Kesha and her public struggle with anorexia and bulimia may seem to be nothing new within the entertainment industry, but it was the shocking death of singer Karen Carpenter that first shed light on eating disorders and raised an awareness that just may save Kesha’s life.
Had it not been for Karen Carpenter’s tragic death from anorexia, which opened the door on a silent disease and helped to educate the public, brave celebrities including Christina Ricci, Kelly Clarkson, Mary Kate Olsen and Victoria Beckham, who have all admitted to bouts of anorexia, can stand as examples of recovery among the countless lives lost due to anorexia each year.
When Singer-songwriter Kesha, 26, entered an eating disorder clinic on Jan. 3, 2014 to seek help, she declared that she needed “to learn to love myself again. Exactly as I am.”
Shortly after entering the Timberline Knolls facility near Chicago, her mother, Pebe Sebert, stepped forward to claim that Kesha’s management was to blame for her disorder. Sebert specifically called out Kesha’s producer, Dr. Luke, who she claimed put her daughter under immense pressure to lose weight.
Sebert disclosed to People Magazine that Dr. Luke compared Kesha to a refrigerator, which spurred the singer to try a two-week juice cleanse. Thereafter, Dr. Luke congratulated Kesha on her new weight loss and told her “we’ve all been talking about it,” referring to her need to lose weight.
Dr. Luke denies that he contributed to Kesha’s eating disorder.
According to People, Sebert revealed on Friday that Kesha’s doctors rarely saw sodium levels and blood pressure so low and that when they did, it was in somebody who had suffered a stroke or a heart attack. According to Sebert, her doctors called it a “miracle that she hadn’t dropped dead on stage.
Kesha’s story will thankfully have a much better ending than the life of another singer/songwriter who suffered from anorexia, Karen Carpenter, who died at age 32 after an eight-year battle with the disease and whose death just may have helped to save Kesha. Carpenter and her brother, Richard Carpenter, formed the very successful singing group Carpenters. Her death highlighted anorexia nervosa and raised awareness about the disorder.
Richard Carpenter recalls that as a teen, Karen had been slightly overweight until she lost 20-25 pounds under a doctor’s supervision when she was 17. She maintained a healthy weight until anorexia took hold of her in 1975. Richard remembers canceling tours because Karen was too exhausted to perform as well as Karen spending time in hospitals and at their parents’ home for strict bed rest.
When Karen’s family learned about anorexia, they did what they knew to do at the time. At this point, anorexia was not a well-publicized disease. The family encouraged Karen to eat, but their words fell on deaf ears. He admitted that in their ignorance, they scolded Karen and yelled at her for not eating.
Although Kesha’s mother blames Dr. Luke for her disease, her relevation on Friday that Kesha has been suffering from anorexia and bulimia for years belies a single cause. Richard Carpenter cannot point to a single instance in Karen’s life, such as a broken heart, that may have spurred her into not eating. This is not surprising, as anorexia is a complex condition that can take hold of people for various reasons. Anorexia has long been thought to be a disease of control rather than simply refusing to eat or a fear of getting fat. People who feel as though their lives are not in their control may turn to anorexia of a way to find something that they can control.
Karen eventually reached a point in 1981 where she realized that she needed help. After months spent in therapy, including force-feeding at a hospital, Karen seemed to improve slightly and even put on weight. Unfortunately, years of starvation had put too much strain on her body so that when she gained 30 pounds very rapidly, which also taxes the heart considerably, her body simply gave out. In 1983, she died of heart failure at age 32.
Karen’s death put a face on an unspoken disease about which not much was known. In the wake of the news of her cause of death, celebrities such as Tracey Gold and Princess Diana came forward to speak out about their own struggles with anorexia, which raised awareness of the disease so that those suffering could finally receive the support necessary to seek help. Karen’s family also started the Karen A. Carpenter Memorial Foundation to raise money for research on anorexia nervosa and eating disorders.
Admitting publicly to having an eating disorder is a painfully difficult decision. For those who feel pressure to be thin, whether from their managers, the airbrushed photos in fashion magazines, or their own unrealistic expectations for themselves, coming forward can be an embarrassing admission of what they perceive as failure. Hopefully, brave souls such as Kesha, who seek help for their disorders and are public in doing so, coupled with the tragic death of Karen Carpenter, will serve as examples to the millions of people suffering anorexia in silence, spurring them to save themselves.
By Jennifer Pfalz