Oftentimes, celebrities are as famous for their off-screen antics as they are for the movies and TV shows that they’ve starred in. For instance, growing up in the 2000s, you probably knew about Mike Tyson’s pet tiger before you knew anything about his fighting career. Celebrities don’t avoid weird hobbies and collections: Anna Faris told James Corden that she has a dead bug collection while Tom Hanks has his eye on typewriters (allegedly, he has more than 100!).
Singer Demi Lovato, who goes by they/them pronouns, aimed to join this group earlier this month when they posted Instagram Stories showing off apparent Egyptian artifacts and corresponding certificates of authenticity. “I’m really excited,” they narrated in the original video, “some really incredible things came in the mail.”
Ok folks, Demi Lovato posted a series of ancient artifacts that they bought online. We’re teaching our International Heritage Crime course this week, so the timing could not be more perfect. Let’s discuss the antiquities trade, authenticity, and cultural heritage exploitation. pic.twitter.com/k43Y9WeVjv
— Peter Campbell (@peterbcampbell) March 7, 2022
Some of the figurines Lovato shows off are Shabtis, small figures that were placed around Egyptian tombs to come alive and act as servants for the dead. In an article published on NBC, art historian Erin L. Thompson points out that they’ve been faked for the past 300 years to take advantage of tourists.
Tablets are also shown in the video. They are carved in cuneiform, which is regarded to be the oldest writing system in the world, developed in what is present-day Iraq. Like the Shabtis, cuneiform tablets have inspired many fake replicas to make unsuspecting collectors feel like they’ve captured some ancient history.
There is, of course, a possibility that these artifacts are not fake, but this would be a big problem for Lovato. Trading cultural artifacts have been banned since 1970 by UNESCO. Thompson has also pointed out that children have died trying to wiggle into small places to extract artifacts and that important ancient sites have been destroyed by those looking for artifacts to sell off.
Lovato’s collection has, so far, flown under the radar. But if they look to expand the “museum” they wrote about in the caption, they will need to make sure that they are going about it ethically and authentically. After all, people are rightfully not very kind to celebrities whose hobbies are insensitive or harmful.
Mike Tyson, already mentioned in this article, received a lot of flack for keeping his tiger. So did Justin Bieber, when he bought a capuchin monkey as a pet in the early 2010s who has since experienced developmental delays due to poor care from the singer. More recently, Pharma Bro Martin Shkreli became a villain overnight when he bought an unheard Wu Tang Clan album for $2 million dollars in 2015 and said he would keep it given (he has since had to hand over the album to the American government after he was found guilty in a fraud trial).
Hopefully, Lovato’s collections fall more on the harmless side.