Last Sunday’s New York Times had an article about singer Kelly Clarkson called “Kelly Clarkson, a Pop Star Proud in Her Own Skin.” It looked at how fans identify with Clarkson not just because of her powerful voice and stand-up-for-yourself lyrics but also because of her habit of “dismissing withering criticism of her weight.”
Courtney E. Martin, the author of Perfect Girls, Starving Daughters: The Frightening New Normalcy of Hating Your Body, told the Times, “For any woman to not only own her body size at an average woman’s weight is amazing, let alone to own weight gain without shaming and stigmatizing it publicly.” And Danielle Travali, who described herself to the Times as an eating-disorder survivor, told the newspaper that Clarkson’s lyrics moved her to tears. “You get a sense that she’s one of us,” she said.
Damn! I don’t blame people for wanting someone to identify with, but I was a little freaked out to see them so emotionally invested in Clarkson’s weight, even in a positive way. What if Kelly develops a passion for triathlons and becomes a total hard body? Will her fans think she’s abandoning them, a la Crystal Renn, the plus-size model who caused a controversy when she lost weight? Does Clarkson have to consider her admirers every time she eats so it’s not too much, but not too little, either?
Courtney E. Martin acknowledged, “It’s a difficult line to walk because Kelly’s private. She doesn’t want to be known as the fat activist pop star. That’s not her mantle.” Still, the Times noted, when Australian talk show hosts last month asked Clarkson if she’d lost weight, “She smiled and immediately replied to one, ‘No, I have not! Nothing! Everywhere I go, people say that, but nope!'” It’s like she has to insist, “I’m still what you want me to be.”
The Times quoted Clarkson’s song “You Can’t Win”: “If you’re thin/Poor little walking disease/If you’re not/They’re all screaming obese…” Seriously, Kelly! You CAN’T win. But count me as one listener who will like you the same whether you’re thicker or thinner as long as you don’t have dirty people over for endless house parties.
And thank goodness for jobs that don’t include “role model” in the list of responsibilities. I’d be fired for failure to perform before I even got a pretty postcard of a beach thumbtacked to the wall of my cubicle!
UPDATED TO ADD: Danielle Travali, who was interviewed by the Times, says she too will be a fan of Kelly through thick or thin, though she didn’t clarify her position on hipster house parties. What she values is Clarkson’s willingness to address painful experiences in her lyrics. Check out her comments below!
I’m very glad you’re addressing this. It seriously freaks me out that people would obsess so much over how someone looks (the main reason I stopped looking at gossip blogs years ago). Your worth is not in your weight nor in someone elses! I wrote a post for my blog about it a while back after I went on Crystal Renn’s facebook page and her publicist published a link to one of her editorials, and all the comments were “you’re so ugly now that you lost weight” and in similar vein! WE CANT WIN!! Somehow this needs to stop
I do not even glance at the gossip rags at the supermarket bc they drive me crazy, it’s like, can a person have a food baby without being told they have a baby baby? And then they’ll point out girls who are tiny and say that they’re comfortable at their size as if a size 6 is huge. its so freaky and creepy and the crystal renn controversy was the worst, i mean really, are they trying to give her an eating disorder?
Suzanne aka Punk Glam Queen says
I see the weight issue as a no-win situation. On the other end of the spectrum, my whole life I was accused of having eating disorders because my weight is always about 85-95 lbs — I’m barely 5 ft with very small bone structure WTF! I’m so tiny if I gain 3-5 lbs my clothes don’t fit! And I’ve no idea what a diet is. As the PGP was growing people would be so callous as to ask if I fed her. Um she eats like a bloody horse! As she’s getting older the girls are now accusing her of having an eating disorder. I keep instilling in the PGP to eat healthy, your body will level out and that’s the weight you’re supposed to be. I wish more people would instill this in their children as one of her best friends is developing image issues at 9, which come from her mothers own struggles with weight and eating disorders although I think she looks gorgeous as she is!
Damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t!
I think focusing on someone’s weight no matter if they are heavier or thin is a bit bad. People change throughout the years and some decide to slim down while others gain weight.
Picking at a person’s weight and playing “weight police” is a bad thing and cases women to feel really uncomfortable in their skin when they are on the recieving end of such criticism.
Women really need to stop doing this and furthering the hurtful comments and constant pointing out of weight that they had to endure while growing up. It isn’t healthy and it hurts people more than helps.
I agree completely! Obsessing about someone’s non-thinness is no better than obsessing over their thinness!
Though I understand the impulse. On Strictly Come Dancing (UK version of dancing with the stars) ex Neighbours and pop star Holly Valance whom I used to have a bit of a girl crush on is looking much more average sized than she used to, with a little chub in her face and I can’t help feeling pleased for her and for slightly bigger people like me.
But to be upset because somone loses (or puts on) weight is just ridiculous!
Susan Tiner says
So weird that she can’t lose weight without commentary.
Your comment about not wanting to be a role model reminded me of Charles Barkley’s Nike commercial “I am not a role model.”
Penny Dreadful Vintage says
I know what you mean. The reason I haven’t lost weight is because I don’t want to disappoint my fans. Not because I like junk food and hate exercise, oh no 😉
Danielle Travali says
I love your blog, Wendy! You’re hilarious and super witty! Just want to clarify one thing about what I said in the Times article – I meant “she’s one of us,” meaning she experiences pain and really addresses it in her music. Her lyrics aren’t cliché, and they really affected me because I felt like I could relate with her as a human being. This has nothing to do with her weight, though. I honestly don’t care whether she gains or loses weight. I pay attention to her music. I don’t think it even matters what she looks like as long as she is happy with herself and is healthy.
Danielle Travali says
Also, the themes in Kelly Clarkson’s music are so universal that everyone can relate. I think it’s fabulous. The fact that I’m an eating disorders survivor I guess doesn’t matter except for the fact that I used “The War Is Over” as a metaphor for the self-image war many women fight against themselves. But I didn’t mean to say “she’s one of us” because of anything related to her weight. I admire anyone who is honest about their experiences and truths by speaking them or singing them.
joann, sidewalk chic says
I remember when she first came out, and how there was so much press scrutiny over her weight after Idol, and why wasn’t she dropping 20 lbs. right away? It left an impression on then-teenager me, who thought she looked like a healthy weight already.
I love her music (and its empowerment themes) so much.”Miss Independent” is still my jam.
You never can please people so you have to be true to yourself. It can be hard because after all we are human and feelings can get hurt but we have to push forward and move on despite what people may say.
Alexis of NorthOnHarper says
I really feel the same way—- weight is really a no win situation, for anyone let along someone like Kelly Clarkson who is in the public spotlight.
Unfortunately there is more of an epidemic here.
There seems to be a true divide in the country. ON one hand there is an increase in people who are morbidly obese (I hate that phrase, even if it is medical) as well as an increase of people suffering from eating disorders on the other side of the spectrum. It has created a sort of weight-warfare and the healthy middle of the road body image has been the casualty.
It’s sucks that being pretty is valued much more than talent in the business these days. I like Kelly because the girl can BLOW! What matters most is her talent. If we took away the TV’s, Magazines, and just about every sort of visual media, truly talented musicians would be appreciated more. People should just listen to a song on the radio form an opinion from what they hear and stick with that. This post makes me think of the beautiful Adele. Her voice is out of this world, but some idiot will always put her body before her voice. 200 years ago it was good to have some skin on your bones. I just want to know when did people start to become so obsessed “the perfect body”.
Adele is a great example of weight NOT holding someone back. Last I checked, 21 had sold nearly 4 million copies. I have read a comment or two from her about her weight but if there’s a lot of coverage of that I have missed it. I feel like she talks a lot more about her terrible stage fright. I know everyone had their panties in a twist over a fashion magazine that focused on her face but since the shots reminded me of her own album cover, I found that uproar to be kind of a yawn.
This is why I’d never want to be a celebrity. Rich, on the other hand…
Yes, rich but not famous is my dream!
Susu Paris Chic says
Wendy… rich but not famous… well, I’d say famous just in my city, so that I’d get some goody goody invites and stuffffff!
Ha ha! Good point!
great post 🙂
Alex Elizabeth says
No matter how much someone weighs, I think being obsessed with someone’s weight isn’t healthy behavior. I wouldn’t care if Kelly lost of gained weight, either. There’s enough pressure on women already, especially women in the spotlight. I wouldn’t want to add to that.
How pathetic that Kelly Clarkson’s lyrical pronouncements point out an anomaly, and not the norm. It’s all upside down. So many women hate their bodies whether they’re “thin” or “fat,” and who’s to say what “thin” or “fat” even are from day to day or second to second? There’s no way to know which one you are half the time, and the goalposts keep moving.
Sometimes I wish we could return to an aesthetic that valued a more Reubenesque form. (My spell-check says I got “Reubenesque” wrong. Did I?)
I’m no fan of Clarkson’s music, but I am a fan of her courage, lyrics, and guts. 🙂
It pisses me off that the media (and people) obssess over a celebrity’s weight. I understand it when they create a buzz over someone’s extreme weight loss or extreme weight gain. And may I stress the word EXTREME here.
I ABHOR it when they say that a celebrity has “weight problems” when she’s simply in the normal weight range!!
Personally, I could care less if Kelly is thin or “average weight” as long as she keeps pumping out amazing girl-power anthems I’ll always love her! She is our American Idol after all. I say everyone just let the girl sing and stop making her The Body Conscious Poster child….
Wendy you are my role model, whether you like it or not! 🙂
Re being your role model…ooh girl, you in danger! Mwah ha ha!
Well, I personally think that Kelly Clarkson looks quiet cute. As she is a singer, the focus should clearly be on her singing. The weight really does not matter ! Actually I do believe that very skinny girls cant sing that well anyway :=)
I do believe we don’t have to make one person feel better about her weight by criticizing people of another weight or saying that maybe they’re not so good at their jobs!