• Sara Reeves

If you’re looking for a role model, Billie Eilish is it

I’m not one for gossip. I usually ignore when there’s new ‘tea’ about the latest relationship someone is in, or who ‘clapped back’ at who on twitter for their shady tweets. I usually think about it as ‘I don’t know them. They have their own life. I am not a part of it nor do my words affect it’. But if there’s one thing I am always happy to stick my nose into, it’s the words of Billie Eilish on her body. And I will mark my stance right here: she is 100% right with everything she has said regarding her figure.

I have always enjoyed Billie Eilish’s music, even as far back as her first version of ‘I Wish U Were Gay’ (So yeah, I liked her before she was cool). Being the same age as her, I always felt a kind of kinship in her experiences pre-fame. With her rise in popularity came her rise in commentary. There was always someone saying something about what she was wearing.

In May of 2019, Billie appeared in the Calvin Klein campaign “I Speak My Truth In #MyCalvins.” It wasn’t CK as we know it. Billie was clad in all her baggy glory, and I assume she was wearing some classic Calvin’s underneath. She spoke on her style in the campaign, explaining that her style – while very involved in being fashionable – was a form of safety.

“I never want the world to know everything about me,” Billie in the video begins, “That’s why I wear big, baggy clothes. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven't seen what’s underneath. Nobody can have an opinion because they haven't seen what’s underneath. Nobody can be like, ‘she’s slim-thick,’ ‘she’s not slim-thick,’ ‘she’s got a flat ass,’ ‘she's got a fat ass.’”

Only 17 years old at the time, Billie maturely examined her own style, explaining how she knew that if she were to wear something ‘revealing’ or ‘show off’ her figure, she would be bombarded with sexist remarks about how she looks. It is the disgusting truth celebrity culture makes many onlookers feel entitled to make comments on the bodies of those stars.

Even then, she wasn’t able to avoid the disrespect. Regardless of whether a person enjoys her musical style, it became obvious that many people began to miss the point. Commenters would try switch around her intention, claiming that ‘maybe she wasn’t that good looking underneath all that clothing’, and that ‘must be why she hides herself.’ This is the classic example of the ‘Male Gaze’ (not inherently male, but overtly judgemental especially in regards to the female form). It fetishises women, not matter the age, and attempts to police their actions on subjects of clothing and woman’s sexuality. There is a shocking figure, that ‘approximately 91% of women are unhappy with their bodies and resort to dieting to achieve their ideal body shape’. This is the direct result of the policing of women’s bodies.

Billie was forced to hide herself in order to avoid societal judgement, which can be extremely damaging to someone who was only 17 years old at this point in time. She merely wanted to make music, not have her body be named and shamed, or the centre of her entire being as a celebrity.

The fetishisation of young women’s bodies is such a prevalent but taboo topic. One particular comment that rubbed me the wrong way and proved this point further was the words of Perez Hilton – a man who is FORTY THREE years old, mind you(and yes this is important) – decided to comment of 15-year-old Charlie D’Amelio’s Tiktok of her just dancing along to a song, only at the time she was wearing a bikini. This man, nearly THREE TIMES the age of D’Amelio, decided that he had to leave a comment, "Anyone else think it's inappropriate for a 15-year-old to dance to this?"

Really? Dancing (not inherently sexual) and a bikini (not inherently sexual) made Hilton feel that it was his duty to make a snide comment on a teenager’s day in the sun? D’Amelio replied maturely, saying "i'm sorry i'm just trying to have fun! :).". Were it me, I would have ripped this man to shreds, so this is a tame reply.

Billie released a new single ‘Your Power’ which addressed this issue to a tee. Billie spoke to Vogue on the single and the subject of controlling the way young impressionable girls (and boys) and how those with more power than these kinds fetishise them,

“I would like people to listen to me. And not just try to figure out who I’m talking about, because it’s not about that. It’s really not at all about one person. You might think, ‘It’s because she’s in the music industry’ – no, dude. It’s everywhere. I don’t know one girl or woman who hasn’t had a weird experience, or a really bad experience. And men, too – young boys are taken advantage of constantly.”

Have I had an experience like this one? Yes. Yes I have. I couldn’t agree with Billie more. We’re constantly torn apart for how we look, made to feel less to we can be manipulated easier. I had an eating disorder before the time I was ten – not that I knew at the time it was one – but it was because of the way female bodies are criticised, no matter how beautiful, that I felt I had to control my weight for the rest of my life to ever be desired.

Come this week, Billie decided to take her body into her own hands. Dressed in a stunning corset, now 19-year-old Billie ‘broke the internet’ with her Vogue cover. While yes, I do love fashion, and I did enjoy the pictures and the confidence behind them, it was the comments connected to those photos that took my breath away.

She was nervous, at first. She had never done a shoot of this calibre and was fully aware of the commenters that would arise from these photos, but Billie did it. And I’m thankful she did. These pictures followed a previous comment by Billie,

“Don’t make me not a role model because you’re turned on by me.”

Billie already knew what would arise from her stunning corset images, and was ready to snap back at those comments,

“If you’re about body positivity, why would you wear a corset? Why wouldn’t you show your actual body?’ My thing is that I can do whatever I want...It’s all about what makes you feel good. If you want to get surgery, go get surgery. If you want to wear a dress that somebody thinks that you look too big wearing, f**k it – if you feel like you look good, you look good.”
“I really think the bottom line is, men are very weak. I think it’s just so easy for them to lose it. 'You expect a dude not to grab you if you’re wearing that dress?’ Seriously, you’re that weak? Come on! Go masturbate!”

Most endearingly, Billie spoke:

“Suddenly you’re a hypocrite if you want to show your skin, and you’re easy and you’re a slut and you’re a whore. If I am, then I’m proud. Me and all the girls are hoes, and f**k it, y’know? Let’s turn it around and be empowered in that. Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect away from you.”

She is giving back confidence to women who may have never had it or lost their confidence due to comments that we have all heard or received at some point in their life. This is what we need. We need the love that Billie is telling us to give ourselves. While Billie and I may be the same age, I still have a lot of love I need to give myself before I can exude the beautiful confidence that she has, and I hope one day I can live up to this interview.

If you’re looking for a role model, Billie is it.