Alejandro Fernandez Confronts Cyberbullies... and Wins

Santiago Felipe/Getty Images
Alejandro Fernandez performs at The Theater at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 22, 2015 in New York City. 

An embarrassing photo could have turned into a social media disaster. But when Mexican superstar Alejandro Fernandez addressed it head-on on his social media pages, he turned the process upside down. What happened, and how Fernandez dealt with it, could be a textbook case for artists on how to effectively deal with viral snafus and personal attacks on social media.

It started a week ago, when a photo of a very shirtless, disheveled Fernandez, flanked by two men and clearly at some kind of party, started cropping up on several websites. The photo went viral and unleashed a maelstrom of social commentary, with hundreds of thousands of fans defending their artist and others crowing that a closeted Fernandez had finally been “outed” at a gay club in Vegas. It didn’t stop there. Latin media outlets from around the world also picked up the story.

Instead of lashing out or even going on the defensive to correct erroneous information (turns out the photo was taken at a bachelor party at XS in Vegas), Fernandez did something remarkable: He wrote one long, detailed Facebook post, where he addressed all issues, rectified information and apologized — not for having a good time, not for taking off his shirt, but for having allowed himself to the photographed “in a ridiculous way” in the process.

Read Fernandez’s full post below:

Estimados Amigos: Hoy me he estado riendo de las penosas fotos que me tomaron en el XS de las Vegas durante la fiesta y...

Posted by Alejandro Fern√°ndez on Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The post generated over 186,000 likes and more than 26,000 shares and effectively made any past and future criticism irrelevant. That the strategy worked for Fernandez doesn’t surprise publicist Diana Baron, owner of D. Baron Media, who’s worked with Shakira, Sheryl Crowe, Avicci and Fernandez, among many others.

“Alejandro Fernandez is 100% sure of himself and he doesn't get tied up in knots over these things. He shut it down," she said. But, cautioned Baron, “not everyone is confident enough to be able to respond in kind.” There are myriad stories of artists engaging in what Baron calls “mano a mano” duels with critical fans (or haters), and that’s almost always a bad idea, says Baron.

What Fernandez did -- ignoring individual comments and instead addressing his community as a whole a single time on his social sites -- gave him the upper hand in the narrative. 

In contrast, for example, Fifth Harmony’s Normani Kordei quit twitter last week after serious cyberbullying and racial bullying.

Fifth Harmony's Normani Quits Twitter Over Racist Bullying: 'I Can't Subject Myself Any Longer to the Hate'

The fact is, says Baron, musicians are very sensitive  people, and there are instances when the artist needs to be defended, especially when information is simply wrong. And when an artist can’t defend himself, someone needs to step in. In Fernandez’s case, his last words to media on the subject were over the weekend before a concert: 

“I said what I had to say on social media and I was very clear,” said Fernandez, politely but firmly. 

End of story.

This is what he wrote on Facebook: 

“It surprises me that something so silly could become so big […] But while I may have laughed, I also feel I need to open my heart, sincerely and confess I’m profoundly ashamed. Today ALL of us are exposed to media (what happens in Vegas stays in Google, forever) and we need to be more mindful and cautious of our actions, because phones and sites have sadly ended our privacy and intimacy. We’ve also turned social media into the lynching square of the 21st Century. We al have opinions and we all dare judge without knowing the context, turning social media into a breeding ground of hate, violence and slander. Yes, I partied. Yes, I drank to celebrate. Yes, I allowed myself to be photographed in a ridiculous fashion. But fortunately, I did nothing to put me or anyone else in harm’s way. I simply behaved as someone who was having a happy and effusive time with his friends. It saddens me to see the false comments that circulate in some media.”

Fernandez ended his post cautioning fans to “celebrate responsibly. If you party, don’t drive, don't foster violence and don’t air your intimate moments or anyone else’s on the web. Today, we’re all public figures!”

Subsequently, Fernandez posted the same photo on Instagram, this time doctored to show him with a tux and with the caption: “This is the real photo. Haters will say it’s photoshopped.” It was accompanied by the hashtag #WhatHappensInVegasStaysInGoogle.



A photo posted by Alejandro Fernandez (@alexoficial) on