Lady Gaga in January 2010.
On Tuesday, Lady Gaga tweeted:
Sure, sometimes maybe you should choose a salad over a cheeseburger. But what’s worrying about this is the “thinspirational” message: “pop singers don’t eat.” So the tweet understandably drew ire from fans and eating disorder groups, who suddenly saw Gaga as a hypocrite — in February, the pop star urged young fans to stop dieting, saying her “Born This Way” message promotes being happy in your God-given body.
But while today’s outrage is understandable, it’s also late: Gaga’s been knocking nourishment for quite some time.
Lady Gaga with a fan at the launch of her “Born This Way” foundation in February.
In January 2009, she told the BBC: “I’ve got to try to keep my figure down, so I don’t eat pastries and stuff.”
In March 2010, she told “New York” magazine almost exactly the same thing she tweeted: “Pop stars should not eat.”
And when asked about how she diets and exercises during a July 2011 radio interview, she said: “No, just no food.”
So why is her anti-food rant so unacceptable now? And how have we allowed her to promote the “be yourself and love it” message for so long, while she continues to make clear that she feels pressured to do the opposite? (And that’s not even taking into account her addiction to identity-obscuring costumes.)
A Kate Moss billboard.
While Gaga’s somehow gotten away with making these sorts of comments for years, other celebrities take heat for them.
In November 2009, when “Women’s Wear Daily” asked Kate Moss what her motto was, she replied, “Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels. That’s one of them. You try and remember, but it never works.” The fashion world, which loves Kate and thinness, probably shrugged, but eating disorder watchdog groups did not. The backlash got bad enough for Moss to issue an apology, saying that she didn’t support that lifestyle choice, while her agency insisted the comment was taken out of context.
But the damage was done: the adage started popping up on tee-shirts, and “pro-ana” and “thinspiration” sites, which certainly made the words seem more toxic than Moss surely expected. The comment read in the article as an flippant one that, unluckily for her, the press seized on.
Moss made food the enemy, but really, so has Gaga — multiple times, and much more deliberately than Moss. Maybe Moss became the enemy herself much more easily than Gaga because, unlike the singer, she’s known for making extreme thinness more fashionable and aspirational than almost anyone. And we’ve never really come to terms with that or all the self-loathing that came with it. While models may get more criticism for embodying an unhealthy ideal, that doesn’t mean they’re the only ones who deserve to take the heat for it.
And unlike Lady Gaga, Moss never even pretended to be an advocate of the “proud to be born this way” movement. If the press and watchdog groups really want to stop fat talk, they can’t really afford to be selective about which mega-celebrities they attack for it.