Fiona Apple’s weight has long been a subject of scrutiny, so much so that it’s at times detracted from her music. Just last week, during a performance in Portland, she kicked out an audience member who said she looked too thin and urged her to “get healthy.” In a new interview, the 36-year-old songwriter opened up about the incident, explaining why it “hurt her feelings.”
Critics began carping about Apple’s weight when she burst out in 1997 with the brooding hit “Criminal” and an attendant video that featured her skulking around in her underwear while casting furtive glances at the camera. The New Yorker’s Sasha Frere-Jones later said the video showed Apple “looking like an underfed Calvin Klein model,” while New York magazine’s Ben Williams went further, saying it had “overtones of child porn.”
The weight commentary that’s continued to follow her in the 16 years since then is one of the few things Apple gets publicly angry about. Last October, she personally responded to barbs from entertainment blogger Perez Hilton about her weight at a concert, telling attendees that his words were “dangerous” and “irresponsible,” and asking that people “please stop hurting my feelings.”
She voiced similar sentiments last week, when a fan at one of her shows yelled “Fiona, get healthy! We want to see you in 10 years. I saw you 20 years ago and you were beautiful.” The comments apparently enraged Apple, who reportedly looked shocked, “then hurt, then furious,” and responded with a stream of angry expletives. “I am healthy! Who the f--- do you think you are? I want you to get the f--- out of here. I want the house lights on so I watch you leave!” she told the heckler, according to a report from Stereogum.
In a Q+A with Pitchfork, Apple addressed the encounter, along with reports that she had a “breakdown” on stage, a word she says has been bandied around so often throughout her nearly two-decade career that she now laughs it off.
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“She hurt my feelings,” Apple said of the audience member. “I don’t think what I look like is relevant. And by the way, this whole ‘unhealthy’ thing has me baffled. It’s really confusing to me why anyone would have an opinion about that. And [the heckling] just takes you out of [the performance]. I can’t laugh—I’m an emotional person. And I’m just very sensitive about that.”
When asked if the criticism has gradually gotten any easier to take, she responded, “No.”
“It’s a sensitive subject because it’s not something that should be talked about, because there is nothing wrong with me,” Apple said. “I’m healthy and I shouldn’t even have to say any of that. What makes me unhealthy and puts me in danger is that kind of scrutiny itself. It’s the same as being bullied at school, and just because you’re getting older, it doesn’t mean that you aren’t hurt by it. You could make anybody cry if you told them that they’re ugly.”
But what goads her the most, she says, isn’t necessarily that people are talking about her weight, but that they do it when she’s performing.
“I don’t even know what I’m being accused of. Do they think I’m on drugs? That I have a life-threatening illness? Do they think that I’m anorexic?” she added. “At this point, emotionally, it doesn’t get easier to hear those criticisms—but it gets easier to be resolute about my reaction to it. Which is just: ‘Go ahead and call me ugly, call me skinny, call me crazy and speculate as much as you want, but not at a show.’”
View a video of her cover of “Pure Imagination” for Chipotle below.