|GRAZIA Australia, March 21, 2011|
Lily Allen belongs to that Gen-Y posse of celebrities who dominated the pop-culture charts in the late noughties and seemed then to typify what a cool, individual (cover)girl should and could be as the tide started to turn on Paris Hilton and her vacuous Simple Life. Allen spoke her mind – we feminists like that, right? – and could hold a tune and look cute while being cynical and snarky yet vulnerable. Of course, her flagrantly naughty lifestyle and unbridled use of social media for airing her dirty laundry came to somewhat overshadow her career (a cautionary tale for Gen-Ys, them all). But more than that, the paparazzi, press and fashion world got to her, too.
In a new BBC documentary, "Lily Allen: From Riches to Rags", airing tonight, which Allen has asked her fans not to watch but follows her transition from pop star to fashion retailer, she opens up about her two miscarriages and her struggle with bulimia circa 2009.
A sympathetic Grazia begins its report by telling us Allen was "in Paris last week, dressed to perfection in Chanel" with a "hint of sadness behind her cheerful admission she was there to see Karl Lagerfeld about her wedding dress... [though] friends says that going to Paris last week was 'cathartic' for her and shows how far she has come in dealing with the grief that enveloped her in the weeks after she lost the baby."
Grazia reports that Lily has said of her struggle with the eating disorder, "It's not something I'm proud of. I was on the cover of every magazine, with them saying, 'Lily is looking amazing – look how much weight she's lost... People who are famous and successful and live in this mad world tend to die really early, or kill themselves, or die of a drug overdose. I'd rather not, so I figure I'll go and eat."
She also says, though not in Grazia's edit, "I thought I looked good and it was great to be able to try on clothes and feel a million dollars. But I wasn’t happy, I really wasn’t...I’m a pop star, not a model. Don’t make me feel shit for not being really skinny and having an eating disorder."
What Grazia also doesn't mention is that back in 2009, the magazine was celebrating Allen's "Fairytale Makeover"...
|GRAZIA Australia, October 19, 2009|
Back then, GWAS noted: "The cover story, 'Ooh la la Lily', contains quotes from former Grazia fashion director and now Harper's BAZAAR editor Edwina McCann (keeping it in the family): "Everyone was just knocked out," McCann says of Lily's performance at the Chanel show. "She looked fantastic, the embodiment of the show's ethos." Speaking of 'embodiment', is it purely coincidental that Lily seems to have shed a few unnecessary kilos while under the tutelage of King curvy-women-should-stay-off-the-catwalk Karl? Or has Lily sold her soul to Chanel? Grazia offers some answers: "After the show, Karl gave Lily a massive bunch of roses and told her she was a real Chanel girl now. Her appearance came after months of dieting and exercise to ensure she looked her best." And that's the Grazia fairytale come true: slim + Chanel = bliss!"
Of course, Grazia was not to know that Allen was quietly suffering behind the scenes; that she had fallen for fashion's Big Fat Lie (that being super-slim is the path to acceptance and happiness) hook line and sinker. And eating disorders are complex, as I know all too well (and, God forbid, that they should become 'normalised' through stories such as this).
But that's not the point of this post, which is to highlight the glaring disparity between what we see in the fashion glossies and reality, and how wanting to fit a mould we are not made for does us harm (as, inevitably, we will fall short or into a ditch), while giving us another reason to consider if the fashion world, and its glossy byproducts, should be held accountable for the unattainable ideals and weight-loss glorification they perpetuate while (not deliberately; it's the "culture") undermining women like Allen from reaching their potential in life.
In the meantime, hopefully young women are wising up to the need to distance themselves from the images they see: like the pages in Grazia comparing Kate Middleton and Kate Moss and the Paris Fashion Week spread titled 'Out of the Ashes' with its corpse-like models and the story on model Natalia Vodianova captioned "We don't know how she does it!". I also hope Allen finds the redemption she's looking for... I'm just not convinced she'll find it in Karl Largerfeld or a reality TV show or Grazia. Perhaps she should warn "Uncle Karl's" new muse, Blake Lively, about the trappings of being a Chanel girl, too.
See also: Through the glossy looking glass (everyone is impossibly thin and fabulous)
Girl With a Satchel