Chances are that even if you don’t recognize Anne-Marie’s face, you know her voice. Her single “Friends” has over 525 million plays on Spotify. Her single “2002” is a mainstay on the radio. She has lent her voice to tracks with Marshmello and David Guetta and is currently opening for Ed Sheeran on tour.
If you do know her face, perhaps it’s because you’re one of her more than 2 million Instagram followers, who are often treated to refreshingly realistic rhetoric about self-esteem and body image.
Her honesty about how she feels about her body makes her one of very few public figures using their platforms to spread authenticity in the body positive movement. For her, some days are better than others, and her feed is representative of that. She is just as quick to share her insecurities as she is to talk about how she has reached a place of more self-acceptance. It seems small, but it’s actually pretty revolutionary.
On her song “Perfect,” she lays it out pretty plainly: “I’m OK with not being perfect.”
We chatted with Anne-Marie about that notion, what she does to calm her anxieties about the way she looks (and everything else!) and the message she wants to send to fans.
You put forth a message of body positivity and self-love in your music and on social media. How would you describe your relationship with your body as it stands?
[Sighs.] It’s always changing. Every day I feel differently about my body, and when I go on social media and write stuff, I try to make sure to tell people the truth, not just something great. I make sure to show that I have bad days, and even if I’m having a good day, I have struggles within the good day. It’s changing all the time.
Is that how it’s always been? How has the relationship evolved over the years?
It’s gotten so much better from when I was younger. When I was young, I was fine. I didn’t care what people thought about my body. But when I was becoming a teen and a young lady, I think, it was just a nightmare for me. I just hated the way I was. I didn’t even realize I felt that way until looking back now, which is why I feel so strongly about helping people through it, because I don’t want them to spend as much time as I did not enjoying or appreciating their body and just wasting a lot of time worrying about that instead of just having fun.
When you think back on the things you didn’t realize you hated, what do you see?
Just that I wanted to be skinny, and I think that’s a negative thing straight away. At the time I just thought it was the thing. But it’s not. It’s unhealthy to think that way. There were times when I didn’t eat and I had to be forced to eat. At the time I thought everything was fine because I still had energy and was still happy with what I looked like, but I definitely wasn’t. I didn’t have any energy. What I’ve learned most recently is what my body deserves rather than what it “should” look like.
I go through so many phases of, like, wanting to be skinny and then wanting to be thick. Wanting to have curves and wanting bigger boobs, so I put on weight, and then I want to lose weight in my belly.
It’s such a mindfuck because within the body positive movement it’s like, ‘Sure, have curves, as long as they look like these specific curves.’ And that’s so unrealistic. Every body is so different.
Yeah, yeah. When I put weight on, it goes right to my chin. I just get a double chin. I’m trying now to just be healthy rather than look a particular way. I’ve noticed, like, even over the past year, I’ve changed so much. I’ve been quite bigger, and then I went skinny, and both ways I wasn’t happy, so it’s like, what do I do now? There’s so much shoved onto us that we “should” be doing that might not be right for us. I think we just need to take a second to think about what our bodies are coping with rather than trying to fit into someone else’s regime. We’re all different. All our bodies are different. So why would we suit the same regime as someone else?
Do you feel a certain amount of pressure to be on for your fans on social media? What is that like?
First of all, I guess it was just me projecting my problems into social media, so at first, I was kind of just helping myself. I didn’t realize my captions were going to help other people in the process. So it wasn’t my thing to say, “Oh, I’m going to do this and help these people.” But the more I see people using my words to help them through the day or something like that, the more I make sure to post a lot about it, in case people need it. I needed it when I was younger. If I can be that person for kids or anyone going through a tough time, I’m just going to keep doing it.
What advice do you have for those people who might not be at the same place in their self-love journey as you?
I guess the first thing to know is that it takes time. It could take a year, a month, three years. Don’t feel like you’ve failed because you don’t feel better immediately. But also — I don’t know — I think I care a lot about what other people think of me, which is another added thing.
I think it’s hard not to in your industry and, I guess, in general.
Yeah. I think, along with how I feel about myself, worrying about what other people think of me is like a double insecurity. The more I understand that being a good person is most important, no matter what people think of you, then I think the less you care about that part.
For example, I go onstage sometimes and think these things like, “Oh, my God, they’re looking at my belly” or “They don’t like my shoes,” and that takes up so much energy onstage.
What do you do when that happens before a show?
The other day in Columbus [in Ohio], I had a long conversation with a woman who I write a lot of my music with. I talked to her about my anxiety and how it just comes over me. She just said, “If you know if you are a good person with good intentions, then surely no one can think badly about you.” And that’s something I just tried to believe that night. I thought, “OK, when I get onstage tonight, I’m gonna let go of everything I might think of and just have fun.” And it was my favorite show of my whole life.
The next show, I expected to feel the same way, but then things started creeping back in. So I was like, “OK, this isn’t just a change like that. I have to talk to myself again and remind myself.” I have a lot of things in my head all the time — anxiety, what I look like, everything. It’s a constant struggle.
Do you have methods of self-care when those thoughts creep back in?
I don’t know yet. It’s hard because I don’t really have time. The only time I have is at night, so I don’t sleep a lot because I’m trying to gather my thoughts and kind of do some self lessons. I don’t have time to think about it or ring up a friend. I just get thrown in and power through. So at the moment, I’m just dealing with it by being thrown into things, which I don’t think is a good thing.
For now, it’s OK because I don’t have a choice. But I think I’m going to have to figure it out, whether it’s a schedule change or spending time with family before a tour. It’s good to experience this just to know what I need for the future. Every day is a learning experience.
When do you feel the most confident?
After the gym. [Laughs.] I do yoga sometimes, and I leave there feeling like a thousand things have gone from my thought process, and that’s so rare. I have so many thoughts all day, and as soon as I’ve been to the gym, it feels a lot lighter.
It’s hard, though, to just say, “Go to the gym.” A lot of people can’t reach the gym or don’t have a membership or can’t afford a membership.
Or have the motivation to get there.
You have to experience it yourself to believe it. I say this all the time, “With heartbreak, until you say to yourself you’re OK, you don’t believe it until you believe yourself.” So I can say, “Go to the gym. I feel amazing.” They’ll be like, “OK, good for you.” You have to put yourself in that place to believe it.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Bodied is a series in which we ask people to get real about their relationships with their bodies. As the body positivity movement challenges unrealistic beauty standards while insisting we love what we’ve got, we want to push the notion that self-acceptance is a process. Here, we’ll examine how people have grown to love and accept their bodies ― or not ― and the steps they took to get there.