It’s easy to get caught up in the chatter surrounding rising R&B superstar Summer Walker.
Despite having just released her debut studio album Over It in October, the singer has already made major waves in the industry and as a result, has become a major source of online scrutiny.
Trolls have been relentless in their harassment of the 23-year-old singer during her rise to fame, criticizing Walker for everything from her appearance to her professionalism to her hygiene, of all things.
When Walker posted a photo of her manicure, she was blasted for her “old-looking” hands. Then, when showing off a new two-toned hairstyle and eyebrows dyed white, it prompted some fans to claim that she looked like “a mess.” And when Walker made an innocuous comment about hating showers, trolls dubbed her as “dirty.”
However, perhaps the most damaging criticism of Walker has been the dismissal and outright denial of her social anxiety.
Walker has been public about her battle with social anxiety, particularly within the confines of the spotlight. She confessed in an interview with Apple Music that she even named her album Over It because she’s “over it all” and just wants to go home and “live a lovely, normal life.”
Walker caused a stir recently when she shortened her First And Last Tour, cutting nearly 20 cities from the list as she claimed that such an intensive performing schedule “doesn’t really coexist with my social anxiety and my introverted personality.” She promised to finish nine more shows and offered a full refund to anyone who had purchased tickets for the now-canceled dates. She wrote on Instagram,
“I really hope that people understand and respect that at the end of the day that I’m a person—I have feelings, I get tired, I get sad, and it’s just a lot.”
This wasn’t the first time that Walker had made headlines for her social anxiety. The news of her tour cancellation came only days after Walker faced criticism for what fans perceived to be a standoffish demeanor at meet-and-greets. Additionally, Walker’s BET Soul Train Award win for Best New Artist was eclipsed by the backlash of her unusually short acceptance speech. And she was even criticized for her NPR Tiny Desk concert for her supposed “low energy.” Fans blamed Walker for making the poor decision of choosing fame even though she had anxiety or worse, accused her of faking her social anxiety entirely.
Talk show host Wendy Williams even put Walker on blast on her show.
“Is this the outfit of a woman with social anxiety?” asked Wendy Williams, gesturing to a blown-up photo of Walker in a sheer black dress.
Walker, however, refused to take such criticism lying down. In a rebuttal video, Walker did not mince words. She swiftly condemned Wendy Williams’ actions, saying,
“This is how people commit suicide. When people tell you what’s literally going on with them and then people still continue to bully them.”
But, of course, Walker couldn’t even defend herself without facing more backlash. Fans flooded the comments section, concerned for Walker’s mental state. One user wrote,
“[She’s] not made to survive this industry.”
But, the thing is, Walker is not only surviving, she’s blowing her industry counterparts out of the water. Her debut album, Over It, has become the most-streamed R&B album by any female artist in history, smashing the record previously held by Beyonce’s Lemonade. To boot, on its opening week, the album charted at #2 on the Billboard 200 chart and featured collaborations with notoriously elusive R&B legends Usher and Drake.
Despite all the online hate, Summer has remained unapologetically herself. And by continuing to speak out about her anxiety, Walker is taking major strides to banish the stigma around mental health, particularly its deeply rooted presence within the black community.
Maybe her tour will live up to its namesake and be her first and last. Maybe Walker is truly “over it” and will walk away from the music business entirely. Or maybe she will take the time that she needs, invest in her mental health and well-being, and return to the industry with an even bigger vengeance. But either way, Walker will do what’s right for her; she is refusing to compromise her mental health for her career. And hopefully, many other women who look up to her will follow suit.
In the meantime, Walker is remaining positive. She took to Instagram, writing,
“People don’t even know what I actually went through this year. I just sucked it up & kept pushin to the best of my abilities. Stayed quiet & stayed kind & in return I just keep getting BLESSED.”
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Feature Photo: Summer Walker / Instagram
Michelle Vincent is a project manager and freelance writer. She enjoys traveling, is worried she won’t love her future children as much as she loves her dogs, and is actively recruiting podcast recommendations.