A Wale of a Tale

Rapper Wale’s 2009 song, 90210, opens with the line:

“And she throws up whatever she eats.
She leaves the bathroom with a nosebleed.”

Right off the bat he references eating disorders by blatantly stating said female’s bulimic behaviors and cocaine addiction (cocaine is often used to curb appetite by people with anorexia). As if this first sentence wasn’t apparently clear enough, the video was produced by Ana & Mia Music (Ana & Mia are slang for anorexia and bulimia in the online eating disorder communities).
Wale goes on to characterize the average resident in the 90120 area of Beverly Hills, California: the upper-class, white girl who’s willing to do virtually anything to get famous. His ultimate conclusion from this lyrical allegory is that it is racist to look down on a black person for their failures considering all the privileged white girls who go down equally bad paths. However, I think this song does a lot to expose the societal pressures that attribute to the development of eating disorders.

We know this fictional girl’s efforts to achieve stardom involve trying to lose weight through disordered eating when he raps,

“She barely eat at all, if she do she eat light.
Indulge in a meal when the toilet’s in sight.”

“Expose those fries, can’t hold those down
To read for Seven Pounds, you must release several pounds.”

These lines show a shift from this girls’ initial feelings of control over food to a total loss of control with the phrase “can’t hold those down”. Her disorder has started to take control over her rather than the other way around. “You must release several pounds” is the voice of her disorder demanding that she lose weight. Wale attributes this mental disortion to the media, specifically the film industry, when he references the Will Smith movie ‘Seven Pounds’. This girl won’t be able to get a part in the film unless she loses several pounds and achieves the ideal Hollywood figure.

“This is Heaven on Hell
This is how she want to live
But she ain’t really tripping, she’s on Beverly Hills”

The behaviors of someone with anorexia or bulimia may seem insane to the average, healthy person. However, in places like the Beverly Hills where the cultural pressure to be thin leaves no room for self-acceptance, acts like self-starvation and purging seem to be the norm. Wale even refers to her as a “Beverly Hill’s victim” which is an uncharacteristically sympathetic attitude for a rapper. Our society in general is often too harsh, underestimating the weight of the societal pressure to be thin as well as the level of difficulty it takes to overcome an eating disorder. If a rapper coming from the ghetto of Washington D.C. can acknowledge an affluent white girl with an eating disorder as a “victim”, then I think the rest of us could show a little more compassion for anyone dealing with a serious mental disorder.

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