In 2016, pop singer and former child star Bea Miller was having a fantastic day in New York City, enjoying some productive studio sessions with co-writer Steph Jones for her sophomore album, Aurora. Then she posted a photo of herself in a tank top — and some nasty Instagram troll tried to ruin her day. But Miller and Jones turned this incident into a teachable moment, and the result was “S.L.U.T.,” a perfect anthem for International Women’s Day that transforms the hurtful epithet into something positive and empowering.
“I remember feeling so good about myself, being like, ‘Steph, look at my outfit. I feel so cute. We’re about to have a fun day today, write a great song!’ I was really feeling myself. I was in a great mood,” Miller tells Yahoo Entertainment. Then she posted a mirror selfie, and “I just so happened to see this girl comment with something along the lines of, ‘You’re such a slut! I can’t believe you’re not wearing a bra! This is so inappropriate, and I can’t believe that you’re encouraging your fans to act like that.’”
Miller stresses that her shirt wasn’t see-through — “You could maybe see the outline of the fact that I do have nipples, wow, shocker!” — but notes that the girl’s comment would not have been OK under any circumstances. “You can’t really say anything if I’m comfortable with it. It doesn’t matter. It’s my body. But it wasn’t see-through. It was not an inappropriate outfit. I just remember sitting there and thinking to myself, ‘Girl, you’re another woman. … You should support other women.’ You should see a girl posting a picture of herself — clearly she posted it because she felt good about herself — and you should lift her up and be inspired by it … rather than attacking me. Also, I feel like it makes men think it’s OK to tear women down when they see other women doing it. If one woman calls another woman a slut, I feel like men are like, ‘Oh well, if women call each other that, I guess we can, too’ — which is a huge problem.”
However, when Jones looked up “slut” in the Urban Dictionary and saw the acronym “Sweet Little Unforgettable Thing,” Miller had an epiphany. “I remember she read that out loud to me, and my eyes widened and I was like, ‘Steph, we have to make a song about this. We have to turn this girl trying to ruin my good day that I was having, and take this girl trying to take my power away and use it to help other women and give them their power back.’ We took something that could have ruined my day and made me feel really bad about myself and turned it into a positive message for other people.”
On the song, Miller defiantly sings, “I love myself, I wanna see it/When I turn around, look in the mirror/And if you don’t like it, you can leave it/’Cause it’s my own and I’ll keep owning it/If you don’t like what I’m wearing/Well, you’re only bothered ’cause you’re staring/And you’ll never talk me into caring/’Cause it’s my own and I’ll keep owning it.”
Miller says she actually wanted to call the song “Slut,” not “S.L.U.T.,” but “that was so politically incorrect, you would say that and [radio] people would be like, ‘We can’t play this song,’ or ‘We can’t talk about it.’ But that is the whole reason why I wrote the song, because the word shouldn’t be so [controversial]. People that get called a ‘slut’ are people that are literally just being comfortable in their own skin and doing nothing, not actually doing anything that the word ‘slut’ originally meant. And it doesn’t even matter if they are. Girls can do whatever they want with themselves and their bodies. If they feel comfortable and happy doing it, then a negative thing shouldn’t be put on you. It’s actually interesting that the title had to be changed, because people just hearing the word would be immediately turned away from it.”
So far, though, the song is getting plenty of attention, with its uplifting video racking up nearly 3 million views on YouTube. “I just wanted to make a video where I got a bunch of different women who are physically different, have come from different places, different walks of life, just different experiences, and just get them together to put on outfits that they feel good in, that no one else is there to judge them for,” Miller says of video shoot. “Everyone on set was so awesome. I just wanted everyone to feel comfortable, wear clothes that they felt good in, regardless of what everybody else would ever think, and just dance and be free. I just wanted to capture women feeling free and just acting in power instead of acting from being scared about what other people think of them. Some of them, including me, maybe we’re wearing outfits that would be considered offensive to people or too revealing or whatever — but who cares? Who cares if we want to show yourself off, then good for us.”
Miller is aware that she’ll continue to attract haters online — something she initially experienced in a major way when she went on The X Factor, Season 2, years ago, when she was just 12 years old and known as Beatrice. “That was the first time that my bubble of the outside world kind of popped,” recalls Miller, who grew up with two mothers. “I was raised in a really awesome, super-diverse community where there were a lot of gay parents, a lot of lesbian parents, a very diverse community. [People on social media] were telling me that I was a sin, like me as a person, because the fact that two moms had a kid together was so sinful. Terrible things that were just so awful, so closed-minded, and just kind of disgusting. But it’s OK. We just have to make it our mission to try to change those people’s minds, or at least get them to leave us alone if they won’t.”
Miller thinks she might get more flak online than other pop singers because people are unable to accept that she has evolved from a tween reality star into a 19-year-old grown woman — but believes she garners backlash mainly because she’s unafraid to voice her opinions. Growing up not only with two moms but with siblings adopted from Vietnam and a trans brother, it’s important for her to speak up for immigrants, women, and the LGBTQ community, no matter the reactions she receives.
“I feel like I have a lot more trolls than a lot of people just because I speak my mind more than other people do,” she shrugs. “I do it because I feel not enough people in general are honest and talk about what they’re generally feeling — especially not enough young women. I think sometimes we just feel like people don’t really care what we have to say. Or at least I do sometimes; I feel like no one’s going listen to me. But that’s the opposite mindset that we should have. We’re very strong and very important, and our opinions are valid and they should be heard.
“I just like to speak my mind, and so a lot of people don’t really like me for that. A lot of people appreciate it and like me more because of that, but a lot of people are like, ‘Well, you should just shut up. We never asked for your opinion.’ It’s like, OK, well, it doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it to you.”
Watch Bea Miller’s entire Yahoo Entertainment Facebook Live chat in the video below.
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