Billie Eilish found herself in an all-too-familiar position after a paparazzi photo led to a wave of online body-shaming.
The singer, who is 18, has repeatedly dealt with inappropriate and judgmental comments about her appearance. Thanks to a paparazzi photo taken the week of Oct. 14, some of those comments have re-emerged, and sparked a subtle response from Eilish.
In the image, Eilish is wearing a tighter, more form-fitting top than her usual baggy clothes — a wardrobe she said she intentionally adopted to avoid conversations about her body. The “new” look, for what it’s worth, is nothing more than a grey tank top and a pair of sweatpants shorts.
Copies of the image made the rounds on social media, with some fans saying Eilish looked “sexy,” while others criticized her appearance. One Twitter user wrote that the teenager had “developed a mid-30’s wine mom body.”
Others responded with a more nuanced opinion, which is in line with the stance Eilish has taken all along. In sum: Her body is quite literally nobody’s business but her own.
“Can we please normalize Billie wearing tank tops and showing skin. Period end of story,” one Twitter user wrote.
In the past, Eilish has sent that message with her outfit choices, in interviews and through a short film she released earlier this year. That clip, which was also shown during Eilish’s latest tour, features the singer removing several layers of her usual attire.
The “Bad Guy” singer discussed the video’s purpose during a March 9 concert in Miami, where she told the crowd that some people “hate what I wear.”
“Some people praise it,” she added. “Some people use it to shame others. Some people use it to shame me. But I feel you watching, always, and nothing I do goes unseen.”
Eilish’s point here is that any opinion — critical or supportive, negative or uplifting — is contributing to a larger scrutiny of her that is ultimately both unhealthy and wrong. Sure, it’s probably worse to say something bad about how someone looks, but again, why do we even need to say anything at all?
That seemed to be the thesis of Eilish’s latest response, which involved posting a video from the influencer Chizi Duru. In the clip, which Eilish shared on social media, Duru demands that her followers normalize “real bodies.”
“Not everyone has a wagon behind them,” Duru says. “Guts are normal. Boobs sag, especially after breastfeeding. Instagram isn’t real.”
Duru’s comments were directed at anyone who makes judgments, good or bad, about a woman’s body. Still, her words are particularly relevant to Eilish, a woman who is barely old enough to vote yet has already had her appearance dissected for years.
As BuzzFeed’s Scaachi Koul wrote, Eilish’s goal has been and always is to completely ignore the conversation about her body. Ultimately, it’s all distraction from her voice, which has won several Grammy awards and sold millions of albums. It wouldn’t hurt to focus on that instead.
Check out In The Know’s story about how edited images can affect your mental health.
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