Jenice Armstrong | Diddy's negative clout

Posted: July 11, 2007

MTV'S "MAKING THE BAND 4" gives you a peek into the lives of a talented group of young men.

With the contestants' tattoos and baseballs hats perched atop do-rags and with rough talk, many come off as hard-core. Thuggish even. But then you hear their beautiful voices raised in harmony like a boys' choir and all that melts away.

It's rare to see young males drop their tough-guy poses and be so openly vulnerable while cameras are running. In one episode, a contestant is seen on a telephone talking mournfully about how he can't bear to go back home and be a dishwasher. In a show that aired Monday, another begged for another chance after being cut. There are tears. Hugs of encouragement. And a lot of male bonding.

Presiding over it all is Sean "Diddy" Combs, the hip-hop mogul who's also the force behind the show. He's da man, so to speak. The slightest nod from Combs and the contestants are guaranteed one of four coveted slots in his new male singing group. With his record label, clothing line and other mega-successful ventures, Combs is their hero, the would-be mentor they all aspire to emulate.

Too bad he's not a better example for them, at least in terms of his personal life. Yesterday, a publicist confirmed that the rumors are true - Combs and his longtime, on-again, off-again girlfriend, Kim Porter, are on the outs again. She's the mother of his son Christian, and his 7-month-old twin daughters, D'Lila Star and Jessie James. (He has another son by a previous relationship.)

Porter, who sat on the sidelines while Combs was off dating Jennifer Lopez, has moved out of his New York City apartment amid rampant speculation that he has been romantically linked to actress Sienna Miller. The couple's latest breakup comes seven months after they were the subject of an article in Essence magazine in which Combs claimed to be an "ex-player."

But this isn't about casting blame or making Combs out to be the bad guy. Who's to say what really sparked the split this time? Besides, what goes on between a man and a woman isn't the public's business. What does matter, though, is the three innocent children they have together.

Ten-year-old Christian is at such an impressionable age. And although they'll never want for material things, Combs' beautiful infant daughters are likely to grow up without ever knowing what it's like to have their father in the home with them. They won't even have distant memories because their parents broke up before the girls reached their first birthdays.

But neither Porter nor Combs, who Time magazine ranked last year as being among the 100 most-influential Americans, should be expected to remain in a relationship that's evidently not working. Nor should the heavy mantle of being a positive role model be thrust upon Combs simply because he's the most successful hip-hop star ever. That's way too much to expect of one human being.

Still, you can't help but wish. Especially when you see from watching "Making the Band 4" just how much the young men on the program hang onto Combs' every word and how much they all seem to look up to him. He has the ability to help make their careers in the entertainment industry. But that's probably where the positive influence will end. *

Have you peeped a hot trend that hasn't been reported? E-mail heyjen@phillynews.com and let me know what you know.

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