FEATURE: Mind Over Body: Is There Pressure on Female Artists to Look a Certain Way and Have an ‘Ideal’ Body Size?




Mind Over Body



Is There Pressure on Female Artists to Look a Certain Way and Have an ‘Ideal’ Body Size?


I have been seeing a lot of conversation strike up…



over social media about fat-shaming and those who want a woman to look a certain way. It is not only women being fat-shamed but I am hearing a lot of cases where women across the world are being judged on their appearance/size or criticised when at the gym or on public transport. I have witnessed it once or twice and know the entertainment industry, film especially, sees these sort of events pop up more than one would like. Hollywood is especially culpable of eating its leading ladies to look ‘ideal’ and ‘sexy’. One hears of so many actresses who are made to slim-down for a role or are judged on their size. A lot of times it is not even required for a role: so many women are told to lose weight or accused of being overweight because they do not fit into that mould and ideal hole. You see some actresses rebelling by having photoshoots where their curves, cellulite and true figures are revealed and not subjected to air-brushing. Whilst it is not only men calling for these changes and ludicrous modifications; there are some women guilty. It is part of a decades-long idiocy that has blighted the entertainment industry. Advertising asks women whether they are beach-ready and there are very few adverts that urge them to be who they are and promote the mind over the body.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Many might assume the music industry does not suffer the same horrors because it is more of an audio art. There are fewer cases then you might see in acting but, for years, we have seen cased of female artists come out with their testimonies and experiences. It is happening still today and I wonder whether the reason we have very few female/girl groups now is because of the way they are controlled and how they are made to look. I feel a lot of the mainstream female stars of today are allowed a certain creative freedom but, to sell their records and get on the front of magazines, there is this need for them to be slim and ‘beautiful’. All female artists are beautiful but there is still too much expectation in regards what they look like as opposed what comes out of their mouths! I have been thinking of cases of fat-shaming in music and wonder whether we have come that far at all. A few years ago, before Selina Gomez recorded her album, Revival, she was inspired to write some of his material based on reaction she received on social media.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Selena Gomez/PHOTO CREDIT: Steven Klein for W magazine (March 2016)

Shots of her on a Mexican beach holiday appeared online. She had gained a bit of weight but it was nothing unusual and, to be fair, she is not someone who could ever be overweight – I think she had put on a few pounds but she looked great. Hurtful comments led her to turn that upset into material but maybe social media is making it a lot easy for females in music to come under fire because of their weight (recent, similar, attacks have arrived this year). Earlier this year, Sam Smith was accused of fat-shaming a women whilst on holiday. This article talked about an incident that happened whereby singers for The Sheraton Cadwell Orchestras were asked, if they were not slim, to wear loose clothing. They said they have an expectation with regards the physical appearance of their singers and expect them to be slim and physically fit. The email the players/singers received sparked a backlash and it was another sign of the music industry imposing insane rules when it comes to women and size. That is not the only example of women in music feeling shamed and judged. The video for Katy Perry’s song Swish Swish features cameos and guest appearances. It raised some controversy when it came to featuring comedian Christine Sydelko and a blatant case of fat-shaming:

Among the guest appearances, YouTuber and comedian Christine Sydelko is featured throughout the video. Despite being known for her humor and other talents, Perry’s production team took the immature route of only using Sydelko to make “fat jokes”.

Tweets circulated about the video and many questioned the video’s producers as to why they showed shots of Sydelko eating – gained cheap and nasty laughs based on her appearance and eating habits. The article shed more light:

These tweets suggest that Sydelko was perhaps unaware of the producer's intentions to only portray her as the “fat girl,” which makes the matter much worse. While the comedian is quick to joke about herself on her YouTube channel, it’s a different matter to make “fat jokes” at the expense of Sydelko in the video, especially if she was uninformed about how she would be portrayed”.

Although women are being more accepted and there is, perhaps, less judgement compared to past years; modern Pop singers are still sharing their experiences of being fat-shamed and cast aside because they do not look a certain way. Kate Nash, in this article from last year, talked about her experiences in music and how she was seen as overweight and not a desirable Popstar size:

"When you're a woman, you have such a strange relationship with your body because - especially when you're in the public eye - you're constantly being judged.
"People comment on my body all the time in a really inappropriate way, in a way I find completely offensive.

I saw it in serious newspapers where I've been called 'too fat' and 'too ugly' to be a pop star. It's so weird, but people feel like they can say that to you".


 IN THIS PHOTO: Anne-Marie/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

Anne-Marie, speaking to The Guardian early this year talked about her fight and how body issues affected her:

I’ve become very aware of body issues and body confidence,” she says, adding that she still has issues with her body, relating to an earlier time in her life. “But I feel like I’ve taken time really figuring myself out to be able to talk about it now. If I’d written that same song five years ago, it’d be very different – even angry.” She took confidence from watching TED talks and accepted her figure as it is. (The fact that she is slim and athletic speaks to how crushing and indiscriminate body-confidence issues can be.) “Hearing other women talk about it makes you feel less alone, which is why big movements are so important”.

She is calmer and more confident in her skim but there was a time when she was comfort-eating and larger than she is now. Although Anne-Maris is toned and slim; she had curved and seemed like a more natural figure before – even if she was more anxious and her mental-health was not as positive. I wonder whether Anne-Marie’s changes were as a direct result of expectation in Pop and what she was ‘supposed’ to look like.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Rihanna/PHOTO CREDIT: @rihanna

Another example, where blogger Chris Spagnuolo attacked Rihanna because of her size – what little there is of her – drew huge criticism :

Writing in his fiercely criticised blog post “Is Rihanna Going to Make Being Fat the Hot New Trend?” Mr Spagnulo, who calls himself “Straight Spags” on Twitter, said: “It looks to me like Rihanna is rocking some new high key thiccness [sic].

“And based on what I've seen, that means it's time to worry if you're not a guy who fancies himself a chubby chaser.”

He added: “A world of ladies shaped like the Hindenburg loaded into one-piece bathing suits may be on the horizon now that Rihanna is traipsing around out there looking like she's in a sumo suit".

I remember growing up on bands like the Spice Girls and remembering how the label bosses wanted the girls to be a certain weight. One can only imagine how strict their diets were and the sort of discussions that took place. Look at all of the girl groups from the 1990s – and before – and you know there were rules about what they could eat and how they had to look. Maybe the highlighting of feminism and body confidence means labels will not be able to get away with this sort of thing for much longer but I know full well a lot of mainstream artists are expected to be a certain size and what people consider ‘desirable’.

Sex and beauty are still huge parts of the music industry and there is that never-ending need for mainstream women to be conventionally attractive. Social media’s rise and exposure means artists are more exposed to negative comments and criticism regarding their looks. Whilst it is great to see body confidence emerge and female artists take a swipe at those who want them to slim and look a certain way; I worry too many artists are shedding weight based on the comments they receive from labels and social media. Selena Gomez and Anne-Marie are more svelte than before and artists like Kelly Clarkson have received hateful messages regarding their size. Artists such as Alessia Cara, Lizzo and Princess Nokia have written songs that looks at body positivity and ask women to be who they are. Whilst I agree there are fewer cases of women in music being fat-shamed, it is not completely gone and Pop artists especially are put under the microscope. There are magazines that still show slim women on the covers as what society wants and finds attractive. You see beauty magazines with bikini-clad models and, in Hollywood, how many ‘natural’ or curvier women are provided leading roles? Music is not immune to the toxicity and it has devastating impacts on artists. You rarely see curvier women in the forefront of Pop – aside from the likes of Adele and Beyoncé – and I wonder how far we have come.


 IN THIS PHOTO: Alessia Cara (whose 2015 song, Scars to Your Beautiful, is seen as a body-confident anthem)/PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images/Press

A lot of music depends on selling that artist and how they look. If they have a slim physique and are slim then they can have more magazines shoots and T.V. appearances. Trolls on social media mean self-doubt comes in and we still expect people, mostly women, to be thin and ‘sexy’. In reality, women should be proud of who they are and not be told how to dress and what size they should be. That is easy for me to say but I feel labels and music bosses are not doing enough to drop this notion a female musician should be thin/skinny and social media makes it so much worse. It is great to see women striking against ignorance but I feel too many female artists are losing weight and being hit hard by criticism. We still do not place enough importance on mind and what comes from within as opposed weight and image. Every industry and corner of society has a long way to go but it seems even more insane music – as opposed industries where image and visuals are more prominent – judge women for being who they are. If artists like Anne-Marie, Rihanna and Kate Nash are being targeted because of their weight then I wonder how far the problem extends – none of those women are overweight or can be seen as ‘fat’. In any instant; music needs to be accountable and encourage women, in every genre and walk, to be who they want to be and do more to protect them against social media slur – whose business it how much a woman weighs and how relevant is weight when it comes to music?! The quicker we make positive changes and do not focus on image then the better it will be for everyone. I know music has come a long way but I am still troubled by how many incidents of fat-shaming…



ARE coming through.