Paramore lead singer Hayley Williams has always had one of the more intense fanbases in music, and so it’s no wonder that her decision to pose for the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine has sparked such fervid debate and criticism from the stans.
Detractors were troubled by the image Williams presented, posing in a cleavage-baring sundress and a Katy Perry-esque tube top. But Hayley took to her band’s LiveJournal page to argue that appearing on the Cosmo cover is a liberating act both for her and other girls, saying that it’s all in line with her promise of “i WILL be myself.” She also hopes that the more times someone who is neither “conventionally beautiful nor sexy” appears on the cover of a major magazine (that would be Hayley Williams that Hayley Williams is referring to), “the more a girl will have a frickin chance in hell to be UNIQUE, powerful, strong in her weaknesses, confident in her flaws.”
If this explanation doesn’t seem entirely convincing, it may be because having the headline “Lean Thighs…Without Lunges” plastered over your mug just isn’t very punk no matter how you spin it. But Williams has never been very punk. She came up through the normal pop-star system, getting a development deal as a solo artist and working with Nashville songwriters before being hooked up with the rest of Paramore via Atlantic Records. This is fine, but it makes a big difference when we’re trying to process the Cosmo cover.
More important than the above quotes, then, may be this one: “i WILL grow up. and i most definitely WILL find the time in my own life to be SEXY if i feel like it.” We’ve heard this story before. This is Miley on the stripper pole; this is Britney with the snake. And in that context, Williams’ actions seem a lot more sane and forgivable. If the worst thing she can do is wear a sundress, then hopefully we won’t see her end up in the more regrettable situations some other female pop stars have found themselves. The punk-rockness becomes less an absolute moral code and more of an inflection on her pop persona. And nothing’s better than a punk-rock pop star.