The story begins on November 13, when Variety magazine published a written interview with Billie Eilish, the issue’s cover girl. When asked a question, Billie Eilish spontaneously addresses her attraction to women. The subject lends itself to it: Variety has just honored the Bad Guy singer as part of its Power of Women event, which celebrates the achievement of women. Billie Eilish explains that she long believed that women didn’t like her. “I never really felt like I could get along very well with girls,” says the 21-year-old. I love them so much. I love them as people. I am attracted to them as a person. I’m really attracted to them. »
It was two weeks later, on December 2, that these remarks – first reported without fanfare – were highlighted. On the Variety red carpet, Billie Eilish grants a video interview to Variety producer Tiana DeNicola, herself openly in a relationship with a woman. The latter asks her if she still has the impression that women don’t like her. “I’m always afraid of them, but I think they’re pretty,” replies Billie Eilish, which made the interviewer react. “Billie, did you want to come out in this story? » “No,” the singer replies. But I thought: Wasn’t that obvious? I didn’t realize people didn’t know that. » She says she doesn’t really believe in the concept of coming out. “Why can’t we just exist? »
This interview excerpt is spreading at high speed on social networks. The traditional media picks up the news. And Billie Eilish’s sexual orientation is discussed in all forums, sparking numerous reactions, both positive and negative. The artist loses 100,000 followers on Instagram, then 50,000 more, but she gains almost as many. Visibly annoyed by this media hype, Billie Eilish makes an update on Instagram. “Thank you, Variety, for my award, and also for bringing me out of the closet on the red carpet at 11 a.m. instead of talking about everything that matters. I like boys and girls,” she wrote, asking that we “leave her alone” about this subject that “doesn’t matter,” and listen to her music instead. “Let’s respect his decision to make it a non-event and continue to listen to his music,” proclaims Vogue France (after paradoxically devoting a long article to the saga).
Holder of the Research Chair on Sexual Diversity and Gender Plurality, Martin Blais would like to say that this is a non-event. He would even have preferred not to deal with it. But the reality is that society has not yet reached that stage where sexual orientation will be seen as a “non-topic”, he says: the noise surrounding the news and the variation in his followers on Instagram demonstrate this well. “The idea that it is a non-subject is also the idea that we could simply slip in this facet of ourselves, without it being in the form of an admission and confession,” he illustrates. For Marie Houzeau, general director of GRIS-Montréal, many people aspire for sexual orientation to become a characteristic of a person like so many others. This vision exists among certain groups of young people, she says, but according to her it remains a minority. “I understand that Billie Eilish may have been honestly surprised by how big this was, but it’s a reality check, probably for her too,” she says.
In this story, we can think of the Instagram subscribers who unsubscribed. To sponsors who may hesitate in the future to collaborate with Billie Eilish in a divided American society. But we can also think of all the people who feel alone and who recognized themselves in her, underlines Martin Blais. If there is still some form of price to pay for artists, there is also a lot to gain. “This representation in the media by popular figures continues to play an extremely important role for the visibility of people, communities, identities,” he says. And even if we aspire for it to be a non-subject, it continues to be important to do it. » There are still few models of bisexuality, pansexuality, and even lesbian women, underlines Marie Houzeau. And perhaps that’s why Billie Eilish’s comments caused so much noise. “The more this noise is shared, the more it will become completely normal,” she concludes.