Lizzo and Billie Eilish speak out on body image and fat shaming

Billie Eilish

Artists Lizzo and Billie Eilish have criticised the media for stereotyping female singers and scrutinising their bodies not their music.

Both stars pushed back last week on the double standards that still prevail when it comes to female artists.

Firstly Lizzo. The Juice singer delivered one helluva performance at last week’s MTV VMAs. Resplendent in a sparkly yellow swimsuit, and with a pair of giant, inflatable buttocks hovering in the background, she urged the audience to: “Take this opportunity to feel as good as hell, because you deserve to feel as good as hell.”

It was an impassioned performance from an artist who has been a vocal campaigner for body positivity. And it stole the show.

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A few days later Lizzo explained her journey from diet obsessed, self-doubting young woman to tour-de-force performer.

Speaking to Jameela Jamil on her I Weigh programme on Instagram, Lizzo revealed insecurities about her size, shape and colour plagued her early years. As a result, her first forays in music were always as a member of group.

“I would be in these groups with people who I thought were prettier and cooler than me,” she said. “I thought they deserved the spotlight. I was like no one wants to hear what I have to say. No one wants to just look at me. Making solo music was so hard for me.”

The turning point came when she was 20 and excessive dieting meant she was thinner than ever but, according to her boyfriend at the time, not thin enough.

“I realised it doesn’t matter how small or big I am, or how I look, no one is going to be completely happy about it. I’m not going to be able to please everybody with my outward appearance. What matters is what I think about it.”

This realisation granted her the freedom to express herself how she wished, and her career blossomed. Go Lizzo.

Billie Eilish on the sexualisation of female artists

And now to Billie Eilish, another female artist known for wearing whatever she wants on stage (side note: does anyone ever question a man’s right to wear whatever he wants on stage?).

The Bad Guy singer has a trademark look: hoodies, baggy shorts, heavy boots and the occasional face mask.

It’s a personal statement. Eilish, 17, doesn’t want to be sexualised. She doesn’t want her body judged. She said: “Nobody can be like ‘oh, she’s slim thick. She’s not slim thick. She got a flat ass. She’s got a fat ass.’ No one can say any of that because they don’t know.”

Millions of teenage girls have identified with this stance; it’s one of the reasons for Eilish’s success. So when Nylon Germany magazine decided to “celebrate” Eilish’s stratospheric rise what did they do? They sexed her up of course! They hired an artist to create their own “interpretation” of Eilish. And she just happened to be a topless doe-eyed cyborg.

“Youre gonna make a picture of me shirtless??” a disbelieving Eilish wrote on Twitter. “Thats not real?? at 17? and make it the cover????”

It was real, and it was on the cover. By way of explanation Nylon Germany said: “It was never our intention to create a look that is confusing or insulting to Billie. It was only ever our intention to honour her impact by creating this avatar.”

That explained it (not). A young woman with a resolute “I’m not your baby, so f*** off” attitude should feel “honoured” to have her identity stripped (literally) away. To quote Eilish: “that’s not real”.

And finally

To the world of opera, where soprano Kathryn Lewek returned to the stage after having a baby. By all accounts she gave a good performance as Eurydice in Orpheus and the Underworld at the Salzburg Festival.

But it wasn’t her performance that was scrutinised, it was her size. Many critics commented on it. In fact, Lewek and her female castmates, all professionals, were reduced to being described as “fat women in tight corsets spreading their legs” by Die Welt critic Manuel Brug.

When challenged as to why he was critiquing the women’s bodies, not their singing, Brug said: “It is interesting that the thin ladies on stage all had dresses and the not so thin ones have costumes where you see a lot of her weight.”

Not that “interesting” Manuel. “Disgraceful” was the way British tenor Anthony Gregory described it.