Billie Eilish Delivered a Powerful Message About Body-Shaming In a Chilling New Performance
In a moving video, the 18-year-old singer is shown shedding her oversized jacket while opening up about the body-shaming comments she's faced throughout her career.
Wander down the hallway of any high school and you’ll hear whispers about female classmates' bodies, from the "revealing" outfit Jenny wore to a house party to the "bony butt" on Sarah. For young celebrities, however, this small-scale buzz is often blown into #trending gossip. Case in point: Selena Gomez received body-shaming comments online when her weight fluctuated from lupus; Simone Biles has had her body criticized by trolls countless times; Ariel Winter got hate for being flat-chested at just 11 years old.
Now, Billie Eilish is using her voice (and artistic flair) to send a powerful message that she won’t tolerate people picking apart her appearance—or anyone else's, for that matter.
On Monday night, the 18-year-old singer kicked off her world tour in Miami. The concert featured Eilish's Grammy-award winning tracks, a beautiful piano ballad, and her signature baggy clothes. Toward the end of the concert, however, the exhilarating night of music turned into one of empowerment. In a two-minute video displayed during an interlude, Eilish is shown slowly unzipping her oversized hoodie to display her body in a form-fitting black tank top.
“Some people hate what I wear, some people praise it,” Elish says in the vocal soundtrack accompanying the chilling visuals. “Some people use it to shame others, some people use it to shame me.” (Related: Billie Eilish Would Like You to Stop Using Her Style Choices to "Slut-Shame" Other People)
The video then shows Eilish gradually moving her hands down to the bottom of her shirt and stripping down to a black bra. As she undresses, the singer is heard calling out the catch-22 women often find themselves in: “If what I wear is comfortable, I am not a woman,” Eilish says in the interlude. “If I shed the layers, I am a slut.”
The clip ends with Eilish looking deep into the camera, exerting the immense control she has over the situation, before sinking down into a puddle of black liquid.
While a celebrity bearing all for their fans typically isn’t noteworthy, this interlude marks the first time Eilish has chosen to publicly display her body since she went from a homeschooled musician to a chart-topping artist. In a 2019 Calvin Klein ad, the singer shared that most of the time, she intentionally conceals her body with oversized clothing so her looks don't become the talk of the tabloids. “I never want the world to know everything about me,” she explained in the ad. “I mean, that’s why I wear big baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven’t seen what’s underneath.”
But Eilish's message in her Calvin Klein ad didn’t seem to get across to everyone. One month after her ad went live, Eilish was photographed wearing a tank top under an oversized zip-up sweatshirt. The photo quickly went viral on social media, and many people sexualized the singer's body. One Twitter user even posted, “Billie Eilish is THICK.”
Now, nearly a year later, Eilish isn't just choosing to show her body on her own terms. In her poetic interlude, the singer declares authority over her body, reminding people that she cannot "live by" the opinions of others. "If I lived by them, I'd never be able to move," she says.
Toward the end of her interlude, Eilish calls out not just those who judge her appearance, but also anyone who "makes assumptions about people based on their size." She notes how impossible it is to escape these assumptions, whether you're in the public eye or not. "Though you've never seen my body, you still judge it and judge me for it. Why?" she says.
It's true that it's difficult to avoid unsolicited judgment from other people (after all, body-shaming is an international problem). But it's Eilish's last few lines in her interlude that are most worth taking away: "Is my value based only on your perception?" she says. "Or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?"