Sam Smith’s empowering celebration of radical self acceptance

Non-binary artist Sam Smith’s new music video is causing waves as they unapologetically and triumphantly celebrate self-love & queer joy.

Since coming out as non-binary in 2019, Sam Smith‘s music has seen a sonic shift from the sombre piano ballads the artist was known for to triumphant anthems of positivity and self-acceptance.

Smith’s transformation into their truest self has ruffled some feathers, and it’s shining a big ol’ light on the deep-seated queerphobia and fatphobia still plaguing our society.

sam smith

Their new album Gloria is garnering a lot of attention specifically for the release of the music video for the song I’m not here to Make Friends. Exploring the sex-positive theme of wanting to take someone home just for the night, aka a one-night stand, the song is boppy and sits in line with the rest of their new album. But it is the visuals that are causing quite the stir. 

The video features an array of androgynous dancers, sensual dancing, and various costume changes that have sparked the most controversy. Among the many costume changes, Smith is shown in high-heeled boots, nipple pasties, corsets, and a showgirl headdress and skintight black dress. 

Smith has been very open with their body image issues stating in 2019 that their body image issues were  “the basis of all my sadness”. They have recently opened up about learning to love their body after years of insecurity, stating that they now have ‘the opposite of body dysmorphia’. ‘Gloria’ is a celebration of this great personal achievement and their confidence truly shines through in the lyrics alone. Yet the world doesn’t seem to be ready to let go of its body image issues. 

It’s a combination of fatphobia, queerphobia, and femme-phobia that is causing the onslaught of conservative criticism. Smith is not a thin person and is not hiding their body as plus-size people are often told to do. Within the video, they are embracing their body and celebrating it within a sexual context. While the modern body-positive movement is ensuring some shifts in the representation we see in fashion, plus-size people are not often represented as sexual beings and have been considered nothing but comic relief in much of mainstream media. This type of celebration and radical self-acceptance is not a new concept for artists to explore but is typically performed by thin, conventionally attractive artists. 

Take Madonna, Dua Lipa, Prince, and Lady Gaga as just a few examples of other artists who have created music videos that could be considered “sexually explicit” or “pornographic” as Smith’s has been labeled by outraged conservatives, yet receive nowhere near the same kind of backlash.

It is this outrage that makes what Sam Smith is doing so necessary. It is important that people see themselves represented in different forms of content, not just fully clothed and singing about loneliness and heartbreak. This new shift is one of self-love and unapologetic queer joy. To see an artist grow into loving themselves should inspire others so that they too can be fearless in their self-expression. 

In what is being considered a response to the backlash, Smith took to Twitter and posted a picture of themself wearing a glamorous feathered Vegas-style creation with the caption, “Never too much.”

Sam Smith and Kim Petras recently made history as the first trans/ queer pop duo to win a Grammy Award. Kim Petras is the first openly trans woman to win in this category and Sam Smith is the first ever openly non-binary person to win a grammy. To see queer triumph within traditionally cisgender & heterosexual, dominated spaces is joyous. Not only for the artists themselves but for the hundreds and thousands of people who see themselves represented in Sam Smith and Kim Petras. For trans youth who need a strong role model, and for queer elders who can see how worthwhile their battles were.

This historical moment happens just in time for Aussies to take to their own stage with Sydney World Pride being just around the corner. Aussies from all walks of life will come together from late Feb until early March to celebrate all the letters of the alphabet in all of their queer glory!

The LGBTQ+ community has continued and will always continue to thrive and create art that allows them to see themselves represented, and queer youth are incredibly lucky to have artists like Sam Smith to look up to.