Nonbinary singer Sam Smith’s provocative style has once again made them the subject of social media fascination. The performer was trending on Twitter on Tuesday, thanks in part to an over-the-top photo shoot for Perfect magazine, and the “discourse” is…just a mess. One might even go so far as to call it “unholy.”
The photos. styled by artist Micheala Stark, find Smith in revealing, gender-bender, figure-distorting fashions.
The photos, styled by artist Michaela Stark, find Smith in revealing, gender-bending, figure distorting fashions.
At this point, it should probably come as no surprise that the images were polarizing. The fatphobic, body-shaming, and trans- and femme-phobic tweets came fast and furious, with trolls criticizing Smith’s looks and pining for the slimmer, cis-presenting figure that Smith cut at the start of their career.
“Seeing more posts about Sam Smith’s ‘downgrade’ because they’ve put weight on and literally live their best life now after speaking about how unhappy they were in their smaller size. NOT EVERYTHING IS ABOUT GAZE AND RATING HOW YOU’D SHAG THEM,” one user summed it up.
Other users couched their criticism of the photos in terms of the “unflattering” styling.
“This isnt about fatphobia,” one user wrote, “its about why are these stylists putting them in outfits that dont do anything for their proportions and just make them look so unflattering.”
But those familiar with Stark’s work were quick to correct them: “That’s the point doofus all of Michaela Stark’s work looks like that.”
“Michaela stark’s clothing is all about manipulating body shapes into abstractions, distortions, and playing with ‘unflattering’ silhouettes as a critique on the rigidity of the formmmm please level up your analysis if you’re just like ‘this doesn’t fit sam smith’s body.’”
Others simply cheered Smith for trolling the trolls and being unapologetic about their body and self-presentation.
All of which is to be expected when it comes to Twitter, honestly. But then…people started dragging Harry Styles into it!
“If this was harry styles y’all would f–king eat it up you don’t support queer people you support harry styles wearing dresses,” one user wrote in a since-deleted tweet.
Styles, of course, has famously been criticized for “queerbaiting” fans with his flamboyant and androgynous style.
“Cis people are really dense if they think the people who support harry and the people who hate on sam smith are in the same demographic,” one user countered.
“One quick question, have you guys ever had a conversation about sam smith without mentioning harry?” another tweeted.
Of course, while all of this is going on, several high-profile cis men have gone out of their way to misgender Smith. Musician and activist Bob Geldof appeared on British talk show This Morning last week, repeatedly misgendering the singer. And earlier this week, Oasis’s Noel Gallagher misgendered Smith on a Dutch radio show, calling the singer “a f–king idiot.” Meanwhile, Tory MP Ben Bradley also recently tweeted that Smith “is a ‘him’, not a ‘them.’”
Late last month, Smith opened up about the abuse they’ve received from strangers on the street in the U.K., including being spat at, since coming out as non-binary in 2019.
As if all of that wasn’t enough, harsh comments aimed at Smith by none other than Azealia Banks have also resurfaced. The “212” rapper recently slammed Smith’s video for “I’m Not Here to Make Friends” in her Instagram stories. “What people need to understand … Especially these gay artists that think these forced displays of sexuality are revolutionary…. is that this type of s–t is so f–king post- Drag Race and cringeworthy,” she wrote, according to Newsweek. “You cannot lean on your sexuality as a crutch to make trash music… The white gays just don’t know what to do with themselves anymore.”
Regardless of the criticism, Smith is having a hell of a 2023 so far.
Early this month, the pop star became the first nonbinary performer to win a Grammy for Best Pop Duo Performance (alongside Kim Petras, who is the first out trans person to win the award) for their single “Unholy.” Their performances of the song at both the Grammys and the Brit Awards have had conservatives foaming at the mouth. They recently revealed that they will be appearing in the upcoming second season of HBO’s Sex and the City reboot And Just Like That… And their red carpet looks have been making headlines as well.