Ann Wilson opened up about dealing with body shaming in the public eye in a new interview.
Speaking on Mind Wide Open, the mental health interview series hosted by Lily Cornell Silver (the daughter of Chris Cornell), Wilson detailed the anxiety and stress she experienced in the 1980s resulting from body shaming from various critics at the peak of Heart’s commercial success.
“It was the MTV days, where you not only had to be in a band, you had to look like a model,” began Wilson. “You had to be able to sing and dance and act and look fantastic all of the time. You can do that in a video, but then trying to take that whole thing out and reproduce it live was what was super-hard for me. And I kept getting criticized for not looking like a model and for being real.”
Wilson then recalled reading one particular review that led to her having a big enough physical reaction where she had to go somewhere and calm down.
“There were a couple of reviews that were so cruel, so personal and just nasty,” said Wilson. “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. It didn’t even mention that I sang. I read this review, and it was so nasty I had to go find a restroom and get into a stall and just chill because I felt I was going to go crazy. It was all so much. I couldn’t take all that personal criticism on a huge public scale.”
She continued, “When I chilled out and finally came out, I was okay, but that kind of thing started happening which 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, that was too much of a cross to bear for me. I couldn’t handle it.”
Wilson says she feels the culture has come a long way since the 1980s regarding body image issues and body acceptance.
“There’s more body acceptance now simply because people have stepped forward and said, ‘Look, this is the way that I am. I’m me.’ I think we’ve come a ways, but we’re still a ways from really accepting each other now only body-wise, but politically and just all kinds of ways. I think that’s built into human nature to try and compete.”
Wilson added, “With body shaming, it’s a really neat way to put a person in their place. If you feel they’re out of line or getting too much attention, all you have to do is just body shame them, and they are automatically wimped out and they withdraw so you can knock them down.”