D.despite the litany of social media controversies involving A-list celebrities against journalists, television writers, and non-celebrity users – and the accompanying discourse on these power dynamics – celebrities continue to exert their influence in irresponsible ways for the most nonsensical complaints.
The latter is an incident involving Demi Lovato and a popular Los Angeles frozen yogurt shop called The Bigg Chill. After calling the company on its Instagram on Sunday to show and sell sugar-free cookies and other diet foods, the former Disney star explains her role in the dramatic saga after receiving backlash online.
“I ended up in a situation that didn’t suit me,” Lovato said in an Instagram video on Monday. ‘My intuition told me to talk about this, so I did. And I feel good about that. What I don’t feel good about is part of the way it has been interpreted and how the message has been misinterpreted. “
The incident, which happened quite quickly, started with a few paragraphs Lovato posted on her Instagram stories the company’s ‘harmful messages’ and enabled ‘disordered eating’.
“I find it extremely difficult to order Froyo from @TheBiggChillOfficial when you have to walk past tons of sugar-free cookies / other diet foods before you get to the counter,” Lovato wrote along with the hashtag #dietculturevulture. “PLEASE DO.”
The “Dancing With The Dark” singer also posted a direct exchange of messages between her and The Bigg Chill’s Instagram account in which the store claims they are “not diet culture buffs” and apologized for insulting her. The store also defended itself on their Instagram Stories, tagging Lovato and writing, “We have items for diabetics, celiac, vegan and, of course, lots of indulgent items.”
Still, Lovato refused to give in to this reasoning, letting the company know their service was’ terrible ‘and explaining that eating disorders are the second deadliest mental illness’ to opiod [sic] overdoses. Later, presumably after the singer received some criticism on social media, she suggested that the company label their snacks as intended for people with dietary restrictions and vegans so as not to ‘exclude one audience by targeting others’.
While the singer’s claim that seeing the store’s diet options triggered her much-discussed struggle with bulimia clearly cannot be disputed, Lovato received allegations on social media that her call to women’s small business was not just impulsive and uninformed, but also irresponsible given her aggressive online fan base that has sent death threats to individuals that Lovato has objected to in the past.
This phenomenon – which is ubiquitous in most standard communities of major pop stars – is actually something Lovato has addressed and condemned several times, unlike many of her famous colleagues, including Taylor Swift, who recently Ginny & Georgia actress Antonia Gentry goes online hating after publicly complaining about the subject of a joke on the show, and Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande, who shouted Daily pop host Morgan Stewart and ‘bloggers’ in general on social media after she was first accused of lip syncing in 2019. In 2014, Lovato wrote a lengthy post instructing her ‘Lovatics’ to stop sending death threats to comedian Kathy Griffin after she someone had responded asking her who the “biggest celebrity shower” was on social media with her name. (A year later, in an interview with Ryan Seacrest, Griffin claimed law enforcement officials should be involved.)
Most recently, Lovato addressed the issue in an illuminating way in her YouTube documentary series Demi Lovato: Dancing with the devil which premiered in March. In the third episode, her boyfriend and former creative director Dani Vitale revealed that she received thousands of hateful messages and death threats every day after fans accused her of giving her Lovato drugs before she suffered a near-fatal overdose in 2018. Lovato acknowledged that while she has “great” fans, they can “get out of line” and “don’t always have all the information.”
Lovato acknowledged that while she has “great” fans, they can be “out of line” and “don’t always have all the information.”
Journalist Rachel Brodsky, who called on pop stars like Swift, Grande and Lana Del Rey to raise the culture of harassment and doxxing among their online fanbases in an article for The independent, called this moment in Lovato’s docuseries “frustratingly rare.” It is disappointing, then, that this displayed awareness of the harm her fans can do, with or without her assignment, did not extend to her own actions over the weekend, presumably because she was able to deliver her call to her 102 million Instagram- To frame followers as a service to people who suffer from eating disorders, despite how awkwardly it was performed.
But as many have noted on social media, including The Bigg Chill employees, the production and sale of sugar-free foods is not inherently fatphobic, nor does it encourage disordered eating, as there are a significant number of consumers with medical conditions. making eating sugar dangerous or even deadly. In addition, a person’s decision to opt for a sugar-free snack may be motivated by a handful of other factors that do not include an unhealthy relationship with food, such as a preference for taste, maintaining a balanced diet, healthy teeth, or simply not wanting to. Exceeding their recommended daily sugar intake, which is something all people, regardless of our size, should consider. There is also the obvious fact that diet foods and drinks are sold in practically every establishment that sells food, especially supermarkets and big box stores, and are not universally triggering for those suffering from disordered eating.
Even when Lovato defended herself Monday ahead of her apology by posting a 5-year-old photo from The Bigg Chill’s Instagram of a display of Eat Me, Guilt Free cookies (The Bigg Chill told TMZ they are no longer selling that product), her criticism would have been slightly better aimed directly at the arguably problematic marketing of the snack brand than the single-location company that most likely relies in part on partnerships with other companies. Even then, a culture that makes physical size a moral issue and encourages women that being slimmer is better cannot be attributed to one brand, especially at a time when almost every celebrity influencer is promoting diet shakes and detox teas and these quick results products can deceive consumers by abusing body-positive and health-related messages.
Given the number of noticeable errors in Lovato’s crusade over the weekend, it seems like an obvious route to issue a thorough apology for initiating the entire incident, a la Ariana Grande when she was at odds with a local donut shop. But Lovato still maintained a fair stance and expressed interest in partnering with The Bigg Chill “to tailor the messages to true [she] to feel[s] to enter safely there. “Like many celebrities who are used to a life of privilege and people attending to their every need, she still doesn’t understand that a business that caters to a variety of clients has no obligation to meet her personal needs, especially not if she has the means to have whatever food she wants delivered to her by a personal assistant, or she can just go to another frozen yogurt shop where no diet foods are on display.
Lovato’s latest error of judgment, ridiculously distracting as it was from more important news, shows that not everyone suffering from mental illness or oppressive beauty standards has the resources to be an effective voice for those with that shared experience.