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At the beginning of this year, Ke$ha – the smash-hit party-pop star who gave us Tik Tok – released a statement explaining that she was seeking treatment for an eating disorder at the Timberline Knolls centre in Chicago. She told fans that she is “a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself but I’ve found it hard to practice” and that she was seeking help to “learn to love myself again, exactly as I am.” Her family has accused her producer, Dr Luke, of driving her to an eating disorder with constant insults about her weight and her appearance, having allegedly told her that she “looked like a refrigerator”. This whole situation is heartbreaking in so many ways, so let’s break it down.
Ke$ha has always been pretty divisive – do you hate her talk-singing, autotuned style or love her yodelling, feel-good party vibe? Either way, she’s been a star ever since Tik Tok smashed its way to number one way back in 2009 – it’s the most sold digital single in history by a female solo artist. She’s currently riding high on the charts with Timber, and she’s sold at least four million albums and 55 million singles worldwide! I personally love Ke$ha, despite her problematic wearing of appropriative Native American headgear (just… no). She’s an animal rights activist, ambassador for the Humane Society, openly bisexual and an ordained minister that performs legal commitment ceremonies for gay couples. She’s awesome is what I’m saying, and I’ve often been heard standing up for her when the inevitable insults start coming out: “her music has no substance”, “she can’t sing”, “she’s a slut”, “she only sings about partying and binge drinking…” And?
I give you the words from the lady herself: “If men can talk about drinking in every awesome rock ‘n’ roll song and every awesome rap song, why can’t a woman? Just because I drink doesn’t mean I’m a drunk. Just because I have sex, and I’m not embarrassed doesn’t mean I’m a whore. If men can do it, why can’t a woman do it? I really feel one of my main reasons for being on this earth is to level out the playing field just a little bit.” Ke$ha’s music is about being young, loving yourself, loving your friends, having sex and having a good damn time, and screw what anyone else thinks. This is a message that girls need to hear (well, maybe not the alcohol part, but everything else – especially that anti-slut-shaming – is golden). Because Ke$ha’s always seemed so ballsy and sure of herself, it was a blow to find out that she had been suffering in silence.
For a woman who’s been so visibly in the public eye seeming defiant, offering a message of self-love and empowerment, this news was all kinds of heartbreaking – but it’s a powerful reminder that body image affects everyone, and especially women in the public eye. We all know the punishing contradictions of our modern society: the Daily Mail will publish an article scorning you for looking too skinny, but heaven help you if you’re a celebrity woman who dare venture onto the beach with cellulite. The body-shaming drive to be thin, to be the ‘right shape’ is all-powerful and so, so damaging – not only to the famous women that it directly affects, but to the women who see that pressure at work and have it enter their own lives. A study by King’s College London and the UCL Institute of Child Health found that about 4,610 girls aged 15-19 and 336 boys aged 15-19 develop a new eating disorder in the UK every year, and that the number of people diagnosed with eating disorders has increased by 15 per cent since 2000. I firmly believe that the media has a huge impact on this, and cases like Ke$ha’s – where a happy, healthy young woman is driven to an eating disorder by the pressure to look the way she is ‘expected to’ should be rare, not the norm.