Every other Thursday, Kelleigh Bannen will provide behind-the-scenes analysis, stories and insight into Music City’s No. 1 export, with help from some of Nashville’s top songwriters, artists, executives and producers. Taste of Country will debut each new episode of her This Nashville Life podcast, and Bannen herself will introduce it as a guest writer. Thoughts and opinions expressed by Bannen are hers alone and do not reflect the opinions of Taste of Country, unless she’s talking about #TomatoGate, in which case, yeah … she’s spot on. 

I haven’t Googled myself all that recently, but a couple years ago I did, and this is what I remember. Google makes suggestions when you type in someone’s name. These were the suggestions:

Kelleigh Bannen age
Kelleigh Bannen legs
Kelleigh Bannen songs
Kelleigh Bannen feet
Kelleigh Bannen shorts

I don’t remember if this was the order, but I do remember being surprised that so many of the suggested searches had to do with my physical appearance. And feet? Really? People are weird.

As a musician or entertainer, your brand and your image are overlapping pieces — they are very connected. But your image isn’t your identity as a person, and your physical appearance is not where your value comes from. I know we all know this, but it’s easy to get sucked into a cycle where I act like my value is in my jean size, or whether people find me attractive. And that’s toxic.

I interview my friend Joanna Carter (VP Creative Services, UMG.) Joanna is the person behind tons of your favorite music videos (from "Strawberry Wine" to "Pontoon"), and she influences many of the image and styling decisions for the artists that she works with. In many instances, she’s the first person on an artist’s team that’s talking to them about their look and their image. In my case, Joanna was the person who set me up with a stylist and hair and makeup artists. And she’s the person that coordinated all my photo shoots and video shoots while I was signed to EMI (For a close look at her work you can check out our videos for "Famous," and "Smoke When I Drink").

So bottom line: beautiful imaging and a cool style is a great thing for an artist. A necessary thing. But there’s more to it than that. Red carpets and music video shoots ... We’ll talk about what a "star" is. We’ll talk about how imaging plays into an artist’s brand. But I’ll also share some of my own story and vulnerabilities around beauty and body image in the industry … because "image" is complicated.

I’m showing you my cards: I love the glammy, fashion-y parts of my job. It’s fun. It’s feminine. But I also know that it isn’t really real. And it isn’t realistic.

So for me, part of what we’re doing here is just naming it. Calling it what it is.
I believe in vulnerability, and I don’t have to have all the answers to use my voice and platform to tell my story. And neither do you. Whatever your sphere of influence is, you don’t have to have it all figured out in order to add to the conversation. Just tell the truth about what it’s like to be you, in your body. I also find that when I name my insecurities it has the reverse effect of taming them. It takes away a little of their power.

Lauren Alaina recently spoke honestly about her battle with bulimia. It’s brave and beautiful for her to do so. You can read more of her story here, and support her new single and video for "Road Less Traveled." It’s a great message.

Listen to This Nashville Life Ep. 5: "Get Hot or Go Home"

About Kelleigh Bannen: Kelleigh Bannen’s This Nashville Life Podcast offers an authentic, vibrant look at the journey of someone trying to “make it” in country music. Bannen is admittedly still learning what that means. After a short career as an independent artist, the “Famous” singer signed a major label record deal and recorded two-and-a-half albums that were never released. She’s honest, but not bitter about the obstacles female artists face in country music, but her blog and podcast go much deeper.