camila cabello criticism
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Is It Time to Ease Up on Camila Cabello?

The "Havana" singer has faced a lot of criticism throughout her career — and maybe it's time we cut her some slack.

This is going to be the summer of Camila Cabello. And if you’re shocked by this statement, you’re probably not alone. The “Havana” singer has been in the public eye since 2012 as part of the girl group Fifth Harmony. And for just as long, she’s been a bit of a divisive — and sometimes disliked — celebrity. Call it the Anne Hathaway effect, but for some reason, people have a hard time backing Cabello. But, it seems like that’s all about to change. In early July, Cabello released her fourth solo album, C,XOXO; ushering in a new Brat-esque era in her career (she’s blonde!). And, it’s good. As in, very good.

Part of what makes this era of the singer’s career exciting is the fact that, despite the criticisms lobbed at her — that she’s too earnest, cringe-y or kind of lame — Cabello is leaning into the camp, and unapologetically being herself. And it’s working.

Camila Cabello has had a tumultuous time in the public eye

To be clear, fans and haters alike have always known that Cabello is talented. The Cuban-born singer has pipes, but that was never really the issue. Instead, it’s been pretty much everything else the singer has done.

In December 2016, Cabello was criticized for making the decision to leave Fifth Harmony to launch her solo career. The group came together on season two of the U.S. version of The X Factor in 2012, but by the time the group announced Cabello’s departure (in a bizarre Twitter back-and-forth between Cabello and her bandmates), it was clear there were some cracks under the surface, with Fifth Harmony claiming they’d found out about Cabello’s departure through her representatives (something Cabello denied).

According to a later statement from the band at the time of her departure, “Over the past several months we have consistently made every effort to sit down and discuss the future of Fifth Harmony with Camila. We have spent the past year and a half (since her initial solo endeavor) trying to communicate to her and her team all of the reasons why we felt Fifth Harmony deserved at least one more album of her time, given the success of this past year that we’d all worked so hard for.” The group also claimed that Cabello refused to discuss their future, despite multiple “exhausted efforts.” Yikes.

 

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To say it was not a great look for Cabello is an understatement, with the now-solo singer appearing ungrateful for the group that had launched her to stardom. And it seemed like her fellow band members Normani, Lauren Jauregui, Ally Brooke and Dinah Jane were feeling it too. In a performance at the MTV Music Video Awards in August 2017 soon after Cabello’s exit, the group launched a figure (meant to be Cabello) off the stage. Feels like they were saying something, no?

Cabello’s public scrutiny didn’t stop there. After coupling up with longtime friend (and Canadian hunk!) Shawn Mendes in 2019, Cabello faced even more shade during the pandemic, when the couple — spending time in Cabello’s home state of Miami — were pictured taking some healthy, but kind of odd pandemic hot girl walks. Around the same time the couple were criticized for “kissing like fish.” (We’re as confused as you are.) The comment prompted the couple to share a very PDA-filled video of themselves kissing to social media. Cabello and Mendes, who’d first set tween hearts on fire with their steamy “Señorita” music video, went from so cute to so cringe in a very short period of time.

In 2019, the singer faced more criticism when old Tumblr posts in which the singer used racist language resurfaced. Cabello issued an apology at the time to what was indeed fair criticism.

Criticism of Cabello is reeks of sexism

While some of the Cabello backlash, like her use of racist language, has been *obviously* well-warranted, the sweeping general sentiment that she’s a little too earnest and seemingly tries a little too hard, and widespread dislike for her, is rooted in sexism.

For starters, the same kind of criticism is rarely thrown at famous men. Despite being one half of the over-the-top couple that was Mendes-Cabello, Mendes received markedly less hate than his girlfriend at the time. And we’ve seen this disparity in treatment before — most recently with the changing public opinion around Jennifer Lopez.

ICYMI, J.Lo is in her flop era. With a cancelled world tour, faltering movie career and alleged impending divorce, she’s not doing so well, and a lot of that has to do with how the public views her — and what they expect from her. The truth is we love to see a powerful woman fail. How else can we account for the fact that J.Lo — despite being in a 50/50 partnership — has taken the brunt of the gossip around her rumoured divorce? (She’s allegedly too ambitious, and please excuse us while we roll our eyes.)

Ultimately, it feels like what people are often uncomfortable with is a driven woman who isn’t afraid to embrace her identity and unapologetically go after what she wants. Which, in the case of Cabello, has been a superstar-level career.

But Cabello is leaning into the backlash against her

Nowhere is it more clear that Cabello is ready to do — and take — what she wants than with her latest album. C,XOXO is a stark departure from the singer’s solo albums of the past, which revolved around a Latin-influenced pop sound, with the singer giving us heady beats and some straight-up saucy lyrics (seriously, listen to “June Gloom.”). Cabello leaned into the sexiness of her new album and era with her recent performances at the Glastonbury music festival where she shook her “money maker,” whipped her blonde locks around and just generally looked like she was having fun.

@camilacabello

lemme grip on ya moneymaker okayyyyy 😚 dc: @calvitjr @Sara Biv

♬ HOT UPTOWN – Camila Cabello

Similarly, on social media, Cabello has been equally as playful, sharing videos of herself bopping around to iconic millennial hits. She’s (publicly) single and not taking herself too seriously.

@camilacabello

maybe hannah’s right . Maybe it CAN be kinda fun

♬ original sound – TMD

 

C, XOXOX was reportedly two years in the making, and a big risk for the singer. In an interview with BBC, Cabello spoke about taking a leap on this experimental album, saying, “It’s a testament to ‘what’s the worst that can happen?’And I had that energy throughout this album.”

“…This album, I kind of spread my wings a little bit more,” Cabello continued. With these creative decisions, it feels like Cabello has finally come into her own, with new music, a fresh aesthetic and an energy that feels entirely her — and she’s unapologetic about it. If Cabello’s happy with herself, shouldn’t we be, too?

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