They say living well is the best revenge. Agreed, but a good social media clapback on top of it doesn’t hurt matters, either.
On the March 5 episode of “American Idol,” the world was introduced to Sara Beth Liebe. They were also introduced to a new reason to dislike Katy Perry, as if there weren’t enough.
After Liebe revealed during the auditions that she was a 25-year-old mother of three who married young, Perry engaged in gratuitous mom-shaming throughout the segment — joking that Liebe needed to be having less sex, telling her “there’s a lot of dreams behind you” and saying her first performance was “not enough.”
In a video released on TikTok in the days following the audition, Liebe called the comments “hurtful” but thanked the young moms who supported her and said “women supporting and uplifting other women is so cool” — subtly putting Perry, who has made her personal brand out of a marketable version of female empowerment, in her place.
Back to March 5. Liebe was one of the spotlighted auditioners in the first round, which is usually a time we get to see a lot of heartfelt personal stories and trainwreck auditions that serve as fodder for the judges.
Usually, the two are separate — and for the most part, they were here. Liebe was no William Hung, the contestant so infamous for his tuneless, energy-shorn audition that he forged a temporary musical career out of being a bad singer.
The problems with Liebe’s audition began when judge Lionel Richie said he didn’t believe the young-looking Liebe was 25, which prompted her to say she already had three children. At that point, Perry got up from the table and mock-fainted.
“If Katy lays down on the table, I think I’m going to pass out,” Liebe said, laughing.
“Honey, you been layin’ on the table too much,” Perry responded.
Yeah, well, it turns out that Liebe had her children while married. Perry — a mother who sings not infrequently about the joys of promiscuous, hassle-free sex — was not in a state of wedlock when she had her child.
In other words, so long as the windows were closed and her partner was her husband, it was Liebe’s moral right to do whatever she wanted on the table. (I believe there are more comfortable places.)
After questioning whether singing was “your dream” and saying “there’s a lot of dreams behind you,” Perry said Liebe’s rendition of Amy Winehouse’s “You Know I’m No Good” was “not enough” and demanded she sing Elton John’s “Bennie and the Jets.”
For what it’s worth, Perry waived her through to the next round — saying, “I mean, yeah, I guess, why not?” when it came to her turn to vote. Still, this didn’t exactly sit well on social media, with comments like these:
I really do not like how Katy Perry just treated Sara Beth on #AmericanIdol I don’t watch this show at all and my tv was already on the channel but what I witnessed was not right. They let Katy Perry bully this woman on live national tv before she even started singing. So ugly.
— Maven_Star (@EyezrStarry) March 6, 2023
— Mo (@FriNrHesitates) March 6, 2023
Boo to Katy Perry for mom shaming Sara Beth. Insinuating that she has been “laying on the table too much” to have 3 kids by age 25. A young mother following a dream while raising her children should be raised up not put down. #AmericanIdol
— Carol Majewski (@ceefreeski) March 6, 2023
In a clip put out a few days after the incident — which Liebe admitted was “an interesting video to be filming” — the mother of three described the emotions she’d experienced after becoming a viral flashpoint.
“While I was on the show, there was a joke that was made that got a lot of attention,” she said, saying the attempt at humor “wasn’t super kind.”
“I don’t have too much to say on my feelings about it because it’s probably pretty self-explanatory,” the young mom said. “I mean, it was embarrassing to have that on TV. And it was hurtful and, you know, that’s that.”
However, Liebe said she was grateful for the outpouring of love she received in the wake of the mom-shaming incident.
“I did want to take this opportunity to say that I think that women supporting and uplifting other women is so cool and I think that mom-shaming is super lame,” she said.
“And I think that it’s hard enough to be a mom and it’s hard enough to be a woman. And I also wanted to take this opportunity to say that I see all of the young moms and just moms in general who have commented on all of the videos and posts.
“I see you and I hear you and I am grateful for you.”
She also had advice, and not about singing.
“Keep loving your babies. Nobody deserves to feel crappy about that. … I think if you’re a good mama and you love your babies that’s all that really matters, and other comments don’t feel necessary,” Liebe said.
“That’s all I have to say on the matter,” she said.
And look, I get it: These audition shows are largely for laughs, but not for laughs like that. She got passed on to the next round, after all, and by Perry herself. It’s that Perry — whose songs offer a junk-food version of third-wave feminism and empowerment — saw fit to pick on Liebe for having kids, of all things.
Fine, then. Let’s do one of these “American Idol” get-harsh comparisons when it comes to what we know about Liebe and Perry.
Liebe: Sang in a church choir. Perry: First major hit was about experimenting with lesbian sex. Went downhill from there.
Liebe: Seems down to earth, judging by the TikTok video. Katy Perry: “Ground control to Major Tom …”
Liebe: Also seems to not be the type to hold a grudge or get angry, judging by the sit-down video. Katy Perry: Google “Katy Perry Taylor Swift.” Enjoy the (pardon the pun) fireworks.
Sorry, Katy. In the only race that counts — the human one — our short audition indicates you’re stuck at “not enough.” And no, once it’s all over, you don’t get a second chance by singing “Bennie and the Jets.”
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