Lily Allen opens up on the firsthand experiences that inspired “Hard Out Here,” her catchy but controversial new single. As portrayed in the video, Allen had booked an appointment for extensive plastic surgery targeting her thighs, belly, ankles, back and knees, following the birth of her first child. “Nobody’s immune to the pressure to look thin,” she says to Observer.
While Allen never went through with the surgery — she found out that she was pregnant with her second child — she couldn’t shake off such pressure from London tabloid The Daily Mail, particularly after it published a graph charting “the ups and downs of her ever-changing figure.” That chart arrived after the pop star talked publicly of her bulimia and before a reporter contacted her minutes after the birth of her first child. (“The placenta was still in me,” she says.)
Allen also wanted “Hard Out Here” to address the male-dominated music industry. “I’ve always been called ‘mouthy’ when, in fact, I’m just talking,” she says. “In the music industry, women have always been controlled by male execs, told to do the Kate Moss thing. Keep your mouth shut, or people will laugh at you. They’ve been talking about us like this for years, basically.” (“Bitches” she admires includes Dolly Parton, Adele, Rihanna and Miley Cyrus.)
The “Hard Out Here” video debuted to praise from Girls creator Lena Dunham, pop co-conspirator P!nk and this site. But it also faced accusations of being racist, particularly because of its rap-informed critiques (“I won’t be bragging ’bout my cars or talking ’bout my chains,” she sings) and portrayal of its black back-up dancers, which critics compared to the “minstrel show” tendencies of Miley Cyrus‘s “We Can’t Stop.”
Throughout her chat with Observer, Allen points to industry titans who exercise a great deal of control in boardrooms, if not from behind the scenes. If anything, “Hard Out Here” and the ensuing discussion shows how easily such executives can escape all blame. It’s like in the video, where a white male manager instructs her how to suggestively eat a banana at a video shoot. Regardless of what he does, Allen’s the one in focus.
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