In 1983, Gwen Stefani was just another Sting superfan with a treasured autograph and photo to match. Thirty-one years later, she's got superfans of her own, and some of them weren't too pleased when she tweeted a photo of her first meeting with the singer. Blame the accompanying caption: “Chunky me 1983. Getting @officialsting autograph backstage.” The tweet sent an unintended message to her followers: At 44, Gwen Stefani still thinks she was overweight as a teenager, even though she very clearly wasn't. Cue Twitter outrage.
If Stefani—indisputable rock star who was once voted as having the “most inspirational mid-riff,” accomplished business woman, and mother of two gorgeous boys with one on the way—is still cringing over her perceived baby fat from when she was 14, well, that bums us out. And unfortunately, she joins an ongoing list of celebrities who engage in self-body bashing.
In January, exercise trainer Jillian Michaels, 40, lamented to talk show host Wendy Williams that she hates her butt, saying, "I've never fully loved my booty. It fits in the clothes nicely. In clothes, I can stuff that sucker into a pair of jeans and you would never know. But out of the jeans it just kinda...falls. And the texture makes me unhappy." In May, supermodel Cindy Crawford, 47, wistfully told Net-a-Porter that her resolution is to “come to terms with my body” by the age of 50 — this from a woman who was once ranked the highest paid supermodel of all time. And even Mindy Kaling, known for defying Hollywood’s ridged beauty standards, told USA Weekend that she would “love to lose 15 pounds.”
“Obviously, celebrities are under enormous pressure to stay thin and it’s possible that by internalizing so much weight scrutiny, self-criticism is bound to come out,” Jean Fain, MSW., a Harvard University-affiliated psychotherapist and author of The Self-Compassion Diet, tells Yahoo Shine. It’s also possible that some celebrities over-share in an effort to seem relatable to their fans (“See? We both struggle with our weight.”) It’s tricky territory that celebrities should probably steer clear of, given most women have enough trouble silencing the fat talk in their heads — do we need to hear it from some of the world’s most beautiful women?
On the flipside, it's hard not to feel an ounce of compassion for Stefani, who inadvertently tweeted her body baggage to millions. Clearly, Stefani looks at an old photo of herself and sees a very different person from the one we see. It's a window into the unreasonable body expectations that female celebrities face and, as a result, the self-scrutiny some of them may never overcome.
I think we're reaching a weird impasse where celebs can't even have opinions about their own bodies. Gwen didn't call herself "obese" or even "overweight". Would the outrage be the same if she called herself "stocky"?