If you were searching for a case study in how quickly international acclaim, countless awards and stratospheric success become entirely overshadowed by a few pounds, look no further than the curious case of Lady Gaga.
In a sad new saga epitomizing society's weight obsession (and chronicled brilliantly by Jezebel's Dodai Stewart), the tabloid world and blogosphere have been experiencing an epic meltdown, trying to come to terms with how and why Gaga's weight has dared to fluctuate before their scrutinizing eyes. Some are calling her figure "fuller," others are just flat-out unapologetically using the f-word (as I searched news articles for Gaga's name, the first key term to get tacked on was "fat").
Grammys and multi-platinum albums be damned: The Body Mass Index continues to be the gold standard measurement of success.
Tempting as it may be to blame the evil empire known vaguely as "the media," some of us can and should take responsibility for feeding into (pun intended) an increasingly cross-cultural body fixation. I'd be lying if I said Gaga hasn't gotten me through a workout or two. And while I'd like to think it was all due to her irresistibly energizing dance beats and inspirational lyrics, I'm afraid visions of her pop-star-apropos taut abs may have subconsciously influenced my treadmill motives.
And while Gaga has built a mind-bogglingly massive following (over 29 million Twitter followers to date) on the ultimate self-acceptance mantra, "Born This Way," she herself has been quite candid (too candid?) about fighting her weight.
Most notably, Gaga's sent a tweet to her legions of followers this April, informing them she "Just killed back to back spin classes. Eating a salad dreaming of a cheeseburger #PopSingersDontEat #IWasBornThisWay."
Mixed messages much? While I wholeheartedly appreciate the rare transparency, I can't help but wish the "eat less, exercise more" ideal had never been blasted out to so many undeniably impressionable fans. Moreover, I wish Gaga had never subjected herself to fitting a narrow, predetermined pop star mold if she truly hadn't been born that way.
Gaga's been outspoken about her weight struggles on more than one occasion. She's opened up about vomiting in high school and about putting herself on a "drunk diet." She's been up-front about the phoniness of Photoshopped images, and implored young women to "knock it off" with what she called "the dieting wars" because "it's making girls sick."
And yet, Gaga continues to engage in and contribute to the ongoing dialogue body insecurity is based on, while peppering in contradictory declarations of self-confidence. "I'm dieting right now, because I gained, like, 25 pounds," she told radio host Elvis Duran before adding, "I really don't feel bad about it, not even for a second" and then later, "I have to be on such a strict diet constantly."
What is one to make of all these opposing ideologies? Is Gaga happy with herself, just the way she is? Or does she view her body as an ever-evolving project requiring constant fine-tuning in the form of intense exercise and strict salad-only diet regimens?
Whichever philosophy she truly prescribes to, Gaga is certainly the one having the last laugh. She stepped out in Paris recently sporting a cartoonish pink and blue oversized outfit, presumably intended to stick it to the body snarkers. And her newest tweets have once again incorporated messages of self-love, saying "To all the girls that think you're ugly because you're not a size 0, you're the beautiful one. It's society who's ugly," and "Thanks to my fans who love me no matter what, and know the meaning of real beauty & compassion."
And those are beautiful messages. But I'm hoping to watch Gaga practice what she preaches, stop extolling the benefits of deprivation diets and start unconditionally accepting herself as is. Maybe then her Little Monsters will follow suit and truly embrace the beauty of being "Born This Way."
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