On Tuesday, pop-star Selena Gomez tantalized paparazzi at New York Fashion Week with a fashion statement that spoke volumes about empowerment and self-confidence. Her outfit, plaid red pants, a black top and blue fur-trimmed black leather jacket, was made complete by a barrette that spelled a single gem-studded word in her hair. The word in her hair, a short but meaningful, “ugly.”
The interesting choice of barrette could be interpreted in many abstract ways or as a comment on beauty in society, but Gomez was not being so coy. “Ugly” was in reference to an insult given by Stefano Gabbana, one of the designers behind the world-renown brand, Dolce & Gabbana.
When the Instagram page @thecatwalkitalia posted five, side-by-side photos of Gomez in red dresses, Gabbana commented “è proprio brutta!!!,” which in translation means “She’s so ugly!!!”
Gomez fans raced to her defense, but the offensive and unnecessary behavior is not entirely a surprise from Gabbana, whose designs have earned the title “controversial” because of scandals surrounding homophobic and unfiltered comments he and Domenico Dolce have made.
Despite both being openly gay, in an interview with Panorama, an Italian magazine, Gabbana and Dolce have referred to children born through IVF as “children of chemistry, synthetic children. [Products of] uteri [for] rent, semen chosen from a catalog,” and openly promoted traditional Italian families over the “unnatural” children of gay families.
In Italy, where traditional masculine family structures are still promoted by the government, Gabbana and Dolce should be promoters of gay-family acceptance as influential members of the LGBTQ community, but they have used their platform to reinforce ignorance.
Gabbana’s tasteless comment received plenty of backlash from Selena Gomez fans, but he was even more disrespectful in his lack of remorse. On his Instagram, the designer posted a step by step, illustrated guide explaining how his critics could shove their opinion where the sun don’t shine.
Gomez has strongly advocated for self-care. In March Gomez posted an Instagram photo with the caption, “The beauty myth- an obsession with physical perfection that traps modern woman in an endless cycle of hopelessness, self-consciousness, and self-hatred as she tries to fulfill society’s impossible definition of flawless beauty.”
Gomez’s strong desire to set an example of self-care and kindness is evident in the tasteful, classy way she executes her clapbacks. By turning Gabbana’s insult into a bedazzled accessory, the pop-star resisted stooping to her critic’s level and reminded girls and boys everywhere to ignore and combat online bullying.
At the end of the day, Gomez proved her beauty inside and out and claimed a victory for the spread of positivity in the critical world of social media. As for Mr. Gabbana, no makeup, cologne, sunglasses or designer clothes can cover the unsightliness of an ugly heart.