Some fans have turned on Lana Del Rey. Here's a complete timeline of how the singer soured her own reputation.
Lana Del Rey has faced consistent backlash since early 2020.
It all started when Del Rey posted an unprompted public statement, defending her own reputation.
After repeatedly doubling down, she's since been described as "the epitome of white woman feminism."
At the dawn of a new decade, Lana Del Rey seemed poised at the summit of the indie-pop mountain.
The songstress, now 37, was still riding the high of "Norman Fucking Rockwell!" — her career-topping sixth album, which was named the best release of 2019 by Pitchfork and nominated for album of the year at the Grammy Awards.
As 2019 neared its end, Del Rey's first two albums, "Born to Die" and "Ultraviolence," both landed on several decade-end lists. She was named one of the decade's defining artists by Insider.
But shortly after, Del Rey's behavior began to make more headlines than her music.
Her reputation suffered a rapid downturn, thanks to a string of controversial public statements, questionable mask choices, and her tendency to double down.
Many fans even say they've "lost respect" for the singer, and she's increasingly described online as a "problematic white woman." Below, we broke down all the backlash Del Rey has recently received.
Note: This article has been updated since its original publish date.
May 2020: Del Rey posted an unprompted public statement about her own reputation
It all began on May 21, four months after she attended the 2020 Grammys, when Del Rey shared a lengthy open letter on Instagram.
Posed as a "question for the culture," Del Rey praised her own legacy and broadly described her critics as "pathetic."
"Now that Doja Cat, Ariana, Camila, Cardi B, Kehlani and Nicki Minaj and Beyoncé have had number ones with songs about being sexy, wearing no clothes, fucking, cheating etc," she wrote, "can I please go back to singing about being embodied, feeling beautiful by being in love even if the relationship is not perfect, or dancing for money, or whatever I want, without being crucified or saying that I'm glamorizing abuse?"
"I'm fed up with female writers and alt singers saying that I glamorize abuse," she continued, "when in reality I'm just a glamorous person singing about the realities of what we are all now seeing are very prevalent emotionally abusive relationships all over the world."
She defended writing songs about being "submissive" in relationships, despite "a long 10 years of bullshit reviews."
"I also feel it really paved the way for other women to stop 'putting on a happy face' and to just be able to say whatever the hell they wanted to in their music," she wrote, "unlike my experience where if I even expressed a note of sadness in my first two records I was deemed literally hysterical as though it was literally the 1920s."
Del Rey concluded her statement by plugging her forthcoming poetry books, mentioning that she donates to "Native American foundations," and announcing a new album.
—Cazzy Star (@Cazzy) May 21, 2020
It remains unclear what triggered Del Rey's statement, or why she felt compelled to defend her music after months of glowing reviews.
Early in her career, Del Rey was seen as a controversial figure — but largely because of accusations of inauthenticity and artifice. Her tragic-glam image was scrutinized far more frequently than her lyrics.
Del Rey may have been reacting to a 2019 article from The Independent, in which writer Helen Brown "examines how easy it is to misread her lyrics as 'antifeminist'" — though Brown actually defends Del Rey's "sharp" songwriting and roundly praises her newest album.
Whatever Del Rey's motivations may have been, her statement was poorly received.
While some agreed she's been unfairly judged as "antifeminist" in the past, many were angry that she name-dropped other artists to make her point.
—yasmin (@COSMlCVALKYRIE) May 21, 2020
—kenzie (@StylesDepressed) May 21, 2020
Additionally, six out of the seven people she mentioned were women of color, which sparked accusations of racism.
As Tulane University's Christine Capetola wrote, in addition to her reductive descriptions of their music, Del Rey "failed to recognize Black female artists' decades-long — and ongoing — struggle to express their sexualities on their own terms within the realm of pop music."
Del Rey also implied that she's more "delicate" than her peers, and claimed that feminism is intolerant of "women who look and act like me."
"The optics of Lana, a white woman, complaining about feminism lacking space for her while critiquing the acclaim allotted to several Black pop artists is mortifying," Ashley Reese wrote for Jezebel.
—Zito (@_Zeets) May 21, 2020
—Black Fat Queer (@FlamingFatQueer) May 21, 2020
YouTuber D'Angelo Wallace said Del Rey's album announcement was amplified by media coverage of the controversy.
"Was Lana Del Rey profiting off Black outrage to sell her album? Yes," he said in a video titled, "Lana Del Rey has Lana Del LOST IT."
"I don't think she did it on purpose," he said. "But once she realized who she was making mad, and that it was getting her even more attention than she initially was looking for, she made four follow-up comments. And they were all about the outrage."
He added: "I'm just gonna be honest. This is where my respect for her started to dip."
Shortly after, Del Rey doubled down and insisted she's not racist
Del Rey's response to the backlash focused on her reasoning for naming specific artists.
"To be clear because I knowwww you love to twist things. I fucking love these singers and know them. #that is why I mentioned them," she wrote. "I would like to have some of the same freedom of expression without judgment of hysteria."
"I haven't had the same opportunity to express what I wanted to express without being completely decimated," she continued in a second comment. "And if you want to say that has something to do with race that's your opinion but that's not what I was saying."
—Buzzing Pop (@BuzzingPop) May 21, 2020
"This is the problem with society today," she said in a third comment. "It's exactly the point of my post — there are certain women that culture doesn't want to have a voice it may not have to do with race I don't know what it has to do with."
"I don't care anymore but don't ever ever ever ever bro- call me racist because that is bullshit."
"And my last and final note on everything," Del Rey wrote in a fourth comment, "when I said people who look like me — I meant the people who don't look strong or necessarily smart, or like they're in control etc. it's about advocating for a more delicate personality, not for white women — thanks for the Karen comments tho. V helpful."
Del Rey's comments struck many people as overly defensive and unproductive, rather than illuminating.
"'Don't ever call me racist' is hands-down the single-most disappointing reaction to accusations of racism," Wallace said in his video.
—ً (@cwhitbred) May 22, 2020
—calling all trade (@codistweets) May 22, 2020
Black writers like Nichole Perkins and Roxane Gay, as well as their followers, pointed out Del Rey's use of "coded" language and self-victimization.
—we are never meeting in real life (@SunnyAde_) May 21, 2020
—Tantine P (@imanarchy_) May 21, 2020
Del Rey posted an additional statement on Instagram, accusing her critics of wanting a 'race war'
One day after her original post, Del Rey continued to insist that it "wasn't controversial at all," despite national news coverage and widespread backlash.
In her additional statement, she implied that Ariana Grande and Doja Cat reached out to express discomfort in her message.
But "despite the feedback," Del Rey doubled down once again.
"I want to say that I remain firm in my clarity and stance in that what i was writing about was the importance of self-advocacy for the more delicate and often dismissed, softer female personality, and that there does have to be room for that type in what will inevitably become a new wave/3rd wave of feminism that is rapidly approaching," she wrote, even though the third wave of feminism began more than 20 years ago.
"I'm sorry that the folks who I can only assume are super Trump/Pence supporters or hyper liberals or flip-flopping headline grabbing critics can't read and want to make it a race war," she continued.
—Affinity Magazine (@TheAffinityMag) May 22, 2020
She also accused her female critics of being "disassociated from their own fragility and sexuality" and wanting "drama."
"My aim and my message are clear. That I have control of my own story," she concluded. "If the women I mention don't wanna be associated with me that's absolutely fine by me."
Again, fans criticized Del Rey for dismissing feedback rather than engaging with it.
Many noted that Del Rey's repeated self-characterization as a "delicate" woman plays into racist stereotypes, which historically paint white women as more feminine or fragile — allowing them to escape accountability more easily.
It also highlights the idea that Del Rey is "playing the victim."
"Lana really wants to act like she's the most original artist playing the victim and honestly she's full of shit," one person wrote on Twitter.
She was also mocked for not-so-casually plugging her poetry book in the midst of her non-apology.
Del Rey made a further attempt to defend her open letter 3 days later — and compared herself to another woman of color
"In that post — my one and only personal declaration I've ever made, thanks for being so warm and welcoming — was about the need for fragility in the feminist movement," Del Rey said on May 25 in a six-minute video on Instagram.
"When I mentioned women who 'look like me,' I didn't mean white like me, I mean the kind of women who, you know, other people might not believe," Del Rey said in the video. "The difference is, when I get on the pole, people call me a whore, but when twigs gets on the pole, it's art."
She added: "The culture is super sick right now. And the fact that they wanna turn my post, my advocacy for fragility, into a race war — it's really bad. It's actually really bad."
She also expressed frustration that her letter received backlash, though she didn't address any of the specific criticism she received from artists and fans of color.
"It really, again, makes you reach into the depth of your own heart and say, 'Am I good-intentioned?' And of course, for me, the answer is always yes," she said. "I barely ever share a thing, and this is why."
—Pop Crave (@PopCrave) May 25, 2020
In the midst of her video, Del Rey revealed the title of her forthcoming album, "Chemtrails Over the Country Club," causing people to speculate that it's all for publicity ("it's only been four days and lana's album rollout has felt like a decade," one person wrote).
Del Rey wrapped up by insisting that she's "not racist," plugging her poetry books, and refusing to apologize for her original statement: "Fuck off if you don't like the post."
Once again, Del Rey was accused of being resentful towards successful women of color, ignorant of her own privilege, and determined to play the victim.
People were especially infuriated by Del Rey's mention of FKA twigs, a mixed-race singer, songwriter, and dancer.
Twigs has trained as a pole dancer and incorporated acrobatics into her art, as in her Grammy-nominated music video for "Cellophane." She has also incorporated the skill into live performances of "Magdalene," an album that explores the demonization of women throughout history, as well as her own resilience.
Twigs has also said that pole dancing helped her feel like her "strong self again," after she had six fibroid tumors removed from her uterus in 2018.
For her part, Del Rey portrayed a stripper in her 2013 short film for "Tropico," which was criticized for "appropriating Latino gangster culture."
"The fact that she said race war and doesn't see twigs as a fragile, delicate woman is... You're really making it worse," one person wrote.
Another added: "You can hear FKA twigs' pain on 'Magdalene' period. I need Lana to stop bringing black women into her argument for creating a brand she cannot escape from."
—Rubén (@xoxorubenangel) May 25, 2020
Most fans (and former fans at this point) agreed that Del Rey's video "only made things worse."
"I didn't think she was this kind of person," Wallace said. "Now I have the knowledge that Lana Del Rey is kind of ruthless in her pursuit of getting people to talk about her, and she doesn't seem to care who gets angry in the process, or even if what she's saying is right. So, that's a lot."
June 2020: She was called out by Black artists for sharing videos of protesters
During the wave of Black Lives Matter protests that were sparked by the death of George Floyd, Del Rey shared two videos on Instagram.
According to Billboard, the first video showed a man holding a sign that read "no justice no peace," while the second showed people breaking into storefronts and running away with merchandise. She disabled comments on the post.
On Twitter, Kehlani implored Del Rey to remove the videos because they showed uncensored faces and identifying features, which could lead to "dangerous" consequences for the protesters.
".@LanaDelRey please remove your instagram post it's dangerous as fuck and a very poor choice of moments to post," Kehlani tweeted. "by all means protest, but DO NOT endanger people with your very massive platform. oh and turn your fuckin comments on man."
Kehlani added: "it's about furthering endangering the lives of black people. it's about responsibility."
Tinashe echoed Kehlani's comments in a tweet of her own.
"@LanaDelRey why the fuck are you posting people looting stores on your page literally WHAT IS YOUR PROBLEM," she wrote.
—cloo (@lesbenoist) May 31, 2020
After Del Rey removed the video from Instagram, Kehlani and Tinashe both deleted their tweets.
October 2020: Del Rey came under fire after apparently wearing a mesh face mask
Aside from postponing her album, which was originally slated to be released in September, Del Rey remained fairly quiet in the wake of her controversial video — except to promote her aforementioned poetry book, "Violet Bent Backwards Over the Grass."
In October, Del Rey hosted a book signing at a Barnes & Noble in Los Angeles during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In videos and photos from the event, she appeared to wear a mesh-style face mask, which would not provide an effective barrier for respiratory droplets, according to recommendations from the CDC.
Fans left comments on her Instagram posts, which she has since deleted, begging her to wear a "real mask."
"I love you sis but please wear a real mask, it gives a bad message," one user commented on Del Rey's Instagram video.
"i love lana sm but what the frick is she doing ? the covid situation in the united states is worsening and she refuses to wear a proper mask, that really infuriates me," another fan wrote on Twitter. "so many ppl have died there."
Others called Del Rey "selfish" and said they were growing tired of defending her.
—hi, it’s beth (@bethwnn) October 3, 2020
—georgia (@lovingsweetener) October 3, 2020
—🛸 (@fireIadies) October 3, 2020
—Jasmine (@jasmineflwrr) October 4, 2020
The image of COVID-19 slipping through the holes in her mask also became a meme on Twitter.
—james (@redputationaotd) October 2, 2020
—weezette *.✧ (@420urmum69) October 3, 2020
—Tomás Mier (@Tomas_Mier) October 3, 2020
Del Rey later said that her mask had a plastic lining, in response to a critical article from Michigan Daily.
"The mask had plastic on the inside," Del Rey wrote. "They're commonly sewn in by stylists these days. I don't generally respond to articles because I don't care. But there ya go. Same goes for everyone's masks in my video. I'm lucky enough to have a team of people who can do that."
She also seemed to poke fun at the controversy in her music video for "Chemtrails Over the Country Club," in which she dons a nearly identical mask.
January 10, 2021: Del Rey unveiled the cover art for her new album — and preemptively defended it with a 'problematic' comment
The black-and-white cover for "Chemtrails Over the Country Club" shows Del Rey grinning and surrounded by friends, all huddled around a table.
Shortly after she shared the image, Del Rey commented on her own Instagram post with preemptive self-defense.
"No this was not intended-these are my best friends, since you are asking today," she wrote — although it was written as a standalone comment, not a reply to anyone in particular.
"As it happens when it comes to my amazing friends and this cover, yes, there are people of color on this record's picture and that's all I'll say about that," she wrote. "We are all a beautiful mix of everything - some more than others, which is visible and celebrated in everything I do."
"In 11 years working I have always been extremely inclusive without trying to," she continued. "My best friends are rappers, my boyfriends have been rappers. My dearest friends have been from all over the place, so before you make comments again about a WOC/POC issue, I'm not the one storming the capital, I'm literally changing the world by putting my life and thoughts and love out there on the table 24 seven. Respect it."
—Pop Crave (@PopCrave) January 11, 2021
The comment has since been deleted.
The following day, during an interview with BBC's Annie Mac, Del Rey claimed that "actually half the people in this photo are people of color."
"I just feel like if that's really what people are gonna say, I have an answer for them, which is that if you look closer, you will see people of color," she added. "It's a black-and-white image, so zoom in, you know. It's just weird, you know?"
Naturally, some people did make jokes about the cover's perceived lack of diversity, and others called the choice "tone deaf."
—kanin! 🏳️⚧️•(🐰+🦇) (@JASFROMKONOYO) January 13, 2021
But the real backlash came in response to Del Rey's comment, which was described as "textbook white fragility problematic white woman."
Del Rey's note about befriending and dating "rappers" was particularly controversial.
—dresagemusic (@dresagemusic) January 11, 2021
—✨ (@heyjaeee) January 10, 2021
Del Rey was also mocked for claiming that she's "literally changing the world" with her writing.
"We love her and understand her intentions but we cannot keep defending this shit," one fan commented on Del Rey's Instagram post. "That comment is so problematic in so many ways."
"I literally have her lyrics tattooed on my body but I'm also a political activist and I cannot defend this shit at all. I wish we could be excited about the album and only that but shit like this makes it hard to be," the fan continued. "Nothing about her statement is okay."
"If she's going to breathe life into aesthetics of a time where racism was at one of its peaks and not use her platform in the same breath to advocate today's issues properly, accurately, and tactfully. that's an issue."
January 11, 2021: Del Rey was criticized for saying Trump 'doesn't know that he's inciting a riot'
During an interview with BBC's Annie Mac, Del Rey compared President Donald Trump to "people who didn't know they hurt other people."
"You know, he doesn't know that he's inciting a riot and I believe that," she said, adding that Trump has "delusions of grandeur."
Del Rey was referring to the violent riot at the US Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump supporters stormed the building after attending a nearby Trump rally.
Five people died, and the outgoing president has since been impeached for "incitement of insurrection."
—Complex Music (@ComplexMusic) January 12, 2021
"The madness of Trump… As bad as it was, it really needed to happen. We really needed a reflection of our world's greatest problem, which is not climate change but sociopathy and narcissism," she said, as reported by Complex. "Especially in America. It's going to kill the world. It's not capitalism, it's narcissism."
One person replied on Twitter: "Lana stans gonna be doing some mental gymnastics to explain this one."
Del Rey then lashed out at 'larger magazines' for 'taking my well-intentioned and believe it or not liberal comments out of context'
The day after her interview with Mac, Del Rey responded to Complex's coverage of her comments.
"OK complex not that our 10 year relationship matters I guess," she tweeted. "Thanks for the cool soundbite taken out of context, I said that the bigger problem is Sociopathy-so whether he meant to incite a riot is less important than the larger issue in America at hand -the problem of sociopathy."
"It's fucked up," she continued. "You know I'm real. You know I voted for Biden. I'm super steady in everything I've ever said. You probably listened to my entire interview. So whoever wrote this is a genuine piece of shit. I am the one helping bringing the problem with narcissism to light."
Hardly one to stifle momentum, Del Rey also responded to the Australian blog Tone Deaf, which had published an article criticizing the defense of her album cover.
"I'm actually not tone deaf, I don't think there's anything tone deaf about responding to questions about why there are only white women on a album cover when that's just not the case," she tweeted. "I'm not gonna let people say that some thing is what it isn't. You're jealous I get it."
In an additional tweet, Del Rey added that her new music is "great" and described herself as "one of the only artists who is genuine."
Del Rey continued tweeting about her BBC interview, clarifying that she meant to criticize Trump's "significant lack of empathy" and "the issue of sociopathy and narcissism in America."
"I'll say it again I don't appreciate the larger magazines taking my well-intentioned and believe it or not liberal comments out of context," she wrote. "It's actually what I sing about quite often. It's what I've been condemned for saying."
She also expressed disdain for negative publicity, citing her "long term relationship" with magazines like Complex and Rolling Stone, calling the former "pathetic."
Uproxx's Steven Hyden described the now-deleted tweet as "a hilarious and illuminating snapshot of pop-star brain."
—Steven Hyden (@Steven_Hyden) January 13, 2021
Indeed, Del Rey has lashed out at journalists and music critics in the past.
Back in September 2019, she tweeted her displeasure with Ann Powers' review of "Norman Fucking Rockwell!" for NPR — even though Powers described the album as "instantly compelling, a pro asserting her future spot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame."
True to form, Del Rey doubled down with a video, in which she defended her comments about Trump and called out Complex again.
"I just wanna talk about a couple of things, some of the articles that are coming out today, about me thinking that Trump didn't mean to incite the riots," she began. "I think it's cute that that's the little takeaway that Complex gets from that — especially with our relationship over the last 10 years, obviously completely disregarded."
"I get it. I have something to say, and I don't just show up giggling and talking about my hair and my makeup," she continued. "I was asked directly political questions for over 40 minutes by the BBC Radio 1, and I answered them."
Many people saw Del Rey's tweets as another attempt to play the victim, or another example of her "white woman feminism."
—𝑽𝒊𝒂 𝑮𝒆𝒕𝒕𝒚 (@golddtatt) January 13, 2021
Others simply made jokes or said they'd lost patience with her antics.
—jestie🦩 (@_JSpain) January 12, 2021
September 12, 2021: Del Rey deactivated her social media accounts
In a black-and-white video posted on Instagram, the musician thanked fans for their support and announced her decision to remove her online presence.
"I just wanted to let you know that tomorrow we are going to be deactivating my social media accounts, and that is simply because I have so many other interests and other jobs I'm doing that require privacy and transparency," Del Rey said.
"I'm still very present and love what I do. I'm absolutely here for the music. I'm also just going on some different endeavors and I want to say thank you so much for all the support and I do hope that you like the record," she added, referencing her eighth album "Blue Banisters," which was released later that same month.
March 24, 2023: She included a megachurch pastor's sermon on her new album, dividing fans
On Del Rey's ninth studio album, "Did You Know That There's a Tunnel Under Ocean Blvd," track five is titled "Judah Smith Interlude."
The four-minute track gives an uninterrupted platform to Judah Smith, a preacher at the Christian megachurch Churchome. Smith, Del Rey, and producer Jack Antonoff are all listed as cowriters.
Del Rey also thanked Smith in a Facebook post a few months prior, "for giving me good guidance" and "for letting me record a part of his sermon for this record."
In the song, Smith denounces "a life dominated with lust" and praises God as "the fascinating artist who fashioned it all."
"The Spirit of God says, 'I'll infuse you with desirеs for what you have and what's in front of you,'" Smith preaches.
As Them previously reported, many fans — especially those who identify as queer — were divided in their reactions to "Judah Smith Interlude." One Twitter user called it "creepy," while another said, "it's giving conversion therapy cult leader."
—💫 (@heyjaeee) March 24, 2023
—owen (@panopticowen) March 24, 2023
Indeed, Smith has reportedly made homophobic comments in the past. According to Marie Claire, he called homosexuality a sin comparable to "murder, rape, or living with your girlfriend" during a 2005 interview. (The interview in question isn't available online.)
Churchome is also associated with Hillsong, an Australian megachurch best known for attracting famous followers like Chris Pratt. In fact, Justin Bieber once led worship at Churchome, and Smith was featured on Bieber's 2021 EP "Freedom."
Hillsong has long been associated with anti-abortion and anti-LGBTQ views. A report from NPR described it as "an ultra-conservative church with a dark past," including connections to pedophilia.
"I was uncomfortable. I'm not religious and thought it was weird to include. Considering who he is, it's very weird," one person wrote on Reddit. Another agreed, reasoning that Del Rey could have invented "a weird fake religious monologue" instead of "publicizing a real pastor that sucks."
However, some fans of Del Rey have defended "Judah Smith Interlude" as satirical or "ironic." As Coleman Spilde wrote for the Daily Beast, "Del Rey is exactly the type of person who would attend a celebrity-studded mega-church, both for a cleansing of the soul and to lambaste its intrinsic flamboyance with her friends."
"As a gay atheist that grew up in the Catholic Church, y'all are really bent out of shape over this," another fan commented in a Reddit thread. "I love how provocative this whole thing is and it's exactly why I love Lana."
A representative for Del Rey has not responded to Insider's request for comment.
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