Heart’s Ann Wilson – Body Shaming Reviews Led to ’80s Stage Fright Battle
Heart's Ann Wilson was the latest guest on Lily Cornell Silver's Mind Wide Open mental health series, reflecting on the body shaming she went through as the band's continued success carried over into the MTV era of the '80s.
Wilson revealed that she suffered through bouts of anxiety in the '80s as more and more focus was placed on image. The vocalist told Cornell Silver, "That anxiety really peaked for me in the 1980s. Heart was having its biggest commercial success and playing tour after tour after tour and bigger and bigger and bigger shows with No. 1 records and all that stuff and when that happens, you get into this really intense cross-section of spotlights."
"On top of that it was MTV days when you not only had to be in a band you had to look like a model and you had to be able to sing and dance and act and look just kind of fantastic and all this stuff all the time," she added, explaining, "You can do it in a video, but then trying to take that whole thing out and reproduce it live was what was really super hard for me. And I kept getting criticized for not looking like a model."
Wilson recalled, "There were a couple of reviews that I remember that were just so cruel ... so personal, so cruel and nasty. I remember one time we were in an airport and I read this review of the show the night before and it really landed on me for everything that was wrong with me and didn't even mention that I sang. But I read this review and it was so nasty that I had to go find a restroom and go to a stall and just chill cause I thought that I was just gonna go crazy."
"I couldn't take all that kind of personal criticism on such a huge public scale," says Wilson, who adds, "That led to me having stage fright and I don't even want to go out there. That kind of critique all heaped upon one person in the band and it's all my fault, that was too much of a cross to bear for me. I couldn't handle it."
The Heart vocalist says she used to party to escape, turning to drugs and alcohol, but eventually went to therapy where she got sober and clean. She also credits a period in the early '90s where she and sister Nancy Wilson bowed out of the "big arena stage" scene and chose to start up a side band called The Lovemongers that played more intimate acoustic local shows as a turning point in her self-confidence.
But reflecting on that '80s period, she reiterated how difficult it was. "In the 1980s, that might have been the lowest of the low in terms of female acceptance that I've ever lived through. It was when the lowest premium was put on female naturalness ever," she stated. "It was just pretty incredible to live through that. At first it was all fun to get dressed up and have big huge hair and makeup and all that, it was fun and it was theater, but then it came with expectation." Check out the full episode below.
Wilson has been releasing new music of late, with anticipation for a new album announcement building. Her latest single, "The Hammer," can be heard below. It follows on the heels of the songs "Tender Heart" and "The Revolution Starts Now."