Sam Smith faces harassment for their weight and gender presentation

Anytime a queer person in the public eye does something out of the ordinary, it is immediately deemed “disgusting,” “horrific” and even “satanic.” For British pop singer Sam Smith, these are only a fraction of the awful comments made since they began releasing music off of their new album “Gloria.”

In late September, Smith and German pop singer Kim Petras released their Grammy Award winning song “Unholy.” The song is sexually driven and thematically dark, paired with both gospel choirs and synthy club beats. With recurrent lyrics of “Mummy don’t know daddy’s getting hot / At the body shop, doing something unholy,” it’s clear that the song is about obtaining non traditional pleasure.

Sam Smith faces backlash for expressing their sexuality. Photo courtesy of Xcel Energy Center, Wikipedia

Smith shared in an interview with New Musical Express that switching from their most notable R&B, brokenhearted ballads to enjoyable, queer pop songs was “so cathartic and freeing to experiment like this and throw out the rule book.” They added that “Unholy” “is about liberating oneself from the clutches of others’ secrets.”

Smith – who came out as non-binary in 2019 – is now fully expressing their queerness and femininity in a way that is most authentic to them. They have changed much since 2014, when their songs, such as “Stay with Me,” were not explicitly queer and they presented as a clean-cut masculine gay man. Many people have responded poorly to Smith’s newfound confidence and long for their previous style that involved self-censorship and was more appealing to a heterosexual audience.

“Gloria,” on the other hand, completely embraces queerness and authentic happiness, giving those who were already upset with “Unholy” even more to grapple with. “Gloria’s” release was paired with the music video for pop anthem “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” which caused a large amount of backlash.

The campy video features Smith amongst plenty of queer dancers donned in glamorous showgirl-like outfits, skimpy leather pieces, white and sequenced corsets, huge coats and nipple pasties. Smith is celebratory of sexual liberation, and this is why people online have been so utterly cruel.

Despite the standout lyric, “I’m a blessing of a body to love on,” most of the hate is due to Smith’s size, an issue deeply rooted in fatphobia. A few years ago, Smith was very skinny, but they have since improved their health and gained weight. In a recent interview for Apple Music with Zane Lowe, Lowe mentioned that on the cover of Smith’s 2017 “The Thrill of it All” album they “just don’t look happy,” in which Smith agreed, responding with, “I mean I was starving. I was hungry. I was genuinely hungry.”

The body and person most people are comparing Smith’s current self to is one that was ill and closeted. People praised Smith at the time for losing weight from their first album, but once they gained it back – and decided to not shamefully hide their body – their existence is supposedly deranged.

Statista reported in 2022 that “The average U.S. women’s dress size is between 16 and 18, meaning that plus-size is the new average.” Though this is only referring to U.S. women, it proves that the majority of all bodies are not traditionally skinny. It is normal to be bigger, and being bigger doesn’t inherently mean someone is dissatisfied with their appearance and should never feel confident or sexy.

Smith’s size is especially disliked because they are queer. However, their video and style are similar to other pop stars, like Lady Gaga or Harry Styles. They certainly each have received backlash for being promiscuous, but few critiques about their weight.

Many of Smith’s recent outfits are quite reminiscent of looks worn by Styles, who tends to wear rather revealing and glitzy clothing paired with pearls and big, traditionally feminine jewelry. When Styles does it, he is widely praised for breaking gender norms and reviving pop culture because he has a conventionally fit and attractive body.

If a traditionally attractive man can publicly express his sexuality, everyone should be allowed to do the same. Queer people and fat people should all be given the same liberties that thin straight people have – without judgment.

I find Smith to be one of the most inspirational people in the industry right now. The love and comfort they have for themself is unlike any other. There are not many fat queer celebrities to look up to, and as a fat queer person myself, it is exciting to see someone live their full truth for everyone to see, despite the negativity that comes with it.

Photo courtesy of Side Stage Collective, Flickr