I started this article with every intention of giving Lana Del Rey the benefit of the doubt. Fuck da haters. Lana or Lizzy or whatever she wants to be called is an incredibly talented, hot babe doin’ her thang, and that is just fine by me. However, when trying to source the video of Del Rey (pre fame, post pseudonym) being adorable and not emo promoting Keds sneakers that has recently surfaced from the deep dark depths of the interwebs, I found that every single link had been blocked on by UMG based on “copyright grounds”. It took me a solid 30 minutes, employing my very best cyber stalking team (spoiler: it’s just me) to find a watchable copy of the short film, featuring an almost unrecognizable Lana Del Rey with shoulder length, bleach blonde hair and (as much as I hate to be part of this pointless discussion), notably thinner lips (you can watch the video here).
My problem is not with Del Rey’s physical appearance. Considering the video was first uploaded in 2009, it’s not at all surprising that her look has somewhat changed in the last 3 years (I was working the fake tan and padded bras pretty hard back then… Eek). My greatest concern lies in the fact that despite the bullshit about “copyright grounds” (which I can only assume officially relates to an unreleased song used as the soundtrack) the only reason I can come up with for UMG’s black list on the Keds video is a conflict with del Rey’s current image.
The Keds promo sees Del Rey flitting about Coney Island in a pair of heart shaped sunglasses, chowing down on cotton candy, working the camera as she rides a ferris wheel, cheekily crooning her soulful melodies and basically being really freaking cute. Also she smiles a lot. I thought she was too damaged to smile?? While there are certainly aspects of the Lana we know evident here (her ongoing fascination with film and romanticism is clear when she quotes Francis Ford Coppola, “If you sit down to write at the same time every day, then the muse always knows where you are”), there is hardly anything left of this lively, charming version of Del Rey, instead replaced by the new pouty, expressionless persona we have been told to embrace.
When Del Rey first popped up on the radar of People-Who-Spend-More-Time-Online-Than-Off (me), I loved her. I blogged about her. I used a lot of hearts and smiley faces when I wrote about her. I started wearing liquid eyeliner again. But as whispers began to surface about Del Rey’s whole “Gangsta Nancy Sinatra” thing actually being carefully crafted by a publicity team, I kind of wished that I had kept my feelings to myself and was free to listen to “Video Games” on repeat in the dark for 6 hours without feeling like a gullible schmuck.
I understand that almost every entertainer is pressured to conform to a character at some point in order to achieve mainstream success. I even kind of get that to fill a gap or tap into a niche audience, they need to be marketed accordingly. What I don’t get and refuse to understand is the unique qualities and personality of an individual being completely flattened out for the sake of an image. Isn’t it the “real life” human aspects of celebrities that endear them to us and make them relatable? As hard as it was to watch her incredibly awkward, cringe-worthy performance on Saturday Night Live earlier this year, at least then we were rooting for her, because she came across as a real, flawed person; and real people fuck up sometimes. If the strings of the Lana puppet are in fact being pulled by a team of image-makers, dulling the charisma that Del Rey exudes so naturally in this Keds commercial has been a crucial error. Despite (or perhaps in spite of) her rapid mainstream success, she has lost a lot of her original audience because of it.
It’s not Lana Del Rey’s past as Lizzie Grant that we should be scrutinizing. Whether or not this included thinner lips and bleached out hair, even superstars and mega-babes are allowed to try out as many different versions of themselves as they like before they find the one that fits; we’ve all been through some pretty weird shit. But as much as we might want to run from the problems and mistakes and heartbreaks of our past to become better versions of ourselves, there really is no way to erase the people we used to be, especially with the ever-growing prevalence of our Internet presence. Perhaps the mystery surrounding Lana Del Rey’s past is all part of her schtick, but from what I can tell, I think I liked the old one better. I really tried to love you Lana, but I think you might have lost me.