell the public you’re over? It used to be celebs annouced their awful hatred for each other, slammed each other in public, then we'd relish the stories of money and custody battles because when rich, famous, beautiful people suddenly have problems we're all over it. What if one partner is now dating someone else and it just looks like cheating? How do you hide when everyone is equipped with a cell phone camera? How can they really move on while still pretending? In private, they’re way ahead of us, explains Shannon Wilkinson, founder of Reputation Communications, a New York City based firm that is described as a “reputation architect,” which, for a hefty fee, takes control of a celebrity’s narrative and helps them through a crisis like a divorce.
The firm creates a storyline or a “strategy,” tailored specifically to the situation at hand and even helps a celeb control their online image if their divorce has become the top Google search online. In other words, they are hired to control the “story” of their star client’s split.
“They usually wait to announce in order have privacy to get back on their feet, address their career, reboot their image, and move on without the public weighing in,” says Shannon. “It’s a symbol of very good management when they are able to conceal it for some time; it’s also helpful when they are between projects, they can take a breather and not in the spotlight.”
Shannon says that the most interesting part is that with sites like TMZ, tabloids, and paparazzi, celebs still manage to pull off the impossible and keep a divorce on the DL, sometimes for a year or more.
“The primary reason they hold off is because of privacy, it’s very often related to the family issue…if they have small children like Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck and they’re clearly very devoted to their children, that’s never been an issue…When celebrities are able to put a veil over their separation or divorce with a serious partner it enables them to manage the emotions of the couple and the family in a way they rarely have the luxury to do.”
They also have time to deal with logistics, reboot their lives, figure out where they'll live, find a new home, inform their friends and family, and mourn the relationship in private.
But, let’s not forget career.
“In some instances their career is playing a role,” Shannon adds, “The more time they have to get the right legal representation, and deal with the fallout and make a joint statement, the more time they have in private to map out what’s next for their career, and the more strategic control they have over their careers. Maybe they’re up for a movie role and they don’t want the divorce to be front and center, we help. Because when that happens they’ve lost the narrative. if your career has something on the front burner or in development they lose that when the divorce is all over the news.”
As a celebrity it’s often hard to control conversations about your personal life in any respect, so the number one thing when you are splitting in private is to get a very good management team to keep it quiet, Shannon says.
“We have partners who work at investigative agencies that protect people like that, the biggest problem is that tabloids pay for leads- that makes it hard for celebrities to keep it from the limelight,” she says.
So she works to develop a strategic plan to develop artistic content as high as that divorce story—and says the absolute number one best celebrity own the world who has conquered this formula is Beyoncé.
“My own personal view for the last five years or so is that Beyoncé is better than any major company, she’s better and bigger than any strategic agency, at controlling her narrative. There should be books written about her image management the tactics are when she delivers artistically during a crisis, she over delivers and either distracts form the crisis or turns it into art.
“The cherry on top is she makes references to real issues, and Jay Z also has, they acknowledge, ‘we face these things too,’ and that’s the key. They’ve integrated their reality into the art. They’re not trying to cover it up and not trying to suppress it.”
And making money and staying relevant in the process.
“The key is to integrate it and move forward,” Shannon adds, saying “Gwyneth Paltrow mastered the idea with her "conscious uncoupling" from Chris Martin. She embraced, identified and integrated her divorce.
Tye Farley is the Principal and Managing Partner at Farley & Associates, a crisis management firm in New York City that helps celebrities control their stories when they are faced with a crisis. Tye says many stars wait to reveal their splits because thy are personally healing, yet, others do have suspicious timing for a movie or album release. Coincidence, Fergie?
‘When you can announce it yourself, no one else is creating that story for you,” he says, adding that after the spouses, he’s often the first to find out about the breakup. “A client of mine will say ‘no one else knows’ and I’m going to announce it on this date, and then we can control the story from there.”
Tye says it helps to keep control over one’s reputation, “maybe for whatever reason they don’t want to come off as they can’t hold a relationship or are trying to be seen in one specific light.”
“It’s all about ’how can I walk out on top?’” he says.
“if someone can stop bad reviews by saying ‘we tried every way possible, we tried counseling, we tried everything,’ it shows those parties are making a thoughtful decision. It shows it’s a mutual decision and both parties can walk away with that and there’s very little the media can do to control the story.”
IN order to control, the storm coming their way Tye advises clients to not reveal until they are ready but also not to lie. How?
“We have to know the truth is the end game and it's going to come out,” he says. “Every situation is different, but I say, ‘we’re going to wait a couple of months, you guys stay quiet,’ we have them photographed together in the meantime, you do want to make sure you're honest, but on your clients’ terms.”
Which usually involves a “no comment” until we get that carefully crafted statement that you broke up, like, a year ago.
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