Ann Wilson Recalls ‘Cruel and Nasty’ Body Shaming
“Anxiety about that really peaked for me in the 1980s when Heart was having its biggest commercial success,” the singer recalled on Mind Wide Open, the IGTV series and podcast hosted by Chris Cornell's daughter, Lily Cornell Silver. “When that happens, you get into this really intense cross section of spotlights. And, on top of that, it was MTV days when you had to not only be in a band, you had to look like a model, you had to be able to sing and dance and act, and look just fantastic all the time from every angle.”
For Wilson, the harshest body shaming came from critics assigned to cover Heart’s concerts.
“I kept getting criticized for not looking like a model. For being real,” the rocker recalled. “There were a couple of reviews I remember that were just so cruel. So personal and just cruel and nasty.”
One review in particular left Wilson speechless.
"We were in an airport and I read this review from the night before that really just landed on me for everything that was ‘wrong’ with me. And didn't even mention that I sang,” the singer noted. “I had to go find a restroom and get into a stall and just chill because I felt I was going to go crazy. I felt it was just all too much. I couldn't take all that kind of personal criticism on such a huge public scale. When I chilled out and finally came out, I was okay, but that kind of thing started happening. That led to me having stage fright. Like, 'I don't even want to go out there.’ That kind of critique, all heaped upon one person in the band, it’s all my fault, that was too much of a cross to bear for me. I couldn’t handle it.”
Wilson developed unhealthy habits in an effort to cope with her anxiety.
“I partied to relax. To escape those feelings of anxiety. Pretty classic reasoning,” the Heart rocker admitted. “If something is really terrifying and off-putting and you can’t face it, you might retreat into drugs and alcohol, which is what I did at the time.”
Wilson also opined that the 1980s were “the lowest of the low in terms of female acceptance,” when “the lowest premium was put on female naturalness.” Though she believes great strides have been made since that time, there is still much work to be done.
“I think that there’s more body acceptance now, simply because people have stepped forward and said, ‘Look, this is the way I am. I’m me,’” Wilson explained. “I think we have come a ways, but we’re still a ways from really accepting each other.”
Watch Wilson’s full Mind Wide Open interview below.