In the trailer for her upcoming Netflix documentary, Miss Americana, Taylor Swift reflects on her upbringing in the music industry. “I became the person everyone wanted me to be,” she says. She’s referring to the way labels forced her quiet, content, “nice girl” image—but that sentiment can also describe how she fell into an eating disorder.
The film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Thursday night, where media outlets got a first look. And according to Variety, it further explores how fame, paparazzi, and the opinions of others warped Swift’s views of her body over time. “It’s not good for me to see pictures of myself every day,” she reportedly says in the film. She goes on to admit that although “it’s only happened a few times, and I’m not in any way proud of it,” there have been times when she’s seen “a picture of me where I feel like I looked like my tummy was too big, or… someone said that I looked pregnant … and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit—just stop eating.”
She later adds, “I thought that I was supposed to feel like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it.”
Swift hasn’t fully opened up about this experience before, particularly because she’s not a professional on the topic, and also because, well, it’s hard to talk about. “There are so many people who could talk about it in a better way,” she told Variety. “But all I know is my own experience. And my relationship with food was exactly the same psychology that I applied to everything else in my life: If I was given a pat on the head, I registered that as good. If I was given a punishment, I registered that as bad.”
The first time she saw herself on a tabloid cover, she happened to be wearing something that made her stomach look “not flat.” She told Variety that a tagline read, “Pregnant at 18?”
“So I just registered that as a punishment,” she said. “And then I’d walk into a photo shoot and be in the dressing room and somebody who worked at a magazine would say, ‘Oh, wow, this is so amazing that you can fit into the sample sizes. Usually we have to make alterations to the dresses, but we can take them right off the runway and put them on you!’ And I looked at that as a pat on the head. You register that enough times, and you just start to accommodate everything towards praise and punishment, including your own body.”
She went on to explain that the ease and frequency with which women comment on each others’ bodies is contributing to the problem.“It’s incessant, and I can say this as a woman: It’s amazing to me how people are constantly like ‘You look skinny’ or ‘You’ve gained weight.’ People you barely know say this to you,” she said. “And it feels awful, and you can’t win either way.” The dialogue has become normalized.
Now that Swift can more easily recognize it, she’s quicker to deflect it, but she still finds inspiration and encouragement through others who are working hard to shift the conversation, like body image activist and The Good Place star Jameela Jamil who heads the “I Weigh” movement. “She’s one of the people who, when I read what she says, it sticks with me and it helps me,” Swift said.
When Swift turned 30 in December, she really started leaning into body-positive mantras. “One thing going into my 30s that I’m really stoked about is I now can really recognize and diagnose toxic messages being sent to me by society, by culture about my body,” she said in a video interview for British Vogue. “I need to feel healthy in my life and I need to take pleasure in food and I need to not use my body as an exercise of control when I feel out of control in my life.”
Like she says in the Miss Americana trailer, she had to “deconstruct an entire belief system, toss it out, and reject it,” which is something she elaborated on in her list of 30 things she learned before turning 30 for Elle. “I learned to stop hating every ounce of fat on my body. I worked hard to retrain my brain that a little extra weight means curves, shinier hair, and more energy,” she wrote. “I think a lot of us push the boundaries of dieting, but taking it too far can be really dangerous. There is no quick fix. I work on accepting my body every day.”
Miss Americana debuts in select theaters and on Netflix on January 31.
You Might Also Like