Adele,32-year-old, looks completely unrecognisable in the photo having lost a staggering amount of weight in the past year.
The image shows Adele stood outside her LA home wearing a fitted black dress with puffball sleeves, and black high heels. Her hair has been straightened and falls below her shoulders and she is smiling to someone off camera. She wrote: 'Thank you for the birthday love. I hope you're all staying safe and sane during this crazy time. I'd like to thank all of our first responders and essential workers who are keeping us safe while risking their lives! You are truly our angels. 2020 okay bye thanks x.'
When a celebrity loses weight, the public seems unable to receive it with neutrality. Adele’s weight loss is somehow not just an aesthetic change, akin to cutting her hair or losing her trademark winged eyeliner; it’s a value add, as if who she was before somehow wasn’t good enough. And it’s clearly flared up some people’s disordered feelings about food and beauty, which isn’t really her fault. If we really do believe everyone is free to have their body look however they want, then Adele is also free to get smaller, as she is free to get bigger.
But without Adele even trying, her body is both the medium and the message. We don’t know how much she has actually lost, why she lost it, or how she did it, but we have visual proof it was done. Even her Instagram post for her birthday was more about first responders and essential workers than it was about her.
Thus goes the double bind for a celebrity like Adele, made famous by their talents but rendered endearing because they look “relatable,” even when “relatable” still means exceptionally beautiful by any measure. She can’t come out and talk about the weight loss, because that suggests there was something wrong with how she looked before. She also can’t ignore it, because that allows strangers to ascribe value and meaning to her body. She might have lost the weight for her own quality of life, or she might have lost it because of the enormous pressure of being a person whom people stare at all day. Both are valid reasons, but only one feels fraught with the pressure of being a disappointment.
Like most things, our response to Adele’s weight loss says more about us than it does about her. If we’re cheering her on, it suggests a kind of misery we already have about our weight and our relationship with our own body. If we’re gloomy about it, it’s because she reminds us of our own struggle with conventional beauty and the ways we don’t fit in. Adele can’t win, and neither can we.