On Saturday, Sam Smith was one of the top-billed artists at iHeartRadio's Jingle Ball, where they brought out special guest Kim Petras for a performance of their hit single “Unholy.”
Sam, who is nonbinary and uses they/them pronouns, dazzled onstage in a Valentino silver sequin jumpsuit, which they paired with chunky black boots, a diamond necklace, and pearl earrings.
And in addition to looking sensational, Sam was obviously feeling themself in the outfit as they posted a photo in the all-in-one to Instagram after the show and wrote: “You got me feeling like a movie star @maisonvalentino.”
Nasty comments about Sam’s Jingle Ball look began to circulate on social media, and it didn’t take long for people to realize that much of the criticism appeared to be rooted in “queerphobia and bodyshaming.”
And some quickly called out the double standards surrounding Sam being mocked for wearing a shimmering jumpsuit onstage just months after Harry Styles was celebrated for wearing a similar outfit during his performance at Coachella.
Throughout his career, Harry has refused to publicly label his sexuality, but he has been romantically linked to several famous women — including Olivia Wilde, who he reportedly split from last month after two years together.
But his androgynous style often attracts attention, and the way that Harry regularly wears conventionally feminine clothing and makeup in photo shoots and onstage has sparked “queerbaiting” accusations over the years.
Queerbaiting is defined as "an attempt to take advantage of and capitalize on the appearance or implication of LGBTQ+ relationships without actually having real LGBTQ+ representation,” and Harry addressed the claims in an interview with Rolling Stone this year.
“Sometimes people say, ‘You’ve only publicly been with women,'" he said. "I don’t think I’ve publicly been with anyone. If someone takes a picture of you with someone, it doesn’t mean you’re choosing to have a public relationship or something.”
And in a previous interview with the Guardian, Harry denied “sprinkling in nuggets of sexual ambiguity to try and be more interesting.”
But many saw the differing treatment of Sam and Harry’s outfits to be reflective of not just their individual body types but also the way that people treat those who are openly queer.
“I see a lot of people trashing Sam Smith for wearing this fab jumpsuit but praising Harry Styles for wearing basically the same thing. Gross,” one person tweeted alongside photos of the two British singers.
Someone else retweeted this and added: “Because one is plus-sized, queer, and femme. The other isn’t.” Another wrote: “Not to mention the obvious fatphobia going on the fact that hs wears these stage fits and gets praised for fighting toxic masculinity and a gay icon meanwhile when an actual member of the lgbtq+ community pulls up to the stage like this they get called names…"
This was echoed by another user, who wrote: “Nah bc but this really is the reality for queer folk. Sam Smith is a gay nonbinary performer who has been doing this long before Harry yet there were articles and tweets calling Harry a ‘gay icon.’ Lets not forget to mention Sam is plus-sized. Y'all just hate queer and fat ppl.”
One more added: “Harry is not openly queer and the point is he’s constantly praised for ‘breaking gender norms’ while Sam smith is shit on constantly while openly queer.” A user agreed: “People love when people ‘perform queerness’ ( or whatever people think Harry is doing) and hate actual queer people (i.e Sam Smith).”
“I really don't like the way ppl are talking abt sam smith. There's so much queerphobia and bodyshaming,” someone else tweeted.
Another shared their sadness at the way that Sam is being treated as they recalled the singer sharing their excitement to live authentically after they came out as nonbinary in 2019.
“Why do you all hate Sam Smith so much?” they asked. “They’re queer, non-binary and have literally said themselves that they are excited about the rest of their life to be exactly who they are. You don’t have to like their music, just let them live. Smells like fatphobia to me…”
During a 2020 appearance on the Late Late Show, Sam said that they finally felt “permission” to show “different sides” of themself after publicly revealing that they use they/them pronouns.
“I just feel like I can show all of myself now and put all of myself into my music,” Sam explained. “Before, I felt scared to show my femininity. I found that really scary. But now she's out."
"I've always felt the way I felt, and being able to tell everyone that and feel so much more open about certain parts of my personality and my life has been absolutely incredible,” they added at the time.
Sam had previously said that they’d spent a lifetime “being at war” with their gender before they realized that they were nonbinary.
In addition to their sexuality, Sam has also spoken incredibly openly about their body image battle, which they said they’ll “always be at war with” after they were bullied for being overweight as a child.
In 2015, Sam lost a dramatic amount of weight after overhauling their diet and exercise routine, and at the time they told Extra: “I am always going to be self-conscious. I'm always going to be trying because I love food more than you could imagine. It's always going to be a struggle for me."
Four years later, Sam shared a topless beach photo to Instagram and said that they were trying to “reclaim” their body as they reflected on the “trauma” they endured as a child due to their weight.
"In the past if I have ever done a photo shoot with so much as a t-shirt on, I have starved myself for weeks in advance and then picked and prodded at every picture and then normally taken the picture down,” they explained. "Yesterday I decided to fight the fuck back. Reclaim my body and stop trying to change this chest and these hips and these curves that my mum and dad made and love so unconditionally."
“Some may take this as narcissistic and showing off but if you knew how much courage it took to do this and the body trauma I have experienced as a kid you wouldn't think those things,” they went on. "I'll always be at war with this bloody mirror but this shoot and this day was a step in the right fucking direction."
In another social media post that was shared 10 months later, Sam said that their body issues are “an everyday struggle” for them as they urged followers to “love our fluctuating bodies.”