Take a beat to analyze 17-year-old pop star Billie Eilish’s cool-yet-macabre lyrics, and you’ll find that teen angst—and rawness, as it applies to both emotional expression and talent—is alive and well. (Along with confidence, expressed amply in hits like “You Should See Me in a Crown” and “Bad Guy.”) But self-facing art, along with coming of age in the spotlight, comes with its share of pitfalls, which Eilish got real about in a recent interview with Rolling Stone.
Along with struggles with depression and Tourette syndrome, Eilish shared instances of body dysmorphia, a complex disorder characterized by the obsessive idea that one’s physical appearance is severely flawed. “I’ve never felt comfortable in really tiny clothes,” she said, in reference to her experience performing with a competitive dance company. “I was always worried about my appearance. That was the peak of my body dysmorphia. I couldn’t look in the mirror at all.”
Body dysmorphic disorder affects at least 5 million people in the United States alone, a number which may be shy of the actual count due to a general reluctance to speak openly about the disorder. And given that BDD is thought to develop from liberal external appraisal—by others, and with a tendency toward the negative—of one’s body, it’s no surprise that a teenager who has garnered as much attention as Eilish may begin to obsess over appearances. The pop star serves as a beacon of moody dynamism, a vibe communicated by her lyrics and aesthetic, from beauty cues to lurid music videos. The upside of the downcast approach is that, rather than peers present and past who have cultivated sunnier associations, Eilish’s openness around difficult-to-discuss topics feels natural, even expected. The candor feels right for 2019, a year that has found the conversation about mental health spurred on by young people. And despite the communicated challenges, such vulnerable honesty seems to be proof positive that they really are all right.
Originally Appeared on Vogue