If you listen to the radio or have any contact with teenage girls, then you've probably heard of Fergie, sexy singer of the Black Eyed Peas and recent solo sensation. For the last month or more, every teenage girl I know (and I know a few) have been locking themselves in their rooms for hours, 'Big Girls Don't Cry' playing on perpetual repeat while they go through a suspicious number of tissues. A pleasant (on the first half dozen repeats anyway) but fairly standard song of love, loss and moving on, the single has obviously struck a chord in the hearts of millions of young and impressionable teens.
Which is what made it all the more appalling to me when I first heard that Fergie, this same idol, had been covering up an addiction to narcotics by pretending to have bulimia.
Beginning with Ecstasy at the age of 20, Stacey Ferguson, then with girl band Wild Orchid, says she eventually 'got into harder drugs and a really bad place emotionally.’ She told Cosmopolitan magazine, ‘It was my way of getting away from everything. I was totally wrapped up in it and going crazy.' She began smoking crystal meth, 'all day, all night'. Her appetite disappeared, her weight dropped to around 91lb (41kgs) and her behaviour became more erratic to the point where fellow band members Stefanie and Renee staged an intervention for her.
'I didn't want to stop, so I thought of the quickest lie I could,' Fergie confessed. 'I started crying and told them I wasn't on drugs, but that I had been bulimic.' She says of her band members, 'They knew I was really skinny and acting bizarre, but they didn’t know much about drugs, so they believed me for a while.'
Fergie told Britain Q magazine that she even began taking Renee and Stefanie with her to Overeaters Anonymous in order to support her story. During these meeting she would tell fake stories about her non-existent eating disorder.
Now 32, Fergie has apparently been straight for more than 5 years. With worldwide fame thanks to her exposure with the Black Eyed Peas and now her super-successful solo career, Fergie felt last year that she could finally afford to confess her addictions to the world.
'I've never been a bulimic in my life,' Fergie says in an interview printed by contactmusic.com, 'but when you're a drug addict, you lie. I don’t want to be the poster girl for crystal meth, but it’s very addicting, and people don’t know just how addicting it is!”
Maybe it's just me, but I can't help feeling that this confession comes a little too late to be much comfort to the untold numbers of young girls out there who, upon reading in Dolly or similar magazines a few years ago that their sexy successful idol kept her figure so super-slim through bulimia, automatically arrived at the conclusion that sticking fingers down your throat equals losing weight equals looking gorgeous equals 'everyone will love me'? How many of them developed eating disorders that still affect their lives today?
Modern statistics on bulimia are frightening, with between 5 and 10 per cent of girls and women in the USA (i.e. 5-10 million people) and 1 million boys and men suffering from eating disorders including anorexia, bulimia, binge eating disorders and other associated dietary conditions (according to figures from The National Institute of Mental Health). Estimates suggest that as many as 15 percent of young women adopt unhealthy attitudes and behaviors about food.
The glamourisation of eating disorders in the media is by no means new. Girls like Mary-Kate, Lindsay and Britney have been almost as famous for their disorders as their movies/TV shows/albums. But at least they actually had them.
It's not that I don't empathise with Fergie. As someone who has struggled with addiction in the past, I can understand how easy it can be to get caught in a web of denial. But to quote the immortal words of Stan Lee, 'With great power comes great responsibility.' If you are in the position where the manner in which you behave, the way you dress, your every word has the power to affect so many vulnerable young minds, then you have a moral duty to do the right thing by them. And if that’s not reason enough, remind yourself that they also pay your salary.
It’s time to grow up, Fergie – big girls don’t lie!