celebrity

Adele's return to the spotlight highlights an impossible expectation.

If I could rip those ruby slippers off Dorothy's feet, slip them on and click my heels together three times I’d wish myself to a world where bodies of any size or shape are never discussed.

Unfortunately, we’re not there yet and nobody knows that this week quite like Adele.

The Grammy Award-winning musician made her first public appearance in years this week when she hosted Saturday Night Live.

In the lead-up to Adele's appearance on the long-running comedy show, there's no denying there was a certain amount of the blood in the water. 

Commentators and fans alike were chomping at the bit to see how the 32-year-old songstress would address her weight-loss, a subject that has been making headlines ever since she posted an image from Drake's birthday party in 2019. The story then escalated this year when she posted a full length photo of herself in May to celebrate her birthday.

Listen to The Spill hosts Laura Brodnik and Kee Reece explain why Adele's return to the spotlight highlights an impossible expectation. Post continues after podcast.

On the night her weight loss was a topic she decided to address with her typical candid humour, with a joke about her appearance and the world's fascination with it carefully woven into her opening monologue.

"I know I look different than when you last saw me, but because of the COVID restrictions and the travel ban, I had to travel light," she said. "I could only bring only half of me, and this is the half I chose."

To the untrained eye it may have seemed an easy, off-the-cuff remark, made in jest alongside jokes about why she chose not be the musical guest and how her fondness for swearing made her a dangerous choice of host.

Yet in reality there's also no way a performer at her level of fame hadn't carefully considered how she would make a return to the spotlight and address the subject of her weight loss. A question she would have known was lying in wait for her the moment she re-entered the world of interviews, performances and red carpets.

It shouldn't have to be said that Adele's body and weight are no one's business but her own, yet the world we live in paints a very different picture and many of the headlines that have flooded our news sites for the last year all champion the same dangerous narrative.

That thinner is always better and Adele is therefore happier, more desirable and more worthy of admiration than she was before.

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What Adele's Saturday Night Live appearance alarmingly highlights is that we have now moved into an era where women in the public eye must form a publicly strategy around how they talk about their weight loss. 

Yet no matter how carefully they tread, there's no plan of attack that will fully appease the masses.

Back in the day, there was always a very clear path for female celebrities who chose to lose weight, or, in many cases were forced to, to follow. 

It was a PR strategy that played out over the years like a well-choreographed dance. 

The celebrity in question would pose for a magazine cover, in full hair and make-up, before the images would be put through a photoshopping process so stringent and intense it would make the SAS Australia crew look like a kid's soccer team.

The headlines would proclaim their unbridled success at 'unveiling their new body' and 'shedding those kilos' while an accompanying story between the covers would explain to women how they too could drastically lose weight and fix their lives in just five easy steps.

Watch why Lindy Wet will never be 'thin'. Post continues after video.


Video via Mamamia. 
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Since these types of magazine covers have now been buried in shallow graves, there's an assumption that the way media and their audiences discuss bodies and weight has somehow become less dangerous.

Yet it cannot be denied that Adele, a performer who this year has not toured, realised new music, won awards or given interviews all at her own discretion, is still one of the most talked about celebrities of 2020.

A clear indicator that even with problematic magazine covers removed from the mix, women's bodies still trump career when it comes to what makes headlines. 

And so, women in the spotlight are left with an impossible choice.

If they stay silent, as Adele did for many months before she chose to approach the topic with humour, they are not in control of their narrative and therefore wild theories around their choices and health remain untethered.

If they speak openly and honestly about their desire for weight loss and how they achieved it, as Rebel Wilson has done this year, they can be accused of advocating the need for dieting.

And then, if they completely throw out the rule book and say they need to restrict their food intake and regularly exercise in order to achieve a body that will allow them to work, as Drew Barrymore did this year when she told InStyle "I have to work so hard at not being the size of a bus," they are seen to be promoting a toxic diet culture.

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The truth is, at the moment there are two conversations around body image playing out in tandem and neither come to the same conclusion.

One undeniably promotes the need for women's bodies to be at the centre of headlines and news coverage while the other demonises them for talking about weight at all.

This conversation around Adele, Rebel, Drew and countless other women is not part of the body image revolution.

It's a sign that these types of narratives, along with those magazine covers, need to be laid to rest. 

Feature Image: Getty.

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