Let’s talk about celebrity. Glamour. Glitz. Lights. Camera. Action! Most of us watch TV. We go to the movies. Maybe we watch the Academy Awards, the Grammys, the Golden Globes. We read magazines, whether intentionally or accidentally glancing at the obnoxious, screaming headlines as we wait in line at the store.
It’s intoxicating. Isn’t there a part of you that wants to get all done up, to be photographed and placed on a stage and adored by millions of fans? I sure do. Who doesn’t want to be adored?
I grew up in Orange County, California, not far from Hollywood. And to be near the stars, near the fame, is to consider yourself lucky—at least that’s what I was taught. From the age of 12, I was taught that the thinner I became, the more lovable I was. I got more attention, felt more accepted by my family, and believed thin equaled success. As my body changed from one extreme to the other over the years, my relationship with food became more and more abusive.
I believe there is a strong tie between celebrity and eating disorders, and it can be very hard to escape. Not just among celebrities, but among people who consciously or subconsciously idolize celebrities. It’s all connected to a culture that perpetuates thinness, idolizes eating disorders, and teaches young people unhealthy habits for attention and validation from outside sources.
At the age of 20 I was diagnosed with bulimia and put in 3 different treatment centers over the course of three years. The first two times I left rehab, I fell right into the arms of my eating disorder again. It wasn’t until the third time that I was able to stay out of ED’s arms for good.
During this struggle, somewhere deep inside, there was a voice dying to escape. A voice so angry at the culture surrounding me. A voice that wanted to kick and scream and curse at all the people who make me feel like I’m not enough.
As it turns out, that voice was my actual singing voice. My outlet for this anger was writing songs and singing my heart out. That voice was always there—when I was nine years old, I sang in my bedroom with a tape recorder and dreamed of singing on a giant stage in front of millions. But my fear of failure and my obsession with weight held me back. It wasn’t until the age of 23 that I wrote my first song and went to my first open mic night in San Francisco, California.
So, after years of battling an eating disorder and coming out alive, I chose to go right back to the entertainment industry and pursue a music career. A career where I will inevitably be photographed and criticized, then fall right back into that toxic Hollywood entertainment culture? Great choice, Ellisa.
But I must have chosen this career for a reason. It’s taken me seven years of experimenting with my sound, growing my fanbase, touring across the USA in a 30-foot Winnebago for a year, and writing tons of terrible songs—but I’ve decided to come out at the age of 30 with a new single highlighting my story and taking one step towards outing this demon.
I’ve learned that my dream isn’t necessarily to sing on a huge stage for millions, but simply to change the world in a small way by doing what makes me feel alive. The entertainment industry preys on young, vulnerable, malleable people who are already desperate for recognition. I think we confuse the desire to be famous with the desire to be heard. What we really want is our music to be heard—to tell a story and to share a message.
My dream is to make an impression on a young person considering going on a diet simply to gain validation from their families, friends, or fans. I want to stop that young person in their tracks and inspire them to pick up that guitar, that paintbrush, that pen—whatever outlet allows them to release the feelings that lie underneath their desire to hurt themselves by starting a harmful relationship with food and their bodies.
If you have an outlet—whether it’s singing, dancing, writing, or making papier-mâché puppets—that quiets your eating disorder voice even just a little bit, you sure as hell better keep doing it.
My single, being released today, is an anthem with a crystal-clear message to Hollywood, celebrity, and validation culture (i.e. TV shows like “The Voice”). I was finally able to let off some steam with this song and really voice my honest, conflicted feelings about this subject. In the somewhat over-the-top music video, I dress up as Marilyn Monroe, go to an audition only to be rejected, and lose myself in the idea of celebrity. Then I destroy it all—because in the end, nothing matters more to me than authenticity.
Luckily the world is changing for the better—over the past few years I’ve seen a beautiful shift in culture and body positivity—and I feel so grateful to be alive right now. I hope my music can contribute to a world where everyBODY has an opportunity to pursue their dreams. It’s an ongoing journey and living with ED is indeed a roller coaster, especially in my line of work. But I hope to inspire others to use the harmful messages our culture teaches as FUEL for the fire behind our art.
“Ellisa Sun is a force of nature.” (KFOG) Currently on her first national tour, Ellisa is showing she has what it takes to make it on her own. Just a guitar, a 30-foot RV, and an insatiable desire to perform. Ellisa self-produced her debut album Moon & Sun in 2017 to critical acclaim. SF Weekly called the first single, Unravel “as near to perfect as any song could be” and “damn gorgeous.” Ellisa self-released her 2nd album—the Just a Little More EP—in September 2018. With support from her talented bandmates, the 5-track EP boasts a one-of-a-kind, edgy sound that “takes listeners on a trip across all spectrums of love” (WomenCrushMusic) and is “too much of an original to fit into one box” (The Bay Bridged). Since releasing her album, Ellisa has ventured out on a year-long national tour. Living full-time out of their Winnebago, she and her partner Ken are taking the music directly to the people. Ellisa and her guitar have also earned frequent flyer miles in Japan and South America. Ellisa’s new single, K.O., is being released today. Check out the video here!