The Internet adores and glamorizes many things. Cats with scowling faces, babies crying because sad songs play on the radio, and Sriracha-bacon-avocado recipes are just a few of its many many obsessions. When it comes to fashion, particularly awards show fashion, the Interwebs goes HEAD OVER HEELS (no pun), it’s extremely invested in which celebrity wore what when, whether it was at the Oscars, the Met Gala, the Golden Globes, or even LAX (technically not an awards show, but it might as well be). We all like gawking at sparkling dresses, and sharp tuxes, and we all like talking about who wore them best and, even more (sadly), who wore them worst. So, what happens when a famous comedian shows up to an awards ceremony wearing something not that’s conventionally glamorous?
Well, then the Internet gets downright mean. Sarah Millican, an award-winning comedian from England, showed up to last year’s BAFTA awards wearing a gorgeous floral dress and comfortable black flats. In response to her attire, people took to Twitter to share their thoughts.
This, of course, isn’t close to the first time a human person has been vilified for their choice of dress. If you don’t recall, Kim Kardashian was called a “couch” when she, too, wore a floral-print dress (while very pregnant) to the 2013 Met Gala. Back in 2009, Britain’s Got Talent’s Susan Boyle was mercilessly teased and mocked because of her choice in clothing when she performed. And those are just the ones I’m remembering off the top of my head. While making fun of celebrities’ outfits is hilarious to some and has become something we accept as part of celebrity coverage, if you actually think about what’s happening, it’s really hurtful, mean and irresponsible.
Back to Sarah Millican, who was understandably crushed by the amount of vicious remarks about her dress and appearance. So crushed that months later, she’s wrote a smart essay for Radio Times to express how it felt, saying, “Literally thousands of messages from people criticizing my appearance. I was fat and ugly per usual. My dress…was destroyed by the masses. I looked like a nana, my dress was disgusting, was it made out of curtains, why was I wearing black shoes with it. I cried. I cried in the car.” The bullying didn’t stop there. Newspapers, magazines, and talk shows finished off what Twitter had started.
It’s hard to react to that much harassment. The cruelty of strangers is piercing. Sarah wrote, “I felt wonderful in that dress. I thought I had been invited to such an illustrious event because I am good at my job.” And she is! In February 2013, Sarah was listed as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in the UK by Radio 4’s Woman’s Hour. She has her own show, The Sarah Millican Television Programme, and has appeared in countless programs and stand up comedy shows. As prolific and successful as Sarah is, her accomplishments don’t shield her from the heinous comments about her appearance and cruel treatment from the media.
Sarah asserted, “Fancy designer shops are out for me as I’m size 18, sometimes 20, and I therefore do not count as a woman to them. I had a few awkward photos taken by the wall of paparazzi. Awkward as I’m not a model (I’m a comedian), have never learnt to pose on a red carpet (I’m a comedian) and I have pretty low self-esteem.” And honestly, I feel like she didn’t have to justify herself at ALL. Size 0 or size 100, a person has the freedom to wear what they want, when they want to. It’s heartbreaking to see such a strong woman react to mean, thoughtless words that completely discredit her as a person.
However, Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands. Instead of fighting the trolls (as so many of us are guilty of doing, myself included), she announced that if she will be invited to attend the Baftas again, she will wear the same dress “to make the point that it doesn’t matter what [she] wears,” since her dress is not her, and that judging a person by what they wear is simply uncool.
For handling this in such a courageous, smart, and positive way, I applaud Sarah Millican. Not many have the guts to do such a thing, and I’m happy she fought back in a productive way that sets a remarkable example—one we should all remember and try to follow.