His life is living proof of what is possible.
“Everybody else can do what they want, but that stuff isn’t for me.” — Pharrell Williams
When most people hear the name Pharrell Williams, they think of the song and video of “Happy,” with images of various celebrities laughing, singing, and dancing all over the place as they sing this international record-breaking hit.
For many, when they think of the positive, go-lucky images that this song creates in their mind, there’s no surprise that Pharrell Williams is someone who lives a life of abstinence from drugs and alcohol, as it appears this would be the life of someone who is so focused on living a life of tranquility and clear-mindfulness.
For me, however, this is not the image that initially pops into my mind when I think of the 48-year-old pop icon.
Not at all.
For me, the first image is one of his first songs that semi-changed my life in 2002, when he released The Clipse onto the world with the hip hop banger, “Grindin.”
For those not aware, the lyrics were as far away from the easy-going and serene feeling of “Happy” as the Kanye West of 2020 is from the Kanye West of 2005 (basically two different people).
When Malice (one of the group’s members) starts the second verse off with, “Patty cake, patty, cake, I’m the baker’s man; I bake them cakes as fast as I can,” he’s not talking about Betty Crocker Lemon Mix.
Pharrell came up in the celebrity, hard-core world of hip-hop in which the use of drugs and alcohol was synonymous with the music itself.
However, Pharrel’s ability to not only maintain his status in this world of constant partying, bling-blinging, and “smoke weed every day” (R.I.P. Nate Dogg) but was able to grow it to the level of legendary status, all while partaking in little to no alcohol or drug use can teach us a number of things about alcohol, life, and what is possible.
Drinking is not necessary for fun, and you don’t have to succumb to peer pressure
Pharrell came up in the hip-hop world of fast money, cars, and women.
He has dated some of the most beautiful women the world has ever seen and is friends with some of the most iconic people of all time.
It is nothing to think that on any given weekend, he could hang out with Snoop Dogg, Jay-Z, and P-Diddy all on the same night. While a bit more tempered now, in their younger days, all three of these individuals were known to live lives of extravagance, opulence, and partying until the cows came home.
I’m sure that, more times than not, Pharrell was encouraged to have a drink or take a hit of something at one of these parties.
While it’s probably easy now for Pharrell to not have to worry about this, as it is well known that he doesn’t partake, I’m sure during those initial days, it was a bit more difficult for him to have to turn it down.
To think that it wasn’t already hard enough to turn down drinking from people at a raging hip-hop party, how much more difficult could it had been when the person that was offering it to you was one of the greatest artists of that time and would be for future generations.
He made this decision at a young age and simply said it was just based on personal preference.
“Everybody else can do what they want, but that stuff isn’t for me,” he has been quoted saying.
In a world in which Instagram is constantly showing us images of what a “fun” life is supposed to be, as well as the constant pressure from society to “seize the day” and YOLO, it can be challenging to feel that you can truly enjoy all that the world has to offer unless you are willing to do what most people are doing.
The pressure to drink from others can start as early as high school, continue to college, and even transcend into the working world, with the constant happy hours and business golf outings to win a client.
The fact that Pharrell Williams was willing to say no in the Superbowl world of peer pressure of the entertainment industry and still thrive and be successful is proof that it is possible for someone to accomplish this in the regular world as well.
You don’t have to drink to be uber-creative
When it comes to creativity and drugs, there has been the belief by many artists that there is some connection there.
From a writing perspective, it is well known that such famous authors as William Faulkner, James Joyce, and Ernest Hemingway were well-known alcoholics. While in the world of painting, a few names of distinction who were thought to have dabbled in “inspiring” substances are Jackson Pollock, Pablo Picasso, and Vincent Van Gough.
In the music industry, many people have connected the two as far back as the 1930s in some jazz music, and it has been suspected that some specific genres of music were created as a direct result of being on certain types of drugs.
Fast forward through music history, and you have such famous musicians as Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, and Amy Winehouse as being the poster child of people who created amazing works of art while partaking in lives that were filled with either constant drinking or some type of drug.
For some, the idolization of such music geniuses is confirmation that you need some type of artificial stimulant to give you the extra creativity needed to take your game to the next level.
Pharrell’s success over the years proves this is definitely not the case.
In the fickle entertainment world in which it appears anyone can be on top of the world one day and a has-been the next, it is amazing that he has been a staple in the music industry for over twenty years.
He has made hit records with various artists in different genres, such as Jay-Z and Nelly in the hip hop world to Robin Thicke and Britney Spears in pop.
He has composed scores for movies like The Amazing Spider-Man 2 as well as songs for Walt Disney’s The Lion King.
His talent has not been blocked by his decision to stay alcohol-conscious and he has been able to thrive in a world in which often the fear of being yesterday’s news makes many people willing to do whatever it takes to stay on top.
Pharrell has done so without the influence of alcohol at all.
It’ll keep you looking amazingly young
This may be the best reason for many to abstain.
As many people marvel at the youthful look of the now 48-year old, many people have asked him to share his secrets of maintaining such a youthful look as he has aged so gracefully.
In response, he has touted his daily skin-care routine (clearly to help sell his new line of skin-care cream), but there can be no doubt that his abstinence from drinking has aided in this endeavor.
Take a minute to Google the phrase, “how does drinking age you?” and one of the first articles that appears speaks specifically about the effect drinking has on aging the skin.
There are a number of factors that age our skin over time naturally, but alcohol has the ability to speed up this process as an extrinsic factor that is known to dehydrate our skin and dry it out.
Connected to this, alcohol decreases your body’s ability to create Vitamin A, which is extremely important for the production of collagen in your body. Without enough collagen, your skin loses elasticity over time, and this directly leads to an increase in the number of wrinkles that stay etched in your skin permanently because of its inability to be supple and taut.
Lastly, when you drink, alcohol causes blood vessels on your skin’s surface to dilate.
This directly leads to skin flushing and redness of the skin, which can eventually cause capillaries to dilate so much that they actually burst, leaving permanent red and purple veins across the cheeks and face.
While Pharell may not be as vocal about attributing his amazing skin to his abstinence, there are a number of other celebrities who absolutely do so.
Jennifer Lopez, Jada Pinkett Smith, and Mary-Louise Parker have touted their amazing youthful looks to not consuming alcohol, and it is easy to see that the results speak for themselves.
Pharrell definitely falls into this category.
As someone who I respected growing up, it’s great to see that Pharrell Williams has led a life of alcohol-consciousness that has allowed him to be successful in an industry that is not known for its willingness to embrace sobriety.
And while achieving the level of success and notoriety to reach Pharell’s level would not be easy under any circumstances, it’s encouraging to know that abstaining from a life of drinking may have played an intricate part in why he was able to do so.