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Lieb on Pop Stars and Emotional Stripping: The Conversation

Marketing Communication associate professor Kristin Lieb writes for the academic news site The Conversation about pop stars and the shift from shedding clothes to sharing inner turmoil and trauma, citing the works of Billie Eilish and Demi Lovato, among others.

Lieb, who has studied female pop stars for almost two decades, says that the #MeToo movement was significant and allowed artists to have their “personal vulnerabilities – not their music, their performances or their bodies – the centerpiece of their brands.”

Stars’ talent and musicianship has become almost incidental, subservient to their ability to process their pain in public. Pop stars’ oversharing detailed trauma stories has become routine. I call it “emotional stripping.”

Emotional stripping is different from when artists transform trauma into great art, as Beyoncé did in “Lemonade” and Fiona Apple pulled off in “Fetch The Bolt Cutters.” In each album, the artist is able to universalize her struggles without giving away all of the personal details. These albums embolden the stars as they share their rage, fear, disappointments and vulnerabilities.

But emotional stripping prioritizes the overexposure of the star’s human self – her traumas, her addictions, and her mental health struggles – above all other aspects of her brand and her personhood. When a star emotionally strips, she peels away her brand – which, if built and managed properly, should be the protective layer between herself and her audience.

Read The Conversation piece.

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