Growing up in the public eye is not easy, especially when you’re being bombarded with gross comments about your changing body made by creeps on the internet.
19-year-old pop star Billie Eilish is no stranger to this kind of harassment, even when she was still under the age of 18. Despite being known for her signature style that consisted mainly of baggy and shapeless clothes that did not even hint at her silhouette, Eilish was subject to constant harassment about her curves.
So much so that Eilish nearly broke the internet when the singer donned something a bit more scandalous on her British Vogue cover.
Billie Eilish shocked fans by dressing up like a pin-up girl for British Vogue‘s June issue in 2021 (Credit: Vogue)
The way Billie Eilish’s body has been treated by the media and the internet, quite frankly, is sick. Not only are these musings detrimental to the singer herself, but it also raises a greater issue of the way young women — famous or not — are treated by society.
Let’s break down why comments about Billie Eilish’s body — specifically her breasts — have been so harmful to her and other young women and what the pop star has done to try to flip the narrative.
Billie Eilish has always had struggles with body image
Billie Eilish first made it big with her 2015 single “Ocean Eyes” which was released when the singer was only 14. Since then, she has been catapulted to fame and has had to deal with a significant amount of scrutiny from the public.
Eilish quickly became known for her signature style, which featured baggy oversized shirts and shorts that concealed her body underneath. This was purposeful, as the singer says that she has always struggled with the way she saw herself, and that her struggles with her body image can be credited to the unhealthy standards women are held to on social media.
Billie Eilish wore a bedazzled beekeeper mask at the 2019 American Music Awards (Credit: Avalon / WENN)
“I see people online, looking like I’ve never looked. And immediately I am like, ‘oh my God, how do they look like that?’ I know the ins and outs of this industry, and what people actually use in photos, and I actually know what looks real can be fake. Yet I still see it and go, ‘oh God’. That makes me feel really bad,” Eilish said in an interview with The Guardian, referencing the overabundant use of Photoshop or other editing software on photos on social media, giving young women unattainable body standards.
“And I mean, I’m very confident in who I am, and I’m very happy with my life… I’m obviously not happy with my body, but who is?”
The pop star said that her negative body image sometimes got in the way of doing what she loves and that she has to go so far to “disassociate” when she performs, saying, “When I’m on stage, I have to disassociate from the ideas I have of my body. Especially because I wear clothes that are bigger and easier to move in without showing everything — they can be really unflattering. In pictures, they look like, I don’t even know what. I just completely separate the two.”
Singer Billie Eilish shows off her beautiful blue-gray eyes at the premiere of Warner Bros. Pictures’ “Everything, Everything” at TCL Chinese Theatre on May 6, 2017, in Hollywood, California (Credit: Nicky Nelson / WENN)
This idea of not “showing everything” is important to note, because it is certainly another reason for Eilish’s choice of attire. However, the singer insists that her clothes are not a statement about the way other women dress, it is merely a way for her to deflect comments about her body and breasts.
“The point is not: Hey, let’s go slut-shame all these girls for not dressing like Billie Eilish,” the singer said in an interview with ELLE magazine. “It makes me mad. I have to wear a big shirt for you not to feel uncomfortable about my boobs!”
Eilish says that her breasts have often been a point of stress for her. In addition to the back pain that they likely cause, she has to field unwelcome comments from friends and strangers alike.
Billie Eilish styles black combat boots with an oversized yellow jersey with matching camo pants (Credit: Nicky Nelson / WENN)
The singer acknowledges that there are major double standards for women — those with bigger breasts are routinely hypersexualized for doing or wearing normal things, while women with smaller breasts are not.
“I was recently FaceTiming a close friend of mine who’s a dude, and I was wearing a tank top,” Eilish recalled. “He was like, ‘Ugh, put a shirt on!’ And I said, ‘I have a shirt on.’ Someone with smaller boobs could wear a tank top, and I could put on that exact tank top and get slut-shamed because my boobs are big. That is stupid. It’s the same shirt!”
Unfortunately, this is a common occurrence for the singer.
Billie Eilish was oversexualized while still a minor
Despite being completely covered, the singer was still subject to sexualization and slut-shaming well before she turned 18 — and the comments were disgusting.
In an interview with ELLE magazine, Eilish remembered a particularly brutal comment that someone had made on one of her music videos, which read “Tomboys always end up being the biggest whores.” Eilish was obviously upset, saying dejectedly, “I can’t win.”
Billie Eilish was just 13-years-old when “Ocean Eyes” was released on SoundCloud on November 18, 2015 (Credit: “Ocean Eyes” music video directed by Megan Thompson)
Unfortunately, Eilish’s conservative attire may have inadvertently generated more interest around her body. There are Twitter accounts dedicated to the singer’s boobs, and videos of her breasts “bouncing” under a t-shirt are shared repeatedly.
However, the singer found herself being the number one topic after she dared to (gasp!) wear a tank top on a hot day.
In June 2019, Eilish was photographed while she was greeting fans after a show in Nashville. The internet immediately went into a frenzy over the fact that the singer was wearing a tank top in the Tennessee heat and Twitter was ablaze with comments about Eilish’s large (AND UNDERAGE) breasts.
“My boobs were trending on Twitter!” Eilish said. “At number one! What is that?! Every outlet wrote about my boobs!”
Billie Eilish flaunts her boobs in a graphic corset top from indie fashion label Miaou (Credit: WENN/Avalon)
Thankfully, the singer tried to take all of the attention in stride.
“I look good in it,” she said about the viral picture, but she doesn’t understand what all of the hubbub is about, noting that she has no control over the size of her breasts. “I was born with f—ing boobs, bro. I was born with DNA that was gonna give me big-ass boobs.”
In September of 2019, just a few months before her birthday, Eilish expressed that she wanted to switch up her style and feel more desirable since her usual baggy attire fueled her negative body image.
Billie Eilish highlights her breasts in a brown satin “Campbell” corset from Miaou (Credit: WENN/Avalon)
“I’m gonna be a woman. I wanna show my body. What if I wanna make a video where I wanna look desirable?” the singer asked during an interview with ELLE, quickly explaining, “Not a porno!”
“But I know it would be a huge thing,” the singer said, downcast. “I know people will say, ‘I’ve lost all respect for her.’”
Billie Eilish turns 18, posts a picture of boobs, and chaos ensues
While the sexualization of minors should be condemned, the singer turned 18 on the 18th of December of 2019 and should be free to express herself in whatever way she pleases.
However, the public is determined to shame her for simply having a body. In fact, the singer managed to stir up controversy by sharing a photo of breasts that were not even her own.
In December of 2019, the singer prompted fans to tell her what kind of photos they want her to post.
One user asked Eilish to share “a drawing you’re really proud of” and the singer responded with a photo of a drawing she had done featuring nude women with large breasts and a snake. Another fan asked her to post her lock screen, which featured a stylized photo of two naked women.
Billie Eilish wanted the option to show her body when she turned 18 (Billie Eilish’s Instagram / B4859 / Avalon)
As expected, some of the singer’s fans were not happy to see boobs — despite them being normal and natural parts of the human body — which resulted in Eilish losing nearly 100,000 Instagram followers after she posted the photos.
Twitter user @sneezeandpepsi documented the affair, saying, “BYE NOT HER LOSING 100K CUZ OF BOOBS” and shared a photo of Eilish’s follower count dropping from 73 million to 72.9 million.
For someone who has millions of followers, 100,000 was no sweat off Eilish’s back and she found the whole affair laughable. The singer shared the earlier post, saying “LMFAOOO” and “Ya’ll babies SMH.”
To the 100,000 people who unfollowed the singer: grow up. They’re just boobs.
Billie Eilish “breaks the internet” with her British Vogue cover
In June of 2021, Billie Eilish was featured on the cover of British Vogue following the success of her album, Happier Than Ever, and the debut of her new platinum blonde locks.
The internet went absolutely wild — not because of the tell-all interview the singer gave — but because of what she was wearing.
In British Vogue, the 19-year-old Eilish is photographed wearing a retro, pinup lingerie look, and her body — including her breasts which she had concealed for so long — were on full display.
Billie Eilish celebrates her album Happier Than Ever by jumped into a pool with her clothes on (Credit: WENN / Avalon)
Of course, plenty of unwelcome slut-shaming comments flooded in, but so did questions wondering the reason behind “over-sexualization” of her own body.
The backlash that resulted after Eilish’s British Vogue cover was similar to the one that occurred after Miley Cyrus was featured on that infamous Vanity Fair cover. However, instead of solely slut-shaming Eilish, the singer’s photos garnered some valid critique about the hypersexualization of young women and the sex-positivity movement.
Some users explained that while sex-positivity and Eilish’s attempt to “take back” her body by posing for British Vogue was all well and good, they were concerned by the idea that a girl must sexualize herself when she turns 18 — almost like a rite of passage to womanhood.
This same critique can be seen in discussions about the website OnlyFans, which has empowered sex workers to take more control over their lives and content. While this is wonderful because it is safer for sex workers (as compared to working on the street or in dangerous, in-person situations), the website’s popularity has led to concerns for young women.
Grammy-winner Billie Eilish has made conscious fashion choices in an effort not to be sexualized by the masses (Credit: WENN / Avalon)
Many girls, as young as preteens, have seen the success of sex workers and have expressed online that they “can’t wait” to turn 18 so they can start an OnlyFans account and cash in on society’s obsession with “barely legal” teenagers.
Other critiques of Eilish’s British Vogue cover scrutinized the music industry’s treatment of girls and women, discussing the same idea of sexualizing pop stars as a womanly “rite of passage” that is required to be successful — something that their male counterparts do not experience.
Twitter user @MuseWendi sums it up best by saying, “the “girl to woman” transition in Hollywood and the music industry always involves hypersexualization, and people should consider what that means and why men rarely, if ever, have to make this kind of transition to be taken seriously as artists.”
In Billie Eilish’s British Vogue interview that accompanied the cover, the singer does not express that she felt pressure from the industry to strip down, but that she did it as a way to regain the toxic narratives made by the people who had spent her teenage years making obscene comments about her body.
Billie Eilish is open about the pressures of always trying to look good (Credit: WENN / Avalon)
“‘You’re going to complain about being taken advantage of as a minor, but then you’re going to show your boobs?’” Eilish said, referencing the backlash she knew she would receive. “Yes I am, motherf*cker! I’m going to because there’s no excuse.”
“It’s about taking that power back, showing it off and not taking advantage with it,” Eilish said in British Vogue. “I’m not letting myself be owned anymore.”
An article from StyleCaster explained her reasoning by saying, “She was determined to eliminate the option for others to criticize, praise or objectify it. She kept the power all to herself.”
In a way, this feels heartbreaking. Was Eilish so fed up with the way the public speculated about her body that she just thought, ‘screw it, here it is’? She should not have to pose in lingerie just for critics to shut up about her body.
Billie Eilish says wearing baggy clothes makes it “easier to move in without showing everything.” (Credit: WENN / Avalon)
While this may be a reason, the rest of the singer’s British Vogue interview feels more positive, as Eilish makes important points about the way society treats girls — especially those growing up in the limelight.
“Though you’ve never seen my body, you still judge it and judge me for it,” Eilish said. “If I wear more, if I wear less; who decides what that makes me? What that means? Is my value based only on your perception, or is your opinion of me not my responsibility?”
The singer clarifies that she did indeed want to display herself in a way that was different from her usual style, in a way that would make Eilish feel, as referenced earlier, “desirable”. That being said, she was still prepared for whatever people would type on the internet.
“Suddenly you’re a hypocrite if you want to show your skin, and you’re easy and you’re a slut and you’re a whore. If I am, then I’m proud. . . Don’t make me not a role model because you’re not turned on by me,” she said. “Let’s turn it around and be empowered in that. Showing your body and showing your skin – or not – should not take any respect away from you.”
If there is anything to learn from the singer’s British Vogue cover and the surrounding controversy, it is that society needs to stop forcing women to “take back” their power when they should have had it all along. Additionally, leave Billie Eilish and her boobs alone — it’s none of our business.