Actually, Not Everything Is About How Much You Weigh

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Photo: Gareth Cattermole (Getty Images)

In the six years since Adele’s last album, the Grammy-winning artist has been l-i-v-i-n-grallying for the Labor Party, vacationing with Harry Styles, dating Rich Paul, and maybe most importantly, ending a marriage that didn’t make her happy.

Of course, you wouldn’t necessarily know about all of that from the prevailing narratives about the singer, which have largely focused on finding any and every way to reference her weight loss. The most recent and egregious case of straw-grasping for a chance to comment on Adele’s thinner body comes from the New York Post, which ran an almost comically stupid piece on Monday titled, “Adele’s Oprah concert proves she didn’t lose her voice with those pounds.”

A response to Adele’s recent interview and performance special, Adele One Night Only, hosted by Oprah Winfrey, the Post notes that the singer looked “resplendent in a sparkly, form-fitting black gown that showed off her 100-pound weight loss” and observes in awe that “she hasn’t lost one bit of that vocal power along with those 100 pounds.”

The thirsty headline was rightfully dragged on social media, with a decisive ratio of more than 2,500 scathing quote tweets to a mere 300 or so likes, at time of publication. Still, the notion that losing weight or otherwise changing your body can transform you into a fundamentally different person is a widely held one. Weight has always been equated to worth, value, identity, even talent—that’s probably why Page Six felt the need to highlight that this supposedly “new” Adele could still sing.

In recent years, photos of Adele appearing significantly thinner than she was during the earlier stages of her career have spread far and wide across the internet and tabloids as masses of mostly well-meaning fans rave about her new look. This sort of worship of a “good” celebrity weight loss story, not to mention rampant social media arguments about whose multi-millionaire fave is thinner, is nothing new or even unique to Adele.

“Complimenting” celebs on their weight losses ultimately has the same net impact of body-shaming. These comments, even from the most loyal and adoring of fans, still hinge on the idea that there’s a “good” or correct way for bodies to look.

It’s this very culture of possibly well-meaning but still harmful fixation on bodies that prompted Jonah Hill, who’s been open about his personal struggles with body image, to share an Instagram post last month that simply reads, “I know you mean well but I kindly ask that you not comment on my body… good or bad I want to politely let you know it’s not helpful and doesn’t feel good. Much respect.” (Some followed instructions better than others).

Rebel Wilson also spoke last month about how media fixation on her weight, like her recent disclosure to People that she’d lost 60 pounds, has often eclipsed any attention paid to the actual work she does. “In 2019, I had four movies come out, two which I [also] produced and one, Jojo Rabbit, which got nominated for an Academy Award for Best Picture,” she said, but most coverage of her has focused on “when I do nothing except lose weight.”

Meanwhile, singer-rapper Lizzo can’t share a single TikTok about her vegan cooking without some reaction that’s rooted in her body or weight, either as a problem to be fixed or—to her legions of liberal-leaning fans—as a symbol of empowerment. Of course, her body is neither a problem nor a symbol—it’s a body, and isn’t any of our business. Such is the case advocates for body neutrality as opposed to body positivity have been making for years now. It’s also important to recognize the unique misogynoir Black women in particular endure whenever discussions of body and inherently white-washed health and beauty standards arise.

When it comes to Adele and the Post’s awful coverage of her body, the article fixates on her talent post-weight loss and features gushing comments about how glamorous she now looks. This sort of innocuous body-shaming packaged as celebrating weight loss and “glow-ups” isn’t just a celebrity issue; with family gatherings for Thanksgiving on the horizon, annoying aunts and uncles making invasive comments about family members’ bodies are a guarantee, and many of these comments will almost certainly be presented as “complimentary.”

The appearance of thinness or weight loss is nothing to be publicly celebrated, as these changes could be a product of anything from a debilitating eating disorder to any other mental health struggles, and they just aren’t anyone’s business. Few of the media outlets that have fawned over Adele’s thinness have also given consideration to the many devastating struggles in her personal life in recent years that she’s opened up about—but I guess they were all too busy being shocked that her weight loss didn’t affect her vocal chords.

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