Mental Health Awareness Week, 2019 begins on Monday 13th May and, this year, the theme is Body Image – how we think and feel about our bodies. It is totally normal for you to care about the way you look, and to take pride in your appearance, however for various reasons some of us can develop a damaging, negative self-image. Body image issues can affect anyone at any age or stage in their lives. In this article, we’d like to take the time to focus on the body image pressures faced in the world of the rich and famous, arguably the catalyst for the reverberations of pressure felt by society at large.
“You can never be too rich or too thin” – the Duchess of Windsor (1896 – 1986) For years, thinness has been regarded as attractive and the key for happiness and success. Recently, Kate Moss echoed the Duchess sentiment when she declared that one of her mottos was that, “nothing tastes as good as skinny feels”.
Being thin or having the requisite six-pack is the ultimate accessory for the rich and famous. Celebrities are under an enormous amount of pressure to follow and maintain unrealistic body and beauty standards. Their appearance is constantly scrutinised, criticised or applauded.
There are a number of celebrities who have spoken out about the pressures placed on them to look a certain way and fulfil a certain ideal.
Jennifer Lawrence refuses to fit the required “celebrity” mould. She openly disagrees with other celebrities who starve themselves to look good or to be the perfect fit for an acting role. She regularly discusses the disturbing numbers of actresses who have eating disorders and is renown for denouncing the “Hollywood Ideal”. She is an actress who is seemingly very aware of the impact both her actions and her weight may have on her fans.
Antony Costa from the boy band Blue appeared on Lorraine in 2017 where he proceeded to discuss the fat shaming that had been directed towards him on social media. He stated that when he rose to fame, social media hadn’t really taken off but today the public are much quicker to criticise photos online which can have an extremely damaging effect on confidence and self-esteem. He alluded to the pressures of the industry to portray this idealised image saying, “as a bloke in the business, it’s hard because you’ve got to keep up with the Joneses, to be seen to have the six-pack”.
Taylor Swift is another celebrity who has openly voiced that she has suffered from negative body image issues. She found it hard being in the public eye but discovered that she was able to accept herself once she realised that she wasn’t alone in her struggles. She found a lot of solace reading about others who also struggled to accept themselves and how they looked. Understanding that others are going through similar difficulties can be an extremely useful tool when trying to cope with negative body image issues.
Ashley Hamilton, star of the blockbuster Iron Man 3, disclosed in a 2013 issue of People that he had used drugs and alcohol to combat an eating disorder that he had had since he was a teenager. It is not uncommon for people suffering with addiction to also have issues with food. “I’ve been free from bulimia for years but I still struggle with food, restricting or overeating. That’s been the hardest for me in sobriety,” he admitted. He also suggested that talking about drug addiction was much more acceptable in Hollywood than talking about food addiction.
Rihanna is an advocate for positive body image and has been very vocal in her disapproval of the fashion industry demands on women. She is adamant that women should not feel pressured by an industry that promotes an unhealthy ideal.
Sam Smith has openly admitted to feeling the pressures of the music industry on his body size and shape. He very publicly lost a large amount of weight but since then has discussed the impact being in the public eye has had on his mental and emotional health. In 2015 he told NME that he felt pressured to look a certain way and opened up about how difficult it was for a man in the industry to discuss food and body image due to the amount of stigma surrounding it. He also stated that “just because I’ve lost weight doesn’t mean that I’m happy and content with my body. Because of the media, and because of what I feel I should look like, it’s always going to be a battle in my head.”
If you struggle from a negative body image, it is important that, like Taylor Swift, you realise you’re not alone. As you can see from all of the people listed above, anyone can feel insecure about the way they look at certain times in their lives. What is important is that we all support each other and avoid criticising or judging others. Mental Health Awareness week is launching the campaign #BeBodyKind. Join in the commentary and become part of the community for a kinder collective awareness around body image and the impact it can have on our mental health.