So, it’s been all over the media – Karl Lagerfeld called Adele fat!! O.M.G. But, as per usual with the media, Lagerfeld’s comment is only a small blip from a larger quote. Here’s the deal: Karl Lagerfeld, Paris based designer best know for his work with Chanel, was “interviewed” by Metro and I quote interview because the questions Lagerfeld was asked were not printed and I like to know the question so I can better relate to the answer.
According to Metro, this is Karl Lagerfeld on Lana del Rey:
“I prefer Adele and Florence Welch. But as a modern singer she is not bad. The thing at the moment is Adele. She is a little too fat, but she has a beautiful face and a divine voice. Lana del Rey is not bad at all. She looks very much like a modern-time singer. In her photos she is beautiful. Is she a construct with all her implants? She’s not alone with implants.”
The problem here is what is not being said about Lagerfeld’s comments – that the critical response to these remarks has focused on Adele’s weight with no mention of Lagerfeld’s response to Lana del Rey. He calls both singer’s beautiful and Adele’s voice he cites as “divine” – both compliments negated by the fat comment. While critics may think they are doing a service by calling attention to Lagerfeld’s narrow minded view of physical beauty they are also creating a serious backlash that reinforces our cultural belief that being fat is bad (or ugly, unfortunate…you name it we’ve said it). If we want to create a broader standard of beauty that leaves room for diverse body types then we can’t get all fired up when someone comments negatively on someone else’s appearance. Especially when that person has a talent that should make their appearance irrelevant. But, it doesn’t. Instead when we admonish Lagerfeld for his comments we are actually, on some level, agreeing with him. If it doesn’t matter that she’s fat then it shouldn’t matter that he said so – right? Was it obnoxious? Of course. Did I mention he is a fashion designer…from Paris. The man has spent his life in the most exclusive fashion house EVER. Clearly his views on beauty are ridiculously skewed.
But, he saved the worst for Del Rey; her talent as singer was deemed “not bad” and he supported this point by calling attention to the fact that she looks the part. (Yeah, her music sucks but she’s pretty!) Then he questions the realness of her body and finishes up by reminding us that …hey, implants happen. What really concerns me are the implications of his comments about Del Rey. Encouraging girls because they fit a certain standard of beauty is just as problematic as putting girls down because they don’t. Eating disorders continue to be an epidemic in this country, girls as young as 5 years old are dieting and teenagers are having plastic surgery – This is real.
Beauty affords you a certain amount of privilege in this world and, especially dangerous, a false sense of power – primarily for women. It’s a tricky argument to even articulate – when you have a socially accepted image of beauty nobody wants to hear you critique it and when you don’t fall into that category it is twice as hard to have your voice heard. What’s worse, as much emphasis as we put on female beauty in this country we match that with anger, jealousy, and suspicion when the beautiful are also talented. Don’t believe me? Take a look at any of the critical responses to Del Rey over the last few months before her album was even released. As NPR journalist Ken Tucker puts it – “There’s something weirdly mean about all the negative press Del Rey has received before Born To Die was even released. It’s like high-school level meanness, directed at someone who wants to be a star and is really going for it. It’s like being punished for ambition.”
The bottom line here is that both these women (in addition to Welch) are artists attempting to share their expression with the world and not simply label-created pop idols. That takes creativity, bravery, and a whole lot of self-confidence. Here’s to working towards the day when looks have nothing to do with it.