How American singer-songwriter and record producer Maggie Rogers detoxed from the addictive drug of fame

There's always been an unresolvable tension between artistry and fame. Very few people find fame to be what they had hoped. It comes with a lot of strings attached. It's like a drug — once you've had it, you spend the rest of your life chasing more. It utterly transforms almost everyone who has it. And you know deep down, in the back of your mind, that it could all go away overnight. 

The smartest and most self-aware stars develop tools to deal with it. This New Yorker profile on the super-talented Maggie Rogers is a thoughtful road map for navigating the perilous road of fame. For starters, you have to be aware there even is a problem:

The experience of being thrust into celebrity meant, ironically, that she didn't have time to make music. "I'd never been less of an artist than when I became a professional artist," she said. "There was a really specific moment, in 2017 or 2018, where I was at camera blocking for what must have been my fourth or fifth or sixth late-night performance singing 'Alaska.' I had a massive panic attack. I was just, like, 'What the fuck is my life?' I felt like a show pony."

Just in her early 20s, this is what fame brought with it:

Headlines are overblown by design, but her audience's devotion—something akin to worship—was real. The tumult of the Trump Administration and the pandemic meant that Rogers's fans, like everyone, were increasingly desperate for moral guidance. But Rogers was, too. "I was looking for answers, just the same as everybody else," she said. "It was really jarring—people asking me for advice on suicide, or to perform marriages. I started to realize that there was this functional misalignment with the work that I had trained to do and the work that I was being asked to perform. I was put in this unconventional ministerial position without having undergone any of the training. 

So Maggie Rogers took some very unusual steps to get her life back under her control.

In the fall of 2021, the singer and songwriter… entered the graduate program at Harvard Divinity School. For anyone unacquainted with the particulars of the degree Rogers was pursuing—a master's in religion and public life—it might have sounded as though she were abandoning burgeoning pop stardom to reinvent herself as a priest. "It's a peace-and-justice program, it's not a seminary…" 

Rogers, who is twenty-nine, was trying to make her life feel more useful and less surreal. "I woke up one day and I was famous," she said. "I was really burnt out. I was diagnosed with chronic fatigue. I thought I wanted to quit music. A lot of what I came here to do was to think about how to create a more sustainable structure around a creative practice." 

Anyway, that's how I made it to divinity school. What I ended up doing was developing a system for myself to hold these things. And then I went out and tested it."

Amazing, right? I was very heartened and moved to read about a person who thinks that deeply about her place in the world, her art, and how her art affects her fans; intelligence and emotional intelligence are normally in short supply in our age of endless, empty hype and TikTok "fame." 

I hope she's able to find that balance and keep making great music without losing herself.

Previously: The Fickle Fame of Twitter