Billie Eilish graced the latest cover British Vogue with a tribute to old Hollywood, and the photo shoot triggers a conversation about the sexualization of women’s bodies in pop culture.
The now 19-year-old singer made a point of wearing baggy clothes for public appearances since she became famous as a 14-year-old songwriter. Her signature style, she explained in a 2019 ad for Calvin Klein, was driven by a desire to avoid being perceived by the world.
“I never want the world to know everything about me,” Eilish said. “I mean, that’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. No one can have an opinion because they have not seen what̵
Eilish’s body has been the source of inappropriate speculation since she became popular for her song “Ocean Eyes” in 2015. Her style was a means of protection to avoid being sexualized as a child, but that did not stop curious eyes from commenting on her body. via paparazzi photos. She addressed the conversation about her body in a concert interlude, which she sent a recording of in 2020. In a spoken word poem, she claims that others’ opinions about her body are not her responsibility.
Her British Vogue photoshoot is a departure from her previous image. Dressed in vintage-inspired underwear, Eilish continues to have control over the way her body is presented in public while still evolving as an artist. In her interview, she explained that her body “was the initial cause” of her depression, which is why she chose baggy clothes in public appearances. Her new look coincides with the release of her new single “Your Power”, a response to the way addicts manipulate and exploit underage girls.
“Let me not be a role model because you turn me on,” Eilish said British Vogue, pushing back towards the way she was hailed as a body-positive icon just to cover up her body.
Her choice to dress modestly, she noted, was not a stand against other female pop stars who prefer to dress in more frugal clothes.
“Suddenly you’re a hypocrite if you want to show your skin and you’re light and you’re a slut and you’re a whore. If I’m that, then I’m proud,” Eilish said. “I and all the girls are picky, and f ** k it, you know that? Let’s turn it around and be empowered in it. Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect from you. “
Critics of her photoshoot, who ironically missed the whole point of her interview, accused Eilish of selling and subjecting industry pressure to sexualize herself. Other Twitter users pushed back on it, pointing out that Eilish chose to dress modestly and now choose to dress differently. Either way, she retains agency over her image.
also people who say that billie is “not being herself” because she shows more skin is just some shit. with how much society dictates and controls femme bodies, we do not even feel comfortable in our skin because of its “perception”. so exploration is ruled out
– fatima ♡♡♡ very tired: ‘(@fatimajpeg) May 2, 2021
Women are sexual. Sometimes intensely sexual. Many people love to project their sexual desires and desirability through clothing, makeup, etc. It does not hurt women to be sexual. It is life-affirming and improving. It’s psychologically healthy.
– Caroline Williams (@WilliCaroline) May 2, 2021
why is this sexualized? I see a beautiful person wearing beautiful clothes? what is sexual about it?
– lb1000 (@ lrb100) May 2, 2021
Billie has recently been super vulnerable and honest with the doctor, your power and now this fashion photoshoot. as if she really puts it all out there and i think it’s very meaningful and important and i know it has helped and will help so many people including myself
– vic (@alittIemedieval) May 2, 2021
I remember reading about Billie + her reasoning behind her clothing choices (not wanting to be sexualized as a child). This cover is truly a special moment for her. British Vogue did an amazing job. 💖 https://t.co/SBQoHxqPnH
– The 𝕶𝖎𝖒 💥 (@TheCourtKim) May 2, 2021
please no more “I knew Billie had a body in there” discourse other than that
– oatmeal influencer (@acechhh) May 2, 2021
In her interview, Eilish also addressed those who criticize the way she presents herself while talking about her own experience of abuse and exploitation.
“You complain about being exploited as a minor, but then you have to show your breasts?” Told Eilish British Vogue. “Yes it’s me, damn it! I want to, because there’s no excuse.”