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Adele: the key detail you missed in that viral Instagram birthday photo

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Kayleigh Dray
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Adele

Adele made a brilliant social media power move. It was just overshadowed by a really disheartening tabloid conversation about her so-called “transformation”.

Adele may have been voted one of the world’s most powerful celebrities, but the musician has always made a point of keeping her personal life just that; personal. Indeed, rather than bombard our Twitter and Instagram feeds with endless posts about her day, Adele plays her cards very close to her chest.

This means that she’s primarily famous for being an incredible musical talent. For being a Grammy winner some 15 times over. For being the recipient of an Oscar and a Golden Globe. For breaking the record for the fastest-selling US album. Ever

Essentially, when you think of Adele, you don’t necessarily think about Adele the person. Instead, you think of her many, many achievements. Of her characterful, emotional, and resonant singing voice. Of Chasing Pavements, or Hello, or Skyfall. You think of Someone Like You (and then cry, probably, if you’re anything like us).

Still, though, our fascination with celebrity knows no bounds. It’s understandable, then, that so many fans lost their minds when the singer shared her first Instagram photo of 2020.

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Snapped on her 32nd birthday, the photo shows Adele – wearing a classic LBD and grinning from ear to ear – standing outside her home.

In the accompanying caption, Adele explained the source of her happiness as being all those friends, family, and fans who reached out to wish her a happy birthday.

“Thank you for the birthday love,” she said. “I hope you’re all staying safe and sane during this crazy time.”

Focusing her attention on the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Adele added: “I’d like to thank all of our first responders and essential workers who are keeping us safe while risking their lives. You are truly our angels.”

And then, just moments after reappearing into our feeds, she was gone.

“2020 okay bye thanks,” Adele signed off.

Check it out:

Naturally, the photo quickly went viral. Just as naturally, tabloids across the globe fell over themselves to write about it. And, as ever, they decided to hone in on her so-called “transformation”.

It’s disheartening, yet entirely unsurprising, to learn that typing the singer’s name into Google now brings up countless “weight loss” reports. There are those who have spoken to dubious “inside sources” in a bid to find out more about Adele’s diet and fitness regime. Some have gone one step further, claiming that she’s been following a dangerous “green juice diet” based on… well, based on nothing at all. Others have stated that the singer looks “unrecognisable” – as if they hadn’t already written reams and reams of drivel about her “HUGE three stone weight loss” last December.

All came together, however, to reinforce the message that being thin is something to celebrate. All conveniently forgot the fact that women are worth so much more than the sum of their physical parts. So much more. And all assumed, wrongly, that Adele’s Instagram photo was an invitation for them to speculate, scrutinise, and cast judgment on her physical appearance.

It’s boring. It’s really fucking boring. And all of this body-shaming (because that’s what all of these before-and-after photos really boil down to, don’t they?) means that we’ve missed out some key details. The message to health workers, for example, has been lost in the noise. The birthday messages from Adele’s many famous pals, including Chrissy Teigen, have been ignored. And Adele’s brilliant power move, too, has gone largely unnoticed.

We’re talking, of course, about the fact that the singer liked her own post.

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Why is this a big deal? Well, because research has found that, for women, there’s nothing quite as terrible as being seen as cocky or too confident. We’re taught to play down our achievements, to bat away compliments, to stay as small as possible.

However, taking up space is powerful: it means that you exist and people know you’re there. Accepting compliments, too, shows that we know and recognise our own worth. And loving ourselves? Well, that means that we can rise above the noise, ignore those who would chip away at our confidence, and start really living and advocating for ourselves.

What better way to show yourself some love than by liking your own Instagram photo, eh? And an Instagram photo you released on your own terms, on your own feed (aka with zero paparazzi pressure), at that?

With just one click, Adele has ever so publicly reminded the world that she is happy with who she is. That she likes herself. 

In doing so, she has reclaimed her narrative away from the tabloids. Because, while they repeatedly try to tell us what does and doesn’t look good, Adele has reminded us that the only thing that matters is whether or not you feel great.

And that? That we like. Very, very much.

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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is Stylist’s digital editor-at-large. Her specialist topics include comic books, films, TV and feminism. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends.

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