We cancelled Lagerfeld for body-shaming Adele: remember that before discussing her weight loss
Adele’s weight loss broke the internet. But even if you are saying something kind — could it be better to say nothing at all?
In 2012, Karl Lagerfeld called Adele “a little too fat”. The backlash, to this unkind appraisal of one of the most successful singers of her generation, was swift. Lagerfeld quickly apologised, claiming that his comments had been taken out of context.
Eight years later, Adele posted a photo of herself to Instagram that has amassed 11.5 million likes to date, and inspired countless headlines, thoughtful thinkpieces, and Zoom conversations. The interest has not been down to the praise for the frontline workers she displayed in the caption, but her noticeable weight loss, and speculation as to why she slimmed down.
The tone of the commentary has ranged from surprise, to praise (for her so-called “transformation”). But the act of praising Adele for losing weight or claiming that she looks better “now” has ignited discussion, because of the inherent risk of shaming her original figure. As one of the most liked tweets on the subject put it, “adele [sic] has always been attractive you’re just all fatphobic”.
Several commentators have called out others for presuming that Adele lost weight for “health” reasons, as the word is frequently used to veil fatphobia. That said, a personal trainer who worked closely with Adele said that her goal was not image-focused, but “about getting her healthy”. He added that, “she did not lose the weight to make others feel bad about themselves” and that her “personal transformation has nothing to with me or you.”
In a 2012 interview, Adele said that “weight has nothing to do with my career”, and that she was “very proud” to “represent the majority of women”. She appeared to be responding directly to Lagerfeld’s fatphobia, when in fact the journalist had interviewed her the week before; her comments were only picked up in light of the media furore. Although in this case Adele’s self-image was cast in a very positive light, like Lagerfeld, the reporter believed that the singer’s body was a fair and appropriate topic for discussion.
In our image-obsessed culture, fuller-figured celebrities like Adele are enthusiastically embraced by the wider public and fat community. The importance of diversity can, and should, never be overstated. But I would argue that we could all benefit from more inclusive and nuanced definitions of health, happiness and wellbeing, and an increased sensitivity to body-shaming, in all of its forms.
Why do we expect celebrities, especially women and those who are bigger, to publicly answer questions about their weight, when it is a “personal” matter? Even if you have something kind or congratulatory to say, why should we feel entitled to discuss Adele’s weight loss, particularly when we don’t know her personally? To quote Your Fat Friend, an anonymous writer for SELF, “even compliments send a powerful message about whose bodies we value.”
Perhaps we should have responded differently in 2012. Instead of disagreeing with Lagerfeld, we should have either ignored his comments (as Adele did), or told him to mind his own business. Perhaps the same should apply now.