COMMENT:

I woke up this morning to a stream of messages from my girlfriends on WhatsApp. Usually this means a celebrity has died or someone we haven't seen for the better part of a decade has got engaged. But in this case, the messages all started with a picture of a very pretty, slim girl in a short black dress. An unrecognisable Adele – along with dozens of comments.

"She looks amazing"; "She's so beautiful now"; "I didn't recognise her"; "Her body is insane"; "Her cheekbones could cut glass"; "Good for her"; "Well done".

Visitors to Adele's Instagram page today were stunned by the singer's latest picture. Photo / @adele
Visitors to Adele's Instagram page today were stunned by the singer's latest picture. Photo / @adele

She would probably be receiving slightly less praise if she had found an overnight cure for Covid-19.

Advertisement

As a society, we are supposed to have progressed beyond noticing what a woman weighs. The A+ feminist reaction to her reported 44kg weight loss would be to have no reaction at all. But while I would dearly love to pretend that I saw the photos and moved on with my day, I didn't. I saw the photos and my heart sank. I felt personally affronted, as if Adele had done something deliberately to hurt me.

Adele showing off her trimmed-down figure in Lauren Paul's Instagram story.
Adele showing off her trimmed-down figure in Lauren Paul's Instagram story.

My body looks similar to Adele's "old" body. Medium sized. Plump. Not the kind of large that you'd stop to look at on the street but definitely not thin. My body is the body that Adele didn't want to have anymore and clearly spent a lot of time and effort trying to change.

Back when she would arrive at an awards ceremony, a size 14/16, wearing a beautiful beaded gown and industrial quantities of eyeliner, I felt a kinship with her. She looked lovely in the same way that I can look lovely, if someone spends lots of time doing my hair and makeup and I wear a Heist bodysuit underneath a well-cut dress. But Adele doesn't look like me - or the average (size 16) British woman - any more.

It's not just the weight loss itself, either. It's the reaction to her weight loss. Thanks to this new set of photos I will spend the coming days hearing people talking about how amazing Adele looks, with a heavy subtext of: "She looks better now that she's thin."

Adele performs at Mt Smart Stadium on in 2017 in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images
Adele performs at Mt Smart Stadium on in 2017 in Auckland. Photo / Getty Images

Every single time someone marvels at Adele's body, it reinforces the message that bodies look better when they are smaller. That people are worth more when they are smaller. A particularly hard message to receive at a time when so many of us have gained weight in lockdown.

When I've spoken previously about the sense of betrayal that I get when someone who used to have a body like mine loses weight, people have been quick to accuse me of jealousy. And those people are quite right. There is an undeniable aspect of jealousy in my reaction to Adele's weight loss, just as there has been every time someone I know in real life goes from having a body like mine to a body like a Love Island contestant.

I envy the ability to transform, I envy the joy of having a teeny-tiny body and I envy the stream of compliments. I am absolutely jealous. I've been raised in a society that regards a small frame as the ultimate female achievement – how could I be anything other than jealous of those who manage to achieve what I myself have failed at so many times?

There are plenty of people online who claim we should say nothing about Adele's body; that her weight is none of our business. And while I think that sentiment is admirable, it's just not realistic. As mid-sized women have so little representation in the public eye, Adele's body is fraught, political ground. Of course, I don't blame her for wanting to bathe in the approval that comes with weight loss, especially after spending a decade in an industry that celebrates conventional beauty and shoved her into a poncho during the early years of her career when she was at her physical biggest.

Advertisement

Adele has every right to do what she likes with her body. But she's a global megastar and that means that what she does with her body has a knock-on effect for the rest of us.

READ MORE:
Adele shows off jaw-dropping new look in latest Instagram snap
Adele's battle to keep secrets of $280 million divorce
How Adele lost 45kg revealed
How Adele lost nearly 20kgs after splitting from husband

Back in 2012, when Adele was around a size 16, she told US TV show 60 Minutes, "I represent the majority of women and I'm very proud of that." She then vowed never to become a "skinny Minnie." Of course Adele shouldn't be expected to live with a body she dislikes because she promised eight years ago that she wouldn't get thin. But the people on the internet who claim we should all ignore the changes to her physique seem to have forgotten that Adele was adopted as the emblem for mid-sized women a long time ago and seemed happy and comfortable with that body-positive role.

Adele owes me (and the rest of the women struggling with her weight loss) nothing – least of all her dress size. She's a newly single mum, she's been through a "£140 million" divorce in the last year and was recently pictured getting extremely upset at Heathrow airport, so it seems like she's probably got enough to be coping with, without adding the body image woes to strangers to her list.

But in a world with so few mid-size role models, it can hardly come as a surprise that her defection to team skinny from team "do you have this in the next size up?" feels hurtful for women like me.

It's okay to feel a sting when people say how "great" she now looks. It's okay to mourn seeing pictures of someone your own dress size being beautiful on a red carpet. And it's okay if the combination of lockdown weight gain, juxtaposed with Adele's "stunning new body" has made you feel sad. It doesn't make you a bad feminist or a bad person – and you're certainly not the only one who is feeling that way.