By MIA FREEDMAN
My daughter wants to be a singer when she grows up. She’s 8 years old and with increasing desperation, I’m trying to suggest possible alternatives. Artist. Writer. Entrepreneur. Anything.
This is one bubble I’m quite keen to burst. Because when you’re interested in something as a kid, you start looking around for role models. And if you’re a little girl who wants to be a singer, you’ll be looking a long time before you find one with her clothes on.
Miley Cyrus performing on Breakfast TV earlier this week.
Last night I watched another superb episode of Australian Story, profiling a young Australian woman who always dreamed of a singing career and came incredibly close to having one after she won the first season of The Voice back in 2012.
Karise Eden had a hugely troubled childhood and spent her teens in and out of foster homes and refuges after leaving school and home aged 12. Her emotional story and her underdog status captured the public imagination as she progressed through the series towards the final but it was always her voice that eclipsed everything.
Karise, during and after The Voice (post continues after gallery).
I remember the moment her name was announced as the winner. As jubilant and poignant as it was, I felt a fierce concern for her wellbeing. Almost dread. The music industry is notoriously demanding and constraining – especially of young women. Sure enough, just a few weeks later, Karise pulled out of her Australian tour, stopped recording music and walked out of public life. In last night’s episode of Australian Story, Karise Eden explained that it had all been too much for her.
“If I could put one word on my journey over the last couple of years it would definitely be ‘turbulent’” she said wryly, describing the peaks and troughs after winning The Voice.
Karise says fans were constantly coming to her to share their own issues of self-harm and depression. “I didn’t know what to say, I was 19, only a kid myself,” she explained. “I felt like a fake, like a joke.”
Colleen Ward, a friend of Karise noted, “Once she won, everybody was wanting her. She was the person of the moment. She was being pushed and pulled.”
Her foster aunt talks about her time on the show and how she was forced to wear make-up, have her hair done and wear fancy clothes and how “anyone who knows Karise knows she wouldn’t have wanted any of that.”
In the end, it was stress, anxiety a history of various mental illness diagnoses and the overwhelming realisation that she wasn’t strong enough to deliver what was required of her by the music industry machine.
Three days into a national tour, she walked away. Two years later, she’s reemerging. Pregnant, engaged and doing it on her own terms.
She’s still only 22.
I hope she makes it. Because we need more women in the music industry who break the mould of booty shaking, leotard-wearing, overly sexualised pop star. It’s not just Miley and Arianna Grande and Britney and Nicky Minaj and Rhianna and Iggy Azalea. It’s also Madonna and Shakira and Kylie and Beyonce and J-Lo. It’s every woman at every age who is forced (either by management or market forces) to pull focus with her body if she wants to sell her music on a grand scale.
The music industry seems genuinely puzzled by women who won’t conform to their objectifying demands. And very few women at that global level of fame and success have the power to choose how they are portrayed. Sia and Taylor Swift are notable exceptions.