Sam Smith is fighting hard to love and accept himself.
The singer, who bravely posed shirtless recently in an effort to celebrate his body instead of loathe it, got really candid about body image and his sexuality in an interview with Jameela Jamil for her I Weigh project. He talked about having breasts as a child due to elevated estrogen levels, leading to him getting liposuction at age 12, as well as the “war between my body and mind” over his gender identity. “I’ve sometimes sat down and thought: Do I want a sex change?” he admitted. And his struggle with his body is ongoing (“I get very, very dark”), but therapy over the last year has led to positive introspection.
Smith said he’s struggled with his body image since he was a “baby.” At 5, he was “chubby.” By 8, he had his mom write notes to his teacher because he didn’t want to take off his shirt in swim class. While he came out at 10 and was accepted by family, he “fully had breasts” at 11 and was “self-conscious,” leading to the lipo at 12. The surgery ultimately didn’t work (“I put the weight back on in two weeks”) because he was overeating. He was bullied mercilessly, including by a classmate who “grabbed my chest on the playground in front of all his friends.” He recalled, “It was f***ed up.”
Over the last year, Smith has been in therapy to dig deeper into his unhappiness and realized that his weight struggles are “the basis of all my sadness. Literally everything… I struggle with it every day.” And while he’s learning to accept himself more, posting the shirtless photo was a step to reclaim his body, he said just two days earlier he was in a deep depression over it. “I get very, very dark and very sad,” admitted Smith, who said he has body dysmorphia. Therapy hasn’t taken away his bouts of depression, but have made it easier to dig out of the ruts.
One of the things that opened his eyes were people who have come out as genderqueer/non-binary, those who don’t identify with being male or female. When he first saw the term, he thought, “F***, that is me.” He continued, “I’ve always had a bit of a war between my body and mind about [how I identify], because I do think like a woman sometimes in my head. I’ve sometimes sat down and questioned: Do I want a sex change? It’s something I still think about. Like: Do I want to? But I don’t think it is.”
So how does he identify? “I’m not male or female. I float somewhere in between,” he says.
Having a feminine body has played into his struggle with body image. “I had breasts when I was 11 years old,” he said. “I have a very feminine body. When I move, when I have sex with men — it’s very feminine. I’m feminine in many many ways. I’ve always resented that. I’ve almost been like: No, that’s not manly. You gotta work out. You gotta lose weight. Because that’s what men do.”
He recalled sending photos of actor Tom Hardy to his trainer only to come to realize, “I will never look like that because there’s a bit of a woman in me that won’ t allow that. I put on weight in places that women put on weight.” This realization has been life-changing. “That’s me looking at myself and saying, ‘F***. Maybe I’m not a man, maybe I’m not a woman, maybe I’m just me. And maybe that’s OK.'”
Smith also talked about trying to find love and struggling with fame. On the topic of the latter, he said that if he had the chance to do it all over again, he wouldn’t pursue stardom. “Obviously I’m very lucky,” he prefaced his remarks. “I have money now — which I don’t think is lucky because the responsibility of it — but my views on fame is like: I died. Part of my life died. No one treats me the same ever” outside of his family.
He also talked about being how ashamed of his body on a vacation last year really led him to change things. “I was like: I need to fight this because I can’t live my life like this anymore. It’s exhausting.”
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