SO IT TURNS out it’s not only Shakira’s breasts that are humble; the international megastar revealed in last Friday’s Billboard interview that she is no longer permitted to appear in music videos with male co-stars, because boyfriend Gerard Piqué, in a fit of pique (sorry), has banned it.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel for fans who enjoy straight pop stars holidaying in same-sex relationships, though. In the absence of a burly dude to caress her, Shakira has enlisted the services of noted good sport Rihanna, who Piqué approves of wholeheartedly. Possibly because he thinks lesbianism is a kind of foreplay. An exhibition to whet your palette while you check if there are any XXL condoms left in your wallet, that kind of thing.
The video for Shakira’s “event single” Can’t Remember To Forget You is most certainly a thing of beauty, even if it runs on so familiar a concept as to be relatively tiresome. Beautiful lady rolls around on bed, humps wall, is joined by other beautiful lady, humps walls in sync. Shakira is, as always, gorgeous, and the similarly striking Rihanna adds her branded snarl to give proceedings an edge. Then they take their tops off and have a cuddle. If you’re 15, you’re gonna love it. (I’m a little jaded because I watch a lot of dance music videos and honestly, every time a dancer doesn’t take their top off in a dance music video, we sound the klaxons and hide behind the couch). It’s not pornographic, exactly, but you really don’t want to be watching this one with your mam: “Is that that nice Rhododendron girl? My, that’s a big cigar.”
The possessive partner trope
But back to the reason for the topless cuddle: it’s there, Shakira coos, to placate Piqué, because “He’s very territorial. Since he no longer lets me do videos with men… I have to do them with women.” Not content with making her boyfriend sound like a conquistador, she continues, “It’s more than implied in our relationship that I can’t do videos like I used to. It’s out of the question — which I like, by the way. I like that he protects his turf and he values me, in a way that the only person that he would ever let graze my thigh would be Rihanna.” Now, I know Señor Piqué isn’t the only footballer to come across like a hormonal mix of Hernando Cortés, Veruca Salt and Tony from West Side Story, but to hear this from the mouth of his own missus? He sounds positively primeval.
The possessive partner is one of those tropes that’s used for romantic effect in bodice-rippers and problematic codswallop written by Stephenie Meyer and E.L. James, but it’s not an archetype to aspire to in reality. Search for “possessive partner” on Google and you don’t get directions for BDSM play and Interflora numbers; you get article after article on how to deal with a domineering loved one. Someone who tries to control their partner’s life to the extent where he or she has to examine very minor decisions in the context of whether it will cause offence, lead to an argument or end in a violent altercation is far from romantic. It’s exhausting, upsetting and potentially dangerous.
“Possessive” is a lot closer to “abusive” than it is to “starry-eyed”.
Shakira is a hyper-successful artist who’s sold over 125 million records. She’s got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. She’s a philanthropist and activist who’s passionate about childhood education. She has addressed governments. She has been honoured by the UN. She recorded her first album when she was 13 years old. Shakira is not the kind of person you would think to allow her partner dominion over her professional life.
Should they have kept it to themselves?
Any successful relationship requires a little bit of compromise, and there is nothing inherently terrible about Piqué confiding in his girlfriend that her raunchy promos with male dancers make him uncomfortable. Hey, it’s understandable; no one’s perfect, no one’s 100 per cent self-assured all the time. He’s a decade younger. And let’s be generous here and suggest that there’s nothing entirely appalling about him suggesting she use Rihanna as a substitute, so long as we can roll our eyes at the notion that “girl-on-girl action” is primarily designed to appeal to straight men, rather than, y’know, girls. Perhaps it’s long been a fantasy of his, who knows? Perhaps Shak is happy to indulge him.
It would have been so much better had the lovers decided to keep this to themselves.
Giggling about how Piqué forbids her to employ male co-stars because he “values” her too much promotes the seriously dodgy notion that love can only truly be expressed through control. That may seem a delicious little conceit when you’re a 37-year-old, endlessly ambitious superstar, a cute fantasy that you have a big strong man who’ll mind you when you get home from dominating the music industry or fighting educational imbalance and prejudice. It’s not so helpful if it gets through to a 19-year-old fan who thinks being locked in on a Saturday night or bawled out in front of friends is just a demonstration of undying passion.
That’s assuming that Shakira’s comments are meant to be taken light-heartedly, though this isn’t the first time she’s portrayed Piqué as a domineering, kind-of-douche. In a January interview with Glamour magazine, Shakira said that she felt the pressure to stay superstar-thin had been alleviated somewhat because Piqué “prefers meat over bone”. From one kind of pressure to another, then. Let’s hope that Shakira is simply spouting the kind of heavily romanticised guff one is prone to when one is in love, in which case we feel justified wishing she’d button it. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about.