SXSW Music Panel: Kesha

“I’m not going to let hate win”

On Tuesday, Kesha arrived at SXSW to discuss online bullying with Refinery29’s Chief Content Officer Amy Emmerich. Although she hasn’t released new material in several years, 30-year-old Kesha Rose Sebert (she removed the $ in 2014) has developed a massive fan base in that time – for both her music and her activism.

Photo by Sarah Marloff

“I’m nervous for young people,” she told Emmerich after sitting down. “I got bullied at school, but I got to go home and write songs. [These kids] go home and get bullied online .... I don’t have a Ph.D. or anything, I just want to talk about it.”

Though the conversation strayed off-topic at times, it proved a heartfelt and down-to-earth hour. She posited celebrity as a byproduct of music itself. Writing for megastars such as Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and the Veronicas taught her that.

“I just wanted to reach people, but it’s a weird double edge sword,” she said. “I’m grateful, but if you have a voice, you have a responsibility to stand up for those who need it.”

After spending much of the last year under media scrutiny due to drawn-out legal battles between her and her former producer, whom she accused of repeated sexual and mental abuse, Kesha has become an outspoken advocate for equality: “Women, LGBTQ, Muslim – we’re all equal. I will fight for that ’til the day I die.”

The Los Angeles native also revealed her life-and-death struggle with an eating disorder. Anorexia and bulimia have a higher mortality rate than any other mental disorder, yet they’re rarely ever addressed so publicly.

“The sick thing is, I was starving and people would tell me, ‘You look so great,’” she admitted. “It’s never over, I don’t think. But I like being alive.

“I want people to know they’re not alone. It’s not your fault.”

As for fresh solo work from the pop star, it’s on the way.

From the Chronicle archives: Ke$ha, Cedar Park Center, 8.3.11 (Photo by Gary Miller)

“I’ve been working every day, all day long,” she told the audience, noting some 70-80 new songs written and crediting her mother Pebe Sebert for a recent country influence. “I fucking love pop music, and I don’t think it’s a dirty word, but I’ve gone back to some of my country roots.”

Closing out, Kesha stressed the importance of those struggling with depression, bullying, or insecurities to lose themselves in art.

“I put [the people who doubt me] on my Fuck You list. I use this to remind myself: Get out there and prove them wrong. I’m not going to let hate win.”

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Kesha, SXSW, SXSW Music 2017, Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, Veronicas

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