Ariana Grande isn’t the first to have to explain why body shaming is wrong — so when will the message sink in?
In the year 2023, women are still being reduced to their bodies, or perhaps more precisely, their weight. In a now viral TikTok, Ariana Grande makes one simple request that I’ll echo here: please, for the love of god, stop commenting on other people’s bodies.
The public at large have long since become aware of the fact that life in the glare of the limelight is far from the perfectly packaged ideal that it’s been made out to be. Whether it’s the blinding paparazzi bulbs at A-list Hollywood events, or the beam of a ring light in an influencer’s bedroom, the unyielding public eye is extremely unforgiving.
Anyone who grew up during the golden age of tabloid culture, watching the likes of Lindsay Lohan, Paris Hilton, and Britney Spears be annihilated on the cover of magazines will understand the longstanding perception that being famous somehow makes you fair game for 24/7 scrutiny. Yet here we are, decades later, and approximately nothing has changed.
Given the fact that the public have felt entitled to comment on her body since her early teenage years, Ariana Grande decided to join the conversation herself with a three-minute TikTok video that amassed 58.7 million views and counting.
“I just wanted to address your concerns about my body and talk a little bit about what it means to be a person with a body and to be seen and to be paid such close attention to,” she said. “You’ve been talking about it for a decade or longer so I’d like to join in this time.”
“I think we should be gentler and less comfortable commenting on people’s bodies, no matter what. If you think you’re saying something good or well-intentioned, whatever it is, healthy, unhealthy, big, small, this, that, sexy, nonsense – we just should really work towards not doing that as much.”
Setting the record straight, Grande also said: “I know personally, for me, the body that you’ve been comparing my current body to was the unhealthiest version of my body. I was on a lot of antidepressants and drinking on them and eating poorly. And at the lowest point of my life when I looked the way you consider my ‘healthy,’ that in fact wasn’t my healthy. I know I shouldn’t have to explain that. But I do feel like maybe having an openness and some sort of vulnerability here, something good might come from it. Healthy can look different.”
A woman who’s been under the microscopic lens of the media for the majority of her life, the latest surge in attention surrounding Grande’s body comes after she posted some photos alongside actress, singer and producer Cynthia Erivo on Instagram, and photos surfaced from Michelle Yeoh’s Oscars after party.
A woman who has spoken candidly about her mental health issues and struggles with anxiety in the past, Ariana signed off her video with a reminder to spread love, be gentle with yourself and with others, and to exercise kindness. “Be gentle with each other and with yourselves … No matter what you’re going through. No matter what weight, no matter how you like to do your makeup these days, no matter what cosmetic procedures you’ve had or not or anything.”
In the same breath that these online trolls of pseudo-concerned “fans” are casting aspersions on Ariana Grande’s perceived weight loss, they’re ridiculing the likes of Selena Gomez and Lana Del Rey for the exact opposite.
In her documentary Selena Gomez: My Mind & Me released last year, Selena Gomez spoke candidly about the duality of her body positivity posts online. “I was being shamed for gaining weight because of my lupus. I lied,” she said. “I would go online and I would post a picture of myself and I would say, ‘It doesn’t matter. I’m not accepting what you’re saying,’ all the while being in a room posting them crying my eyes out because nobody deserves to hear those things.”
“Though I was posting these things saying ‘it doesn’t bother me’, because I didn’t want it to bother other people who are experiencing the same thing; getting shamed for what they look like, who they are, who they love. I just think it’s so unfair.”
We’ve seen it with Rihanna’s post-pregnancy body, the hyper-fixation on the Kardashian-Jenner clan’s body shape, the romanticisation of Lana Del Rey’s 2011 body, and countless other women who have felt the need to explain their insecurities to the world — the very same insecurities that were manufactured for them and plastered across newsstands.
In a 2016 think piece for HuffPost entitled ‘For The Record’, Jennifer Anniston put it plainly: “The objectification and scrutiny we put women through is absurd and disturbing. The way I am portrayed by the media is simply a reflection of how we see and portray women in general, measured against some warped standard of beauty.”
Too skinny, too fat, too much skin, too prudish, too much filler, too many wrinkles — when will we finally realise that women’s bodies do not exist to be commented upon?
Imagery via @arianagrande on Instagram.