Lil’ Wayne’s necklace and Social Justice

You may seen the following story on the BBC:

An art student who made a solid gold necklace for Lil Wayne has said the sale helped pay for her course fees.

Joy Bonfield-Colombara, 29, from south-east London, said she was struggling to pay her £9,500-a-year course fees at the prestigious Royal College of Art.

But just as she was considering dropping out, she said she received an email from a friend of the rapper who wanted to buy him a birthday present.

The 18-carat gold pendant is in the shape of Lil Wayne’s face.

Careers theory might read this story in a number of different ways, and thinking through these interpretations I feel exposes some of the conflicts that exist in how career guidance is provided. So what is going on here?

One reading would be to focus on Joy’s talent. She clearly has worked incredibly hard to perfect her art and so her situation is her reward for her ability. Moral of the story – seek to discover your unique talent. This would be the perspective of a matching approach to career.

Another reading would draw attention to the place of chance in this story. Joy was able to make the most of this opportunity because she was aware of it. Chance events are an ever-present part of individual’s narratives so we should be open to chance events. Chance based careers theories like the chaos theory of career and planned happenstance would focus on these.

But another reading would focus on the social justice elements of this story and ask about what the story says about the system we live in. Here is a bit more from the original article –

Ms Bonfield-Colombara, who previously studied at Glasgow School of Art, said she had been applying for help with her course fees.

“My mum took out a bank loan and I got a government loan for living expenses which I had to use on my fees.

“I was thinking I can’t afford this. The whole time I was questioning whether I should do it. But I’m really enjoying the course.

“I needed to find close to £10,000. I did a GoFundMe page and managed to raise £1,500 through that. Then I got this email. I couldn’t believe it.”

This is a story of debt and insecurity. It shows a system that has done little to support Joy’s career and has put both her and her mum in a financially precarious position. Just because Joy’s story ended well because of a large slice of luck does not mean everyone in the same situation will also be ok. Though career can provide explanations about why Joy as an individual was successful (as above) it can also problematize the structures discussed here –

  • Is Joy’s financial situation unique or do other people face it?
  • If other people do who does and who doesn’t?
  • Who are the winners and the losers from this situation?
  • What does this situation say about how we run education?
  • How can we improve systems so they do not leave young people so precarious?

This can be a vital role for career guidance to actually allow individuals to think through these different readings and how they create interesting and contested understandings of career.

This is day 10 of my 30 days of blogging challenge

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