Before the #MeToo movement came into existence, the fierce-force-of-nature, Kesha, possessed the courage to speak up about her own harrowing experiences with sexual abuse in the music industry.
Kesha came forward five-years ago in 2014, before the great Hollywood power-dynamic disruption came bulldozing into the media, and sued her longtime producer known as “Dr. Luke” (Lukasz Gottwald), stating that he “sexually, physically, verbally, and emotionally abused [Kesha] to the point where [she] nearly lost her life.”
In 2015 she asked to be relieved of her contracts with both Dr. Luke and Sony Music, and her request was denied by a New York City judge. Kesha broke down, sobbing, in the courtroom.
— Z Updates (@Emanloveszayn) February 19, 2016
Kesha was the first young woman I grew up fangirling over that had the courage to speak up about the epidemic of violence and assault in “the industry.” As a young actress trying to “make it” in LA, you better believe I’ve experienced my fair share of sexual harassment at the hands of men abusing their clout and power. Sometimes it came from an emotionally abusive acting teacher. Another time it came from a B-list talent agent. Too many times it was from a male costar that wanted to “rehearse” our scenes in private. Like in his apartment. At 11pm. With booze to, you know, “loosen us up.”
I was taught to never, ever utter a word about any of these situations if I ever wanted to work again, which subsequently drove me to walk away from a career and ambition that I loved with every fiber of my being. “You can’t handle what comes with this industry” I was told. I felt weak for not having the backbone to endure the heaps of sexual harassment and twisted beauty standards that go with “the territory” of being in entertainment. I didn’t know until Kesha spoke up that I wasn’t alone in my instinct that all of this was not OK.
After taking time away from the music industry and entering a rehab center for an eating disorder, Kesha finally re-emerged last year. She dropped the dollar sign from her name (Ke$ha), began to express herself authentically and released the emotional powerhouse of a record, “Rainbow.”
Her most spiritually gut-wrenching and empowering song on the album “Praying” tells the tale of her finally freeing herself from her abuser and being proud of who she is, after being torn down, again and again and again. Her incredible vocal range reaches sky-high levels of emotion so raw and so honest, they’re vibrational. Just hearing “Praying” through the static-y speakers of a radio, is enough to give you full body-chills and, in my case, leave you with tears streaming down your face.
She captures the nuanced feelings of overcoming trauma: the feeling of shaky-strength, the feeling of self-doubting triumph, the feeling of wild vulnerability and heart-breaking pain and the glimmer of a newfound confidence, the unsteady feeling of maybe I will survive this.
The anthem has helped me and countless people I know heal from the trauma we’ve endured at the hands of people who have abused their power. It’s helped melt away the shame of not being able to “shut up and take it” when we’re faced with abuse. It validates the feeling we felt of something being wrong that radiated through our guts after a director or boss or teacher rested his hand on the tops of our thighs or provided us with a bevvy of cocktails after “class.” The song makes us feel seen and encourages us to trust our intuition, as women. That our instincts are not crazy or over-emotional but serve as the sacred roadmaps to our lives.
Last night at the Grammy’s Kesha performed “Praying” live. Janelle Monae introduced her, with a powerful statement about the “Time’s Up” movement. The lights dimmed and then shone on an army of strong women who had taken to the stage to accompany Kesha in her performance.
Camila Cabello, Cyndi Lauper, Julia Michaels, Bebe Rexha and Andra Day joined Kesha in her epic, groundbreaking performance. Kesha oozed with courage as she poured herself viscerally into the song, on stage in front of hundreds of her peers, as some of the most incredible female musicians of our time sang backup for her.
She broke down in tears at the end of her song as the other vocalists collectively wrapped their arms around her, enclosing her body in the safety of a hug.
I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything like Kesha’s performance last night. In my eyes, her performance encapsulated everything that the #MeToo movement is really about.
It’s about attaining the strength to come forward and speak your truth, because you know that no matter how long the way down is, you will inevitably land in the safety net of women. Women who will trust your word, offer support, and cry right alongside you. They will cry with you because, despite the different cards we’ve all been handed in this haphazard life, we all share a special kinship and understanding of how it feels to be a woman in the world.
Like Kesha’s performance, this movement in its truest form is about “speaking the truth even when your voice shakes.” It’s about utilizing the art of storytelling as a dangerous-yet-noble weapon. A weapon so sharp and unforgiving that it holds the power to dismantle a system that has been designed by the men in power to keep us quiet.
Because here’s the truth: the good ole’ boys in charge understand that women are godly fucking creatures and they know that the weight of our words can change everything, even when we don’t understand that. They know that if we start talking to each other, we will band together and rightfully claim what’s ours (our bodies, our art, our lives, our respect). They threaten us with cheap cliche threats like “ending our careers” in a cowardly attempt to shut us up. Their tactics have worked.
Until now, babes.
Kesha speaking up about her experience with Dr. Luke, long before there was a safe space for women to be honest, long before the biggest stars in the world began to share their stories, makes her, in my humble opinion, a trailblazer of the #MeToo movement.
When Kesha came forward, despite the fact that Dr. Luke had threatened to not only end her career, but to end her, something energetically shifted. She planted the seed of this incredible movement. It took several years for it to grow into the beaming monument that it is now, but it was her and so many other women who risked everything to speak up in a time when speaking up wasn’t an option, that layed the groundwork for the rest of us. They laid the foundation. For you. For me. For her.
And her performance on stage was a testament to all of us. It showed us that despite a society that constantly pins women against women, that to be unsupportive of each other is not our in our primal nature. We were made to ban together. It’s in our bones to stick together.
So young girls, keep supporting and trusting and nurturing and lifting each other up. Because pretty soon we will all, at some point in our lives, literally and proverbially, be basking in an awesome pool of light, singing our truths at the top of our gorgeous lungs. Just like Kesha did last night.