Ricki-Lee, why?

Ricki-Lee on the cover of Maxim - this image is heavily air-brushed

I’ve thought for a week about how to write this post in the right way. Here goes.

I’m sad about Ricki-Lee. I’m sad that she’s felt the need to strip off for a men’s mag to promote her new album.

I always walk a fine line when I speak out about the actions of an individual. Because of course every adult has the right to make decisions that they believe to be in their best interests.

Some would say if you aren’t harming anyone, who cares? Well, I do because I’m looking at the bigger picture and I believe the actions of influential individuals can harm others. Indirectly, sure. But when your fans are comprised of young girls, I think there’s an inherent responsibility in that.

And back to the bigger picture, this isn’t just about one individual choosing to get her gear off for a magazine or signing a deal to spruik a weight loss product 5 weeks after giving birth (you can read the post about Mel B and Jenny Craig here). It’s about a society which says this is desirable. Aspirational. EMPOWERING.

OK, so Ricki-Lee. I’m sure she’s a lovely person. Most people are. I’ve never met her. Reading Who magazine means I’ve been aware of her ups and downs – both physical and emotional – since being discovered on Idol (was it Idol? I think it was Idol).

My heart sank though, when I saw this video – a juicy behind-the-scenes clip of her lingerie shoot for men’s mag Maxim.

“Empowered”? She felt empowered to strip down to a sheer g-string and push-up bra in a big cold photographic studio surrounded by men? Is that an empowering way to sell a record?

Ricki-Lee should catch up with Gabriella Cilmi for a coffee. Urgently.

Remember this?

At the time Gabriella Cilmi’s second record was released, along with a Whole New Sexy Look, I wrote this:

If you’re perplexed as to why an artist who is going to sell her music to an overwhelmingly female audience would have to even be portrayed as sexy to men, music critic Bernard Zuel once explained it to me. He said that the marketing theory goes like this: if the female audience see men with their tongues hanging out at the sight of a particular female artist, they’ll be more likely to buy that artist’s music because they too, would like guys to feel that way about them. Nice.

Gabriella Cilmi in FHM - these images are heavily airbrushed.


To me, this new lingerie-wearing Gabriella Cilmi 2.0 has lost everything that made her appealing before. Everything that gave her cut-through when she broke onto the music scene with Sweet About Me.

Her incredible voice has been eclipsed by an overly produced sound. Her unique quirky appeal has been dumbed down and sexed up so that now she resembles every other wannabe popstar out there from Heidi Montag to the Pussycat Dolls on down.

Down being the operative word. I don’t know who is managing Gabriella Cilmi but I would respectfully suggest they change their approach immediately. With this current strategy – which seems to be encapsulated in GET-HER-GEAR-OFF-PHWOOOAAARRRR, she’s become just another girl in undies. Just another girl taking her top off and lying around in a wet t-shirt.

If you’re a reality TV star, grasping at the end of your 15 seconds of fame, that’s one thing.

But what a damn waste for an artist who has, inarguably, TREMENDOUS talent. My hope is that this is merely a misstep and that the record company will allow her to put her clothes back on for her next album.

Or that she finds management who understand that there are women who can be respected and rewarded for their talent without taking off their clothes. Artists like Missy Higgins, Lisa Mitchell, Natalie Imbruglia, Delta Goodrem, Kasey Chambers and Julia Stone have proven that you can be a successful female performer without having to get your gear off.

And to those commenters who are going to chastise “Don’t judge, she’s just a girl etc”? I’m not apologising for my judgement on this one. It’s called critical thought actually. I’m not judging Gabriella Cilmi’s voice or her talent.

And I’m certainly not judging the kind of person she is. What would I know about that? I’m judging a lousy, sexist decision taken by whoever it was who chose to market this talented chick in a demeaning, tacky way.

Sound familiar?

Interestingly, the Gabriella Cilmi marketing move backfired badly. Album sales were disastrous. Her fans turned away. She’s been very quiet since then. Hopefully looking for new management who are able to sell her voice rather than her body.

Now Ricki-Lee is 25 and my understanding is that she manages herself. Which, in a way, makes it even more frustrating. That she wasn’t able to resist the call to get her gear off instead of boldly striking out in a more modern, positive, genuinely empowering way. Showing women – and men – of all ages that you can be a strong, talented SEXY woman without taking your clothes off.

When will a female performer show that it can be done? When will their talent be enough?

That’s all.

NB: as per MM’s comment policy, any comments sledging Ricki-Lee as a person will be deleted. Please respect the fact that this is certainly not an invitation to abuse someone.