Femme Fierce: Mary Lambert

Wrack your brains a little. Turn them back to the 2014 Grammy Awards in which Macklemore performed his hit single ‘Same Love‘, with the assistance of Madonna and a pretty woman in a red dress, and in which Queen Latifah presided over the marriage of thirty-three homo- and heterosexual couples. It was musical history. And the woman in the red dress, far from just pretty and talented, helped start it all. Her name is Mary Lambert and the hook she sings in the chorus of ‘Same Love’ formed part of one of her debut solo singles: ‘She Keeps Me Warm’.

Lambert, an openly lesbian singer who had previously been best known in spoken word circles, helped contribute to an ongoing worldwide push for marriage equality. Since the song, one of many contributing pieces on the matter, was released the number of countries that have legalised same-sex marriage has risen to fifteen. Although the song and Mary herself can’t be credited with the entire movement, there is no denying that it and she played a part. But Lambert is more than just an inspiration as a lesbian icon. Much more.

A devout Christian from Washington, USA she battled internally with her own demons from a young age. Raised in a strict Pentecostal household from birth, and with a mother who came out as a lesbian when she was young, she has often struggled with lying outside the norms society laid out for her. Through all of this she worked to reconcile her and others’ beliefs to find her own identity and compromise of faith and personal authenticity. She has come to believe that homosexuality, far from being a sin, is part of God’s creation and that she is valuable just as she is. So often in this world we are presented moulds we must fit. You can be a Christian or you can be gay; you can be part of a family or you can be an individual: Pick one. Lambert hasn’t allowed these dichotomies to define her.

“I think it’s different for everybody. I guess it’s easier to demonize somebody that you don’t know or care about. So I think a lot of the rhetoric has to be reinforced by not thinking critically or not looking around and realizing their family member’s gay … my faith is definitely a lot more private. But I think there’s something I really do enjoy about the Christian community.” (credit: medium.com)

Lambert is open about all her past experiences, good and bad, and the lessons they’ve taught her. Her album, Heart on my Sleeve, is a wonderful representation of that. Aside from being openly gay, Lambert has also discussed publicly being sexual abused when she was younger and a lot of the torment and struggles she has been through in her life. She says as she becomes more famous she struggles to reconcile being honest with her honesty being relevant to the discussion.

“I guess I’m constantly moving between this negative thing of people wanting to collect you rather than connect with you. There have been times where I’ve done interviews where they’ll ask me really personal stuff about trauma that has nothing to do with, I don’t know, The GRAMMYs or something, and they’ll be like, “So how was it being sexually abused?” and I’ll be like, “It was terrible, why are you bringing this up?” [Laughs] So I mean, I do want to remain open, but there are definitely times where I go into a shell because I’m feeling re-triggered.” (source: BYT)

I admire Lambert’s devotion to her authenticity even in the face of potential manipulation and sensationalisation. Staying true to yourself and being open and honest must be challenging under such immense public glare but Lambert manages to seem both down to earth and real as she does it.

In one of Lambert’s recent releases, ‘Secrets’, she opens up about her insecurities and pushes back on a world that would dare to suggest they make her not-enough. Discussing her bipolar disorder, homosexuality and neuroses in a fun and light-hearted way she makes it clear they are mere pieces of her puzzle and do not detract from her worth.

Never is her authenticity and honesty more evident than in her relentless drive to promote body confidence. Lambert has spoken publicly about her body and her struggles with it growing up:

“To be honest, I used to hate shopping. I rarely left a store without crying, cursing my body, and swearing under my breath at the fashion industry. Maybe the industry thinks that fat people are a liability because our hands are made from Twinkies and we will wipe our Yellow #5 marshmallow fingers on the expensive jeans they make. I don’t know.” (credit: whowhatwear)

Far from allowing her size to make her an outcast in Hollywood, Lambert has used it to publicly discuss body image and the importance of self-love. In particular her song ‘Body Love’, done primarily in her original spoken-word style, exposes some harsh realities of not fitting into the established mould.

Since releasing ‘Body Love’, Lambert has discussed publicly receiving inspiring fan mail from a girl with a severe eating disorder who wasn’t sure how to find the strength to keep fighting. The week she listened to ‘Body Love’ was the first week she ate a whole meal. She said the song did more for her than any therapy session.

“Love your body the way your mother loved your baby feet,
and brother arm-wrapping shoulders,
and remember this is important.
You are worth more than who you fuck.
You are worth more that a waistline.
You are worth more than beer bottles displayed like artifacts.
You are worth more than any naked body could proclaim in the shadows;
more than a man’s whim or your father’s mistake.
You are no less valuable as a size 16 than a size 4;
you are no less valuable as a 32A than a 36C.
Your sexiness is defined by concentric circles within your wood.
You are a goddamned tree stump with leaves sprouting out.

Mary Lambert is a woman who is not afraid to be flawed and fallible and broken in a world that demands perfection. She is not afraid to admit that she has struggled, that she has made mistakes. She’s not afraid to be less than what society demands and still believe she is more than enough just the way she is. She’s an inspiration.