Messed Up Things About Lana Del Rey

Singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey, born Lizzy Grant in 1985, is one of the most unique and intriguing artists of her generation. Yet despite acclaim throughout her career, including six Grammy nods, Del Rey has nonetheless courted controversy from the time she emerged in 2011 with one of her most well-known songs, "Video Games" (per Biography). What's inarguably true is that Lana Del Rey speaks her mind, whether in her music, on social media, or in her public appearances — for better or worse. And despite the fact that many fans love her all the more for it, it's burned the artist on several occasions, per the BBC.

Here's a quick rundown of messed-up things about the singer's career. The list includes accusations of racism, the purported glorification of sexual abuse in her lyrics, a troublesome social media persona, and a disastrous TV appearance that nearly scuttled her career from the start.

The SNL meltdown

The first time many people heard anything about Lana Del Rey was in 2012, when she was the musical guest on Saturday Night Live. At the time, her performance — which attempted to blend Old Hollywood glamor with dark, modern undertones — was seen more like a zombie show than what an ascendant pop singer should look and sound like. This take has since been reconsidered, per The Ringer.

Joining the chorus of criticism was then-NBC news anchor Brian Williams, who wrote in a leaked email that it was one of the "worst outings in SNL history," as Entertainment Weekly reports. Elton John, who spoke with Del Rey for Rolling Stone, thought the performance was undeserving of the backlash it received, and Del Rey did admit it was an unusual "performative" approach. See for yourself: The SNL renditions of Del Rey's songs "Blue Jeans" and "Video Games" are now available for streaming on YouTube.

Her music has been accused of glorifying abuse

From early cover art depicting the singer with a man's hand around her throat as if he were choking her (via Billboard) to lyrics like "He hit me and it felt like a kiss" from her 2014 album "Ultraviolence" — words that Del Rey no longer stands by, as Biography reports — parts of Del Rey's words and imagery are considered by some to be counter to modern feminism. Some even argue that they romanticize sexual violence and domestic abuse.

What's worse, a never-released but later leaked Marilyn Manson music video from 2014 shows Del Rey in what seems to be a rape scene. In 2020, Del Rey defended herself against these allegations to the BBC, saying, "There has to be a place in feminism for women who look and act like me. ... The kind of women who get their own stories and voices taken away from them by stronger women or by men who hate women." Even more controversially, Del Rey has characterized modern feminism as "not an interesting concept" (via The Fader).

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website.

She's been accused of cultural appropriation

Insensitivity to domestic abuse is not the only controversy that has plagued Lana Del Rey in the press. According to Billboard, the 2012 music video for her song "Ride" off her album "Paradise" shows the singer in a Native American headdress, also known as a war bonnet. She is also accused of borrowing inappropriately from Los Angeles Latino "Latinx" street culture in her 2013 short film "Tropico," in which she's seen with small teardrop tattoos on her cheeks, among other examples.

Rather than cultural appropriation, though, Del Rey said her appearance in the "Tropico" film project was instead referencing her life in the heavily Hispanic areas of East Los Angeles, and that it was okay because she had "always spoken Spanish in all [her] songs" (via US Weekly). As far as the headdress, De Rey called it an "ode to the spirit of dance and freedom," as The Daily Nebraskan reports.

Accusations of racism

Beyond just cultural insensitivity and cultural appropriation, accusations of blatant racism were brought against Lana Del Rey on social media and the press. One leading example came about in May 2020 when Del Rey seemed to be defending herself against charges of anti-feminism in an open letter on social media. But in doing so, she used only examples of female artists of color who also write and perform sexually explicit music, such as Cardi B, Doja Cat, and Beyoncé (via Insider)

In response to the backlash, Del Rey shot back in further social media posts: "[I]f you want to say that has something to do with race, that's your opinion, but that's not what I was saying." And in another: "This is the problem with society today. It's exactly the point of my post — there are certain women that culture doesn't want to have a voice ... I don't care anymore but don't ever ever ever ever bro call me racist because that is bulls***."

What about that mesh mask?

In 2020, when society was at its most divisive due to measures taken to minimize the spread of the coronavirus, Lana Del Rey chose to wear a seemingly ineffectual but highly decorative mesh face covering to a public appearance, greeting fans at a book signing in Los Angeles (via Billboard). In this instance, at least, the controversy may have been overstated, as Del Rey later explained (per Today), "The mask had plastic on the inside. They're commonly sewn in by stylists these days."

Nevertheless, her fans were not pleased with her behavior, as one of her followers made plain on Instagram: "YOU MAKE IT SO HARD TO STAN PLEASEE [sic] WEAR A PROPER MASK (emphasis their's)." For all the reasons mentioned and more, Lan Del Rey remains a divisive and controversial public figure. Maybe she put it best when she denied being "a controversial or polarizing person," but added somewhat paradoxically (via Gigwise), "What people have to say about me, the really amazing things and the really terrible things, none of them are true."