Grammy nominee Sam Smith is getting candid about their past struggle with body dysmorphia.
In a recent interview with The Sunday Times, the “Unholy” singer said they have finally cultivated a healthy body image after nearly a decade in the public eye. Smith broke out onto the scene with their 2015 hit “Stay With Me,” but it wasn’t until recently that the queer and nonbinary artist felt comfortable enough to show off some skin their work.
The four-time Grammy winner said their body dysmorphia reached a breaking point in 2018, when they came home from touring their sophomore album, The Thrill of It All. Smith had become acutely aware that their queer, plus-size body didn’t fit the implicit “norm” for pop singers.
“When I was 25 I came off tour exhausted,” they told The Times. “I looked to role models in the body world. Every time I went to the pool I felt self-conscious, but I forced myself to take my top off.” Their persistence paid off: “Now have the opposite of body dysmorphia. I look fabulous. I’m finally getting a tan. I’m burnt in places I’ve never been burnt.”
Smith’s fourth studio album, Gloria, epitomizes their healing journey, with the 30-year-old artist posing topless for the sensual cover art — and showing more skin than ever in the music video for “I’m Not Here to Make Friends,” their latest single. Some fans took issue with Smith’s unapologetic display of sexuality in the visuals (although, as one Vogue writer opined, there’s likely some latent homophobia, transphobia, and fatphobia at play there).
At this point, though, Smith couldn’t care less about what people think of their body.
“I’m happier in my own skin on Gloria,” they gushed. “I feel liberated, released from pressures I felt when I was young. My mum says that, as I’ve got older, I’ve stopped caring what people think as much. She tends to be right.”
According to Cleveland Clinic, body dysmorphia, AKA body dysmorphic disorder, is a mental health condition that creates a distorted perception of one’s own body. It can cause body-focused fixations, fear, anxiety, and compulsive behaviors, such as excessively looking at yourself in the mirror or grooming your body. It affects an estimated 2.4 percent of U.S. adults, with cisgender women and people who are assigned female at birth (AFAB) representing a slight majority of cases.
This isn’t the first time Smith has spoken publicly about battling body dysmorphia. In a previous Times interview from 2020, the singer said addressing their body image issues actually catalyzed their gender exploration journey.
“For me, what triggered everything was the work I was doing with my body issues,” they shared. “I always had body dysmorphia. As I started to address that, I started to address my gender and realized that I was holding myself to these ideals of how a man should look.”
“I have girl’s thighs, and I have girl breasts too,” they added. “[Therapy] started to awaken this conversation that had always been in the back of my mind.”
As a nonbinary artist, Smith is poised to make history at the 65th annual Grammy Awards this Sunday, February 5. “Unholy,” their chart-topping collaboration with Slut Pop singer Kim Petras, is up for Best Pop Duo/Group Performance. If Smith and Petras win, they’ll become the first openly trans and nonbinary artists to do so in that category.
Before you go, check out these moving quotes to inspire healthier attitudes around food:
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