Nearly 84 million people have watched the clip for Timber by Pitbull and Ke$ha.
I’ve watched it seven times.
Usually, my reaction would have been, “Yeah, yeah. Hot women dancing in their underwear? Seen it all before.” I’d take a moment to feel the shame of moderately enjoying a Pitbull song, and I’d move on.
But when I watched the clip, I knew a few things about Ke$ha that completely changed my perspective: That she’s in rehab, seeking treatment for an eating disorder. That she’s been bullied about her weight by her own management. And that her mother followed her into rehab, traumatised by the experience.
Armed with all those details, I watched the clip in horror. Like I was actually witnessing Ke$ha endure the pressure she feels to be perfect and sexy and taut. Like I could see the pain and anger and discomfort in her eyes. To me, in this clip, she’s a desperate woman – deeply uncomfortable with her body, sulkily going through the motions of being a hot female singer.
Watch it, and tell me what you see: A confident, carefree woman who really loves what she’s doing? Or a tortured pop star doing what she thinks is expected of her?
Every time she drags her sharp black nails down her thigh, don’t you just feel like you’ve stumbled into a private moment where Ke$ha’s forcing herself to be sexy even though it’s the last thing in the world she wants to do? There’s something so sad in the way she moves, the way she tosses her hair, the way she throws her pelvis towards the camera. It makes me sad, to go through such private suffering, so publicly.
But then, a great thing happened. Sometime after she made this film clip, Ke$ha realised she needed help. She packed her things and checked herself into rehab for bulimia. She’s still there. And today she asked a friend to tweet fans on her behalf:
This is Kesha’s friend. She asked me to tweet an update for her because she doesn’t have access to twitter right now
— ke$ha (@keshasuxx) January 21, 2014
she says “THANK YOU. SOOO MUCH. I’m overwhelmed to tears by all of the love, letters, and support!! I’ll be back soon and better than ever
— ke$ha (@keshasuxx) January 21, 2014
Hey guys this is K’s friend again. She’s doing well and needs more of your teeth to make art with at the treatment center. She misses you
— ke$ha (@keshasuxx) January 22, 2014
So yeah, she’s still kooky and gothic and interested in teeth art. But she’s also trying to survive the most dangerous mental illness in the world. She’s decided to prioritise health over fame.
That decision is fantastic. It’s brave and necessary. It’s the right thing for her to do, but it’s also a really important thing for us to see. If more celebrities were that honest about how the industry has harmed them, we’d be better able to fight Hollywood’s insistence on thinness at any cost. If more famous people were transparent about their vulnerabilities and struggles, we’d have a better shot at normalising mental illness.
What Ke$ha told E! News before she booked into rehab was effing brilliant: “I’m a crusader for being yourself and loving yourself but I’ve found it hard to practice. I’ll be unavailable for the next 30 days, seeking treatment for my eating disorder…to learn to love myself again. Exactly as I am.”
Yep. It’s an actual celebrity following through on the “Love yourself! Love your body!” mantra they usually peddle for good publicity.
Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa and bulimia are two of the deadliest illnesses in the world. It’s an epidemic of suffering that most people don’t understand. But when someone in Ke$ha’s position acknowledges there’s something very wrong with our expectations of women’s bodies… Well, it makes watching that awful Timber clip worth it.
For support, help and further information about eating disorders please contact The Butterfly Foundation on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or visit their website at www.thebutterflyfoundation.org.au.