Why Adele and her body don’t owe us an explanation

Photo by Abhijith Venugopal via Unsplash

Adele’s success as a female music artist is more than the 120 million records sold worldwide and 15 Grammy Awards, it is her ability to inspire and relate to women about their own relationships and heartbreaks, as well as connect with them about her weight-loss journey and struggle with body-image. 

Adele’s brutal honesty has always been a trait her fans have loved her for and in a recent Instagram live when asked what her 30 album was about, she simply stated ‘divorce, babe.’ Far removed from the typical power-house ballads her previous album contained, 30 offers a stark view of divorce and debates issues such as the effect divorce has on children, loneliness and falling out of love with a long-term partner. Adele has managed to turn her heartbreak over her divorce into her most honest album yet, with 30 being written as an open letter to Angelo her son, in the hopes that he will listen to the album in the future and be able to understand who his mother was and presumably how divorce was a step towards bettering both their lives, even despite the initial heartbreak. Adele has spoken about the ‘mum guilt’ she carries after her divorce decision, with her son having a lot of innocent questions like ‘why can’t you still live together?’ 30 therefore seeks to answer some of these questions through lyrical means. She has spoken about how she felt embarrassed about ‘not being able to make something work’ and notes how as women we are trained to keep trying, ‘even by the movies we watched when we were little.’ Adele’s honesty about the expectation of women to ‘suck it up’ when it comes to marital unhappiness highlights a greater need for society to support women who are unhappy in marriages and not perpetuate the stigma of the ‘divorced woman as spinning out of control… because what is a woman without a husband?’ In Adele’s words this idea is ‘bulls**t’ and simply archaic to the modern world we claim to inhabit.  

Adele revealed her weight-loss via an Instagram post in May 2020, in which she posted a full-length body shot of her wearing a black dress. Despite her looking as beautiful as ever in this photo, the world’s media was waiting to dissect her ‘new body’ and capitalise on her weight-loss. The reaction to this photo promoted the message that Adele was only considered beautiful after losing weight. Adele herself revealed how she was ‘not shocked or even fazed by it’ going on to say how her ‘body has been objectified my entire career. I’m either too big or too small; I’m either hot or not.’ Adele has realised that she cannot achieve the ideal of perfection when it comes to her body, as someone will always have a negative opinion of some sort. I think it is this realisation that other women need to realise, that if you are happy with your body, then it is a perfect body to the only person that matters, the person whose body it is. Our world is filled with unrealistic expectations of what women’s bodies should look like, often perpetuated by social media that encourages edited looks. 

Opening up about her weight-loss publicly for the first time in her 2021 interview with British Vogue, Adele revealed that her previous silence had been intentional and was disappointed that ‘the most brutal conversations were being had by other women about my body.’ It is sad that instead of supporting women like Adele and their changing bodies, other women feel the need to criticise these women’s bodies. Frankly, Adele’s body is no one else’s business and as she stated, ‘I did it for myself and not anyone else.’ I think her decision to not take the traditional route of celebrating her weight-loss and her stating that her journey has been for herself is an empowering ideology that shows women should prioritise their own view of their bodies over anyone else’s and simply do what makes them feel good. Adele remarked how people are shocked she didn’t share her journey and that ‘most people in my position would get a big deal with a diet brand.’ It is her inability to promote these often toxic, unrealistic and triggering diet brands that also shows how she is using her platform as a celebrity to show women that she is not prepared to make an economic profit off other women’s bodies. This is a refreshing view and as Paula Atkinson, a psychotherapist who specialises in eating disorders comments, celebrity weight-loss stories are usually meticulously documented and send the unrealistic message that ‘If I can do it, you can too!’ Atkinson also notes how ‘our culture is obsessed with the idea that people in small bodies are superior to people in large bodies’ and by celebrating Adele’s weight rather than her other aspects of her fitness journey such as her increased strength or mental health gains, this portrays the message that the only thing that matters is how much a person weighs.   

Adele has stated that she does not want to be a body positivity icon and why should she be? As Adele remarks herself, ‘It’s not my job to validate how people feel about their bodies… I feel bad that it’s made anyone feel horrible about themselves- but that’s not my job. I’m trying to sort my own life out. I can’t add another worry.’ Adele is not selfish for not wanting to bear this responsibility. Women of any size do not owe anyone body validation and should not feel pressured to define and value themselves by another’s dress size. Adele’s body whether it be when she was plus-size or after her weight-loss, has nothing to do with how talented she is as an artist and the fact that so much media speculation has been given to her weight shows how our society’s obsession over women’s bodies can often unfortunately overshadow talented women. In conversation with author Candice Carty-Williams, Adele stated how she was ‘really happy now’ but went on to clarify it is ‘not because of my weight… It’s because of the dedication I gave to my brain with therapy and stuff like that, and a lot of crying… I used to cry but now I sweat. It really did save me.’ Adele reveals how she uses exercise to cope with her mental health, ‘it was because of my anxiety’, thus showing how her resulting weight-loss was merely a factor not the reason behind her newfound exercise regime. She continues to say that ‘It goes back to that thing of being thin and being happy… I’m as confident and mouthy now as I was then! That’s personality… I don’t think your body gives you a personality.’ The separation of our bodies and our happiness/confidence is something I think our society has not fully understood; that women can be any size and still feel happy and confident in themselves.   

Sources

Aguirre, Abby., Adele on the other side, (Vogue, 2021), URL https://www.vogue.com/article/adele-cover-november-2021.

Byrne, Christine., What a body positivity expert wants you to know about Adele’s 100-plus-pound weight loss, (Everyday Health, 2021), URL https://www.everydayhealth.com/emotional-health/what-a-body-positivity-expert-wants-you-to-know-about-adeles-weight-loss/

Capon, Laura., Plus-size women don’t owe you body validation, (Glamour, 2021), URL https://www.glamourmagazine.co.uk/article/adele-weight-loss-opinion.

Felbin, Sarah., Adele opens up about her struggling with body image issues after losing 100 pounds in new interview, (Women’s Health, 2021), URL https://www.womenshealthmag.com/health/a38290299/adele-weight-loss-mental-health-body-image/

Richards, Victoria., Yet again, Adele speaks for all of us on heartbreak, (Independent, 2021), URL https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/adele-vogue-interview-divorce-album-b1934607.html.  
Spanos, Brittany., How she turned heartbreak over her divorce into her most honest album yet, (Rolling Stone, 2021), URL https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/adele-new-album-30-divorce-tour-1255774/.

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