Bebe Rexha’s Red Carpet Rejection Highlights Body Shaming

Bebe Rexha’s Red Carpet Rejection Highlights Body Shaming

After a number of unnamed designers decline to dress Bebe Rexha for the Grammys, the artist reignited a body positivity movement by way of Instagram.

After a number of unnamed designers decline to dress Bebe Rexha for the Grammys, the artist reignited a body positivity movement by way of Instagram.

Text: Reshmi Kaur Oberoi

New Yorker, Bebe (Bleta) Rexha epitomized Marilyn Monroe standing over a subway grate with her dress billowing up, head thrown back nonchalantly mid-laugh and arms crossed over her crotch in an attempt at preserving her modesty. Rexha, whose first name translates to ‘bumblebee’ in Albanian, preserved her own femininity, by not only fulfilling her wish of appearing a “princess” on the Grammy Red Carpet, but also declaring a love for her body and invoking that same love be cultivated among all women, no matter their size. In the age of outing body shaming as discriminatory, Rexha spun on its head the much-talked about 2018 semantic-driven argument that we need not be body positive, but instead, body accepting because the former is unrealistically utopian. For the 2nd generation Albanian-American, the dialogue for 2019 is a matter of body positivity - #LOVEYOURBODY to be more exact.

That was the hashtag Rexha punctuated her caption to an Instagram video she posted on January 21st with - “Don’t say you can’t dress someone that isn’t a runway size. Empower women to love their bodies instead of making girls and women feeling less by their size. We are beautiful any size - small or large!  And my size 8 ass is still going to the Grammys.” In a video viewed over 1.8 million times, Rexha made no qualms in using expletives when addressing that a number of fashion designers outright rejected to dress her for the Grammy’s because she was larger than a sample size, leaving her with less than three weeks to find a dress.

Despite this first-world solution of public accountability via social media and sociocultural phenomenon of self-care, high fashion’s beauty ideal of svelte, waif-like, and less endowed bodies is not a new one. Not Luxury fashion houses refused to fit Megan Mullally, Will & Grace starlet and host of the 2019 SAG Awards disclosed six days after Rexha’s video. In her opening remarks, Mullally who is also cast on Best Burgers, started that “the general public thinks everybody is getting dresses thrown at them left and right, but that’s not actually the case.” She followed up on Access Hollywood: “you’re not the right age or not the right size or not the right level of coolness or whatever it is; I think it should be a little more egalitarian. But I’m not bitter about it at all. I’m actually glad I don’t have to deal with a lot of different personalities.” And it is evident that she wasn’t holding a grudge, opting for the first-world solution that is expedited e-commerce. She purchased an Alexander McQueen gown online after two options sent over by the fashion house had cryptically not worked out.

Similarly, Bebe Rexha told Ryan Seacrest, an early advocate of the singer-songwriter, that she was not one to begrudgingly deny those designers that had initially sworn her off should they come around to make good - as she admitted to some having done so. Though she wouldn’t expose the naysayers, she did candidly list off those who had volunteered to dress her: Karl Lagerfeld, Christian Soriano, Moschino’s Jeremy Scott. She publicly heralded August Getty who designed her lustrous strapless oxblood red asymmetric top with train and pantsuit for an event in Los Angeles: “I cannot thank you enough for loving my body and creating these custom looks for me. You are the change the fashion world needs.” Getty also created her pre-Grammy Gala look- a body hugging sequined red jersey sleeveless maxi with scoop neckline that emphasized her curves.

Ultimately, Monsoori designed Rexha’s Grammy floor sweeping, tiered gown. While the fiery red gown with halter, cleavage bearing, racer-back bodice mirrored Monroe’s dress, the cinched waist tented out at the waist, completing the appearance of a formal gown. Her feminism was a contrast to Monroe, who instead of patting down the front, instead lifted the front of her dress from the middle while a man lifted up the gown’s hem from behind so that she could walk with ease. Beauty isn’t pain - it’s to each her own.

Kelly Rowland, also dressed by Monsoori for The Wearable Art Gala, debuted her Dove campaign hashtagged, #MyHairMyCrown with a music video commercial that aired during Grammy coverage. Sporting an Afro, she spoke out about embracing your natural hair. The video was prefaced by young girls who felt down-and-our about their hair, some of who were ridiculed by their peers.

Millennial fellow New Yorker, designer Laquan Smith, deemed 29-year-Old Bebe Rexha, nominated for Best New Artist and Best Country Duo/Group Performance for 2018 not resourceful. Favored for his social media-friendly aesthetic and having dressed the Kardashians and Jenners, Smith was a panelist at a NYFW discussion held three days before the Grammys. He spoke to the limitations of small luxury fashion houses with limited budget for material, time to create new patterns, and talent to implement construction. He and full-size model, Candice Huffin - whose claim to fame was the 2015 Pirelli Calendar that included Gigi Hadid - believe designers who reject dressing red carpet nominees should not be pigeonholed for non-inclusivity. They understand the fiscal limitations and constraints.

For Rebecca Minkoff, it’s a matter of the cost-benefit payoff. Lena Dunham, on your, approached Minkoff who did not have anything in her size. “But we said, ‘You know what, we’re going to make it.’” And why not? The publicity she would receive may be a worthwhile investment. Minkoff disagreed with Smith despite being well-versed in the economics of luxury fashion for the public eye, “But these luxury houses, they should have no excuses,” she stated. The Dunham dress had taken Minkoff’s team away from their workload; They had to travel to the garment district, brainstorm, and then produce Dunham’s dress.

Seacrest, who designs a bespoke line for Macy’s, admitted to initiating a battle cry in favor of Rexha on the radio the morning after her video surfaced. Executive producer and host on E!, Seacrest’s passion over the matter was evident in that the first hour of the two-hour Live with E! On the Grammy Red Carpet opened and closed with Rexha. The start included a heartwarming behind-the-scenes clip of Rexha getting ready with brother and parents in tow. Her mother collaborated with Getty to sketch out pre-award party looks. Prior to the second hour, Seacrest interviewed her on the Red Carpet making sure to highlight body shaming

Clearly there are two sides to every story and it looks like the saga of inclusivity in the industry is not going to cone to a conclusion anytime soon. For the time being, it seems everyone is making merry. “Don’t be scared. It’s ok to be happy,” Bebe Rexha’s mom told her, posted as a caption to her interview at the iheart Music Canada Awards. After all, moms know best.

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