Twenty-three-year-old pop star Demi Lovato has been in the spotlight for years. She starred in Barney & Friends as a child and then rose to fame on the Disney Channel’s Camp Rock. She began a solo pop career in 2008, was a judge on season two of The X Factor, and guest-starred on season five of Glee.
Sadly, much of the press surrounding the undeniably talented singer has not been about her career but about her struggle with mental health and body image issues. Lovato has been very frank about her troubled journey, saying over and over that she hopes her honesty will help other young girls struggling with similar problems. In 2013, Lovato upped her commitment to helping others by creating a scholarship program to pay treatment costs for mentally ill patients. Happily, the singer/actress has appeared to be on an upswing in recent years.
Her fifth studio album, Confident, is due to drop on October 16. In advance of her album release, Lovato had an interview scheduled with Vanity Fair, which resulted in a somewhat surprising and impromptu makeup-free, nude photo spread, with no post-shoot retouching. Based on the interview, it appears that her decision to do the shoot was inspired by the title of her new album. “What does it mean to be confident?” she exclaimed in the interview. “It means letting go, being authentic, saying I don’t give a f*** and this is who I am. I want to show the side of me that’s real, that’s liberated, that’s free. What if we do a photo shoot where it’s totally raw? Super-sexy, but no makeup, no fancy lighting, no retouching, and no clothing.”
Being against the overuse of Photoshop is one thing (something Verily proudly stands behind). But going clothing-free? When did authenticity become synonymous with being naked in a magazine?
While it cannot be denied that Lovato looks gorgeous in the photos and is promoting, in her own way, a body type that is not the usual pin-thin frame lauded by the industries she works in, her decision to pose nude for public consumption made me sad on a few levels.
I am actually thrilled that Lovato has reached a level of body acceptance where she wants to celebrate her shape. She should celebrate her shape (let’s all celebrate our shapes, yes?), but why is it that we think the best way to successfully shoot down body shamers is by posing nude? In a similar example, Lovato’s friend and fellow Disney-star-turned-pop-star Selena Gomez responded to recent criticism about her weight gain by posing nude for her upcoming album cover. In Lovato’s words, “It’s empowering, and it shows other women you can get to a place where you can overcome the obstacles of body image issues. You can feel comfortable and confident in your skin.”
Being comfortable and happy in your own skin is huge, and it’s something that women of all ages and sizes struggle with. But isn’t it possible that there is a better way to show a hard-earned confidence than by continuing to imply that women’s bodies are public property? I am no therapist, and I honestly do not want to criticize anyone’s method of recovery, but whether body criticism is coming from an internal or external source, shouldn’t the counterattack focus on how our looks aren’t the sum total of who we are rather than upping the ante by exposing more? That the feeling of empowerment, which Lovato says she is celebrating, can come from something other than taking your clothes off for everyone?
I would love to see Lovato and Gomez—and every other unique and talented woman in the industry who is standing up for her own style of beauty—also stand up against standards that say exposing a woman’s body is the ultimate expression of confidence. That would be empowering.