American singer-songwriter Taylor Swift, who was named the world's highest-paid celebrity by Forbes in 2019, has revealed she struggled with an eating disorder in a new documentary about her life.
Miss Americana, which first premiered at Sundance Film Festival, is due to be released on Netflix on Friday, January 31. In the film, Swift talks for several minutes about the condition and how photographs and comments about her appearance triggered it.
She explains how, during her 2015 world tour, under-eating left her feeling “like I was going to pass out at the end of a show, or in the middle of it”.
“I’m not in any way proud of it,” the singer admits, adding that she could see a picture where she felt her stomach looked too big or “someone said that I looked pregnant … and that’ll just trigger me to just starve a little bit – just stop eating”.
This lasted for several years, Swift continues, and adds that when she wasn’t under-eating, she would keep lists of everything she ate and exercised constantly until she was a UK size two.
In an interview with Variety in which she elaborates on the condition further, the Bad Blood singer recalls the first time she was on the cover of a magazine at age 18. "And the headline was like 'Pregnant at 18?' And it was because I had worn something that made my lower stomach look not flat. So I just registered that as a punishment."
The star says she now practises positive thinking. When she’s tempted to judge her body negatively, she tells herself: “We do not do that anymore because it’s better to think you look fat than to look sick.”
And although she denied it at the time, Swift said it felt right to put it in the film. “I think I’ve never really wanted to talk about that before, and I’m pretty uncomfortable talking about it now,” she added. “But in the context of every other thing that I was doing or not doing in my life, I think it makes sense.”
A standing ovation
Miss Americana received a standing ovation after its gala screening in Utah on Thursday night. After the screening, director Lana Wilson praised Swift for opening up about her disordered eating. "I think it's really brave to see someone who is a role model for so many girls and women be really honest about that," she said. "I think it will have a huge impact."
Wilson's film follows Swift in a particularly turbulent period of her life and begins with the singer finding out her 2018 album Reputation was snubbed by the Grammys. It also includes parts about Swift suing a Colorado DJ for sexual assault, how she fell in love with British actor Joe Alwyn and shows her expressing regret for not opposing US President Donald Trump in the 2016 election for fear of losing fans.
While it has been well received by viewers, critics suggest that it doesn't go far enough. "Although there is honesty and vulnerability, there's also something rehearsed and distant about it," wrote Tim Grierson for Screen Daily. "Swift invites us in, but she only lets us see so much."