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Changes Bodies Series: CMAT

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Annie [00:00:04] Hello, hello, hello, it is Annie Macmanus here, welcome to Changes. I'm sitting in my rave shed, looking out in the garden at the lilac. The three lilac trees in our garden, which we are so lucky to inherit from the people who lived in this house before us. Every year they blossom for like two weeks and normally it's in May, this year it's like three weeks early but they are in full bloom and it is spectacular. And what with the lilac being out and me buying my first bottle of rosé at the weekend, it really feels like spring is here and summer is on the horizon guys, it feels great. I hope it's feeling good for you. It was lovely to come back after our Easter break last week with Marian Keyes. The episode seems to have really moved loads of you, thank you for getting in touch, especially with regards to the Botoxing and ageing conversation that Marian had with me where she was just really brilliantly honest about getting regular work done on her face and she told us why. She just doesn't like secrets, she likes everything to be out there, and she doesn't like lying to women about, you know, pretending she drinks lots of water when in fact she's getting work done. Thank you for your comments, hello to Una Fox who said 'Marian for president, she is so wise, thoughtful and smart. We all want to be her bestie'. Jade Healy thinks Marian should also be a comedian, 'she had me laughing out loud on my walk' and Claire Kramer McKinnion commented, 'amen for authenticity and owning, do what makes you happy. Thank you both for this reminder which felt like a big hug'. A couple of people saying Marian's voice made them feel like they were being hugged. She is so gentle and kind and I just loved interviewing her, it felt like a really special conversation that I won't forget. So, speaking of Botox and ageing and body image at large, this brings me nicely onto an announcement. This episode is the first of three episodes we are bringing you, an entire mini series on bodies. I decided that I wanted to get to know myself a little bit more when it comes to my relationship with my body and change. So, over the next three weeks, I'm going to be digging into themes of body image and weight, unrealistic beauty standards and societal pressures and ageing bodies. Everything from the menopause to the weight loss drug Ozempic is covered in the next three weeks, you're going to hear from the academic and author Afua Hirsch and world renowned gynaecologist and women's health advocate, Doctor Jen Gunter, who will be answering your questions that you sent in a few weeks ago. But our first guest of the bodies series comes to you fresh from making headlines for probably the most viral moment of the Brit Awards 2024, when she wore a dress which revealed her arse crack on live television, it is fellow Dubliner and incredible music artist CMAT. CMAT, real name Ciara Mary-Alice Thompson, is a 1 in a million artist. She writes songs that tread that line between heartbreak and humour. It's really hard to do, but she does it so well. She able to be funny and sad at the same time, and she's utterly captivating on stage. Someone I would bet on to be a future superstar, if she so chooses that is. She is a proper star. 

[00:03:23] [Have Fun! by CMAT plays] 

Annie [00:03:23] Both of her albums have gone straight to number one in the Irish charts, and she's really making waves in Britain now too. She was part of the BBC sound of 2024 long list and she's been described by the NME as Dublin's answer to Dolly Parton. And she was at the Brits this year, having been nominated for Best International Artist alongside Miley Cyrus, Taylor Swift and SZA. So [music plays under speech] what relationship does a pop star have with their body? Well, this one has been through the mill when it comes to body issues. 

CMAT [00:04:19] I had been chubby and then all of a sudden I was a size eight. Every single person was like, you look incredible. You look so amazing. You're the best you've ever looked in your life. You're so hot now. To the untrained eye, I probably did look quite healthy because I wasn't skin and bone, you know, because I was, I started off from like a size 14 and I went down to size 8, so everybody was just like she's slaying, ---  erm but I wasn't slaying, I was being slayed *laughs* I was dying. 

Annie [00:04:48] You were being slayed... Before we get into the episode, a word of warning that there is swearing and some sensitive topics discussed so do check the show notes if you're concerned. [Music underneath changes] We get to the big macro questions around body and body image around the end of the conversation, but I started by asking CMAT what her intentions were for her Brits outfit, as she called it a political choice. [Music ends]

CMAT [00:05:16] Yeah, I mean, I guess the initial choice wasn't political. I guess, like the first thing that occurred to me when I was talking to my gorgeous stylist, Mia Maxwell, was that I was like, ah, I think it would be really funny if I had my ass crack showing. Because there's an episode of the Mr. Bean cartoon where he has an opera singing girlfriend called Roxie. 

Annie [00:05:37] Right? 

CMAT [00:05:38] And she shows her ass crack at the bottom of the -- and she's massive- She's was drawn with massive boobs and a massive arse and then an arse crack. And then there's a bit where Mr. Bean loses his teddy, and she puts Teddy in between her cleavage. 

Annie [00:05:50] Right *laughs*. 

CMAT [00:05:50] And she carries him around like that, and she's got these big bouncing boobs. This is a children's cartoon! *Annie laughs* this is a children's cartoon. So initially I was like, let's just do that because it'll be fun and funny and glamorous and I think it'd be a really interesting, like fashion moment. 

Annie [00:06:02] Yeah. 

CMAT [00:06:02] But then as we were constructing it was when I got a bit political about it. Where I was like, we're going to show- the exact amount of crack is going to be like equal to the line of cleavage that you would have. 

Annie [00:06:13] So the exact kind of length that most, I suppose, passible length of cleavage that you would show. 

CMAT [00:06:18] Yeah, exactly. So it's this big really black velvet dress and it's high neck, long sleeves, really demure and really conservative from the front. And when you wear that much black, it's actually usually like styling rules that you have to kind of break it up. So we were putting necklaces and layers and stuff on it. And Mia was just like '*tuts* it just feels like too serious'. So we took all the necklaces off so that the dress essentially would work as an arrow pointing towards my crack. Like that, I think that's why it looks so shocking, because it's not just like the crack is there. It's like literally the entire structure of the thing is like pointing towards my arse crack. But it had to come above where my arsehole was so that if I bent over, nothing would happen. I wanted it to be fashionable and to be a fashion moment (Annie: 'for sure, yeah'), as opposed to me being like- 

Annie [00:07:06] Novelty, yeah. 

CMAT [00:07:07] Yeah. Like I know Rob Beckett was on the red carpet in like, an inflatable giraffe, which is hilarious and funny, but that was the- that was exactly what I was not trying to do and what I might have done had we- had there been like, just like literal splitting hairs of choices made differently, right? So yeah, I'm really happy about it. I was really, really proud of it. And it was lovely. Like, you know, I'd never been to anything like the Brit Awards before. I from Dunboyne, like, you know, like. 

Annie [00:07:31] Explain the the context of that though, for people who don't know Dunboyne. 

CMAT [00:07:34] I was born in Dublin and I was brought up in Dublin and we are dubs like, but I spent my teenage years in Dunboyne County Meath, that's kind of where everyone I know is. And it's commuter village, there's six pubs, one shop, it's small and everybody that lives there has either stayed there or moved to Australia *Annie laughs* and there's not like very many people that have done anything different. 

Annie [00:07:59] And what were you like as a little girl in Dunboyne? 

CMAT [00:08:02] I was weird, definitely and I like dressed up as Coco Chanel for Halloween when I was eight, and I like spent all my confirmation money on tickets to see Paul McCartney --- and *Annie laughs*, you know, stuff like that. And I was like, The Beatles is my life. I used to get in trouble in school for wearing fake eyelashes and a --- because I wanted to be from the 1960s very badly, you know, all that stuff. 

Annie [00:08:22] So where does all that- where did all that come from? So if you're eight and you're loving Coco Chanel and you're spending your money on Paul McCartney, where did that influence come from? Like, where are you learning about Coco Chanel and Paul McCartney from? 

CMAT [00:08:36] No one! It's really weird. I think what happened was I was the middle child, and I think I was allowed to watch a lot of television. I was like this snotty, forgettable, annoying, weirdly ginger child, like everyone else is blonde but I was ginger, and like, had anger issues. I was like, *gremlin noise* like, you know, my mam says that I was the easiest to birth and the absolute worst to rear *Annie laughs*. She's was like you're a nightmare. 

Annie [00:09:01] What was your mum like growing up? 

CMAT [00:09:03] My mam is a wonderful woman. When I was growing up, I think I thought of her as, like, very normal. Like very like, I wished she was more exciting. Like, she was a special needs assistant and she was also a carer in Saint Vincents on the Navan Road. And she used to work nights, like she used to work really, really, really long shifts. And my mam was really militant about us speaking Irish like, so that was a thing. We spoke Irish growing up. 

Annie [00:09:29] *Surprisingly* Did you? You spoke it at home? 

CMAT [00:09:30] A little bit like we, we went to Gaelscoils. She was very militant about you're going to Gaelscoils. 

Annie [00:09:36] So Gaelscoils are schools where you speak Irish and you learn in Irish. Yes. 

CMAT [00:09:40] Yes, you learn everything, three Gaeilge. And you speak Irish every single day and you get in trouble if you speak English kind of thing. 

Annie [00:09:46] No way? Yeah. 

CMAT [00:09:46] And all of that was just the un coolest thing to me in the world when I was like, growing up, and I wanted to be American. I wanted to be American. Wanted to live in America, wanted to be on the Disney Channel. I never didn't want to be a pop star. Like, I just- I always just assumed I was going to be one, like- and there was no reference! 

Annie [00:10:02] Jesus! That's incre- but like, was there any moment when you saw one or you, you know- 

CMAT [00:10:06] *Fast* Samantha Mumba. 

Annie [00:10:09] *Laughs* Samantha Mumba! Amazing. 

CMAT [00:10:10] Samantha Mumba was like, the news when I was four. Like she was everywhere and she was everything because she was from Dublin, which was where I was from. And she was a pop star who would do choreography and she was the single most beautiful woman I'd ever seen in my life. 

Annie [00:10:25] She was incredibly beautiful. Remind us of Samantha Mumba's biggest song. 

CMAT [00:10:28] I think it's probably *sings quickly* 'I wanna know you but you don't know me, don't wanna need you-'. But for me it's *sings* 'show me where I belong tonight'.

Annie [00:10:38] Oh, yeah. Yeah, yeah, yeah.

CMAT [00:10:41] *Singing* 'give me a reason to stay'. I was *emphasis* obsessed with Samantha Mumba. And she was acting as well, right. She was in there really big budget, time travelling film. We had to do this weird like, school project when I was maybe in junior infants or senior infants, where- I have just this really distinct memory of this because my mam still slags me off for it. But they were like, draw a picture of your hero and explain why they're your hero, alls  Gaeilge obviously. I drew a picture of Samantha Mumba and was like, Samantha Mumba is my hero because she does three things: she sings and she can dance and she can act and she's from Dublin. 

Annie [00:11:15] Wowww. 

CMAT [00:11:16] That was- like I was obsessed. I remember also having a really, like, disgustingly violent argument when I was seven with someone because they implied that Britney Spears didn't write her own music. I was like, *screams* 'you're lying, that's not true, you're lying!!'. 

Annie [00:11:28] *Laughing*.

CMAT [00:11:34] [CMAT track starts to play] I was obsessed with popstars. They were such a beacon to me of like, you know, something else. 

Unidentified [00:11:42] [Nashville by CMAT plays] 

Annie [00:12:11] So we ask everyone, biggest change looking back at your childhood you think you went through? 

CMAT [00:12:16] I feel like turning 12, hitting puberty and developing a mental illness *laughs* was probably the biggest one. 

Annie [00:12:25] So let's go into that then. Obviously that's such a huge physiological change. Everything has changed. How was it for you? 

CMAT [00:12:31] It was terrible. Hitting puberty was like the worst thing that ever happened to me, which I suppose is not an uncommon experience. But there was two things. One was like, I hit it when I was 12, I think and immediately developed full blown, all over cystic acne. 

Annie [00:12:49] Ohhh my God. 

CMAT [00:12:49] Because I had really, really bad acne for years and years and years and it was the bane of my life. It ruined my life. It was like- because, you know, I was still in primary school at that time. You know, I was in sixth class, but the younger kids would come up to me and be like, that's the girl with chickenpox. You know, if anyone ever notices you or says anything to you when you're 12, you want to throw yourself off a bridge. But like, this was, this wasn't just people, like kind of slightly acknowledging my existence, this was loads of people acknowledging my existence because there is something really weird about me. And ugly and unwanted and like, you know, horrible. And it was really bad, like it was- and then also like, I landed in secondary school and discovered I was, like fatter than the other girls so it was just like-

Annie [00:13:38] So the primary school, you're still like, you're not self-aware enough, I suppose at that point to, to see yourself in comparison to other people quite yet, in the way that you do when you're a teenage. 

CMAT [00:13:48] Yeah, yeah. And to be honest, you know, it's interesting because looking back, I see pictures of myself when I was 12, I was not fa- nothing like chubby. I was nothing like chubby at all. But compared to everyone else- but like, I always had a massive arse! *Laughs* my bum was always really, really big. And I used to get a lot of comments on it as well. And I had no boobs, and I always had a ginormous backside, and it was always like out of proportion with the rest of my body. And I used to get it from like the lads in school you know, like all that kind of thing. 

Annie [00:14:17] How did I suppose those realisations, the acne and the kind of, I suppose, the self-awareness change you or change how you went about your life at that age? 

CMAT [00:14:27] It was that weird thing of like, it ruined me but also it made me develop this attitude, which I don't necessarily always think is a positive thing but this thing of like, fuck you, I do what I want. Oh, you think I'm weird? You think I'm ugly? Cool. I'm going to do it twice as much on purpose, and I really developed that at that age. So then I started getting into weird, pretentious things on purpose and talking about them. So like, I remember when I was 13, I watched loads of films from the 1940s, and I decided to make that my personality and I was like, yeah, I only like films from the 1940s. I actually, I printed out loads of pictures of 1940s film actresses and Isabella Blow because I loved her and I printed them out and I posted them up in my locker and I did it really performatively one day and this lad who I loved, he came up behind me and was like, *high voice* 'who are you?' and I was like, 'I'm Ciara Thompson' and he's like, 'what are you doing?' I was like, 'I'm putting pictures of 1940s film actresses inside my locker', and he's like 'ahh right yeah, are you Rosin Thompson's little sister?' and I was like 'yeah'. And he turned around and he, like, full on bellowed and announced to like the whole hall, 'here la-!', probably should not say this slur so I'm going to say not the slur, but I'm going to say the word that he meant by it. So he's like 'here lads, Rosin Thompsons sistas a lesbiannnnn!' *Annie laughs* and then they're like 'wheyyy lesbian! She's a fuckin lesbian!' *high pitched and fast* 'ahh fuckin lesbian ahh!!'. 

Annie [00:15:54] *Laughs* wow. 

CMAT [00:15:54] So I was kind of like socially ruined by that. But then, this is what I mean, it's like it was terrible and it was awful and I was like, everyone hates me, everyone hates me, everyone hates me and that's when I developed that, like, brain thing. But at the same time, I also developed 'well, everyone hates me, so I'm just going to do whatever I want anyway'. 

Annie [00:16:15] What was the brain thing? 

CMAT [00:16:16] The brain thing of everybody hates me. And I still have that.

Annie [00:16:18] Right, okay so just kind of conditioning, a kind of like default they hate me. 

CMAT [00:16:22] Yeah. 

Annie [00:16:22] Got you. 

CMAT [00:16:22] I still have a thing where I walk into a room and I feel like nobody wants me to be there, and I don't think I'll ever lose that. And so I'm always trying to figure out ways to make people like me all the time. 

Annie [00:16:33] Okay. Perfect for a pop star. 

CMAT [00:16:34] Exactly, exactly. It's terrible. I have, like a very constant battle with self hatred and, like, public perception and like, I think even when I was 12, I was constantly coming in and out of massive depressive swings and like when I was a teenager, I really think I spent six years in my bedroom. I really did not go out in public because I couldn't hack it. And this is what I mean, it's like for years, if you had asked me how I had- how I was in school, I would have said I was perfect and nobody understood me because I was a genius and they were all so fucking mean to me and they're all bullies. They actually weren't that bad, like, I know like that example there is quite funny, but he didn't beat me up or anything, they didn't really didn't pay, they honestly, nobody really paid that much attention to me or what I was doing. And you know, all of those people, like I'll bump into them in Dunboyne and they're like 'ahh Ciara how's it going?!'. I can predict what's going to happen the next time I'm in Dunboyne, I'm just going to walk into Brady's, they'll be like 'ahhh, there you are! Saw your arse on the telly it's fuckin brilliant!' *Annie laughs*. 'Oh my God it's amazing, we all took pictures. My mam was laugh-' do you know what I mean like everyone's nice! Like, people are inherently nice. They're not out to get ya. But that was something, that took me a long time to figure out, you know? 

Annie [00:17:47] And then how did that kind of manifest in terms of your relationship with your body? 

CMAT [00:17:51] I think I wrote songs about it. 

Annie [00:17:53] Okay. 

CMAT [00:17:53] I think that was it, so I think-

Annie [00:17:55] Thank God for songs. 

CMAT [00:17:56] Well, this is what I mean it's like- well, oh my God! Well, I hated my image. I haaated the way I looked. Hated the way I looked for the longest, longest, longest time. I never, ever thought that I was good looking which is why I think I started doing the real costumey stuff very early on. Like I started wearing a beehive like Amy Winehouse, who I loved. And wearing big winged eyeliner and fake eyelashes and I used to go on YouTube and look up YouTube tutorials for how to do my makeup like Twiggy and, you know, I'd buy vintage clothing that at the time- you know, vintage clothing, by the way when I was 13, so like 2009 was not cool. 

Annie [00:18:34] Was not do--, yes.

CMAT [00:18:34] Was not cool and was not slay. Like nobody thought I was slaying --- the house down. So I would like put all this costuming on, like put all, you know, eyelashes and say it was my personality because I didn't know what my personality was, and now I'm in a place where I'm 28 and I don't hate the way I looked anymore, but I still have all that knowledge. 

Annie [00:18:51] Yes! 

CMAT [00:18:52] I still have all that background in my head. And it's the same- it's the same with the erm, with the thing where I was saying that, like, I just assumed everybody hated me. Because I assumed everybody hated me, I was really upset about it, and I was very depressed about it but I doubled down and was like, well, *American accent* everybody fucking hates me anyway, so I'm just going to be annoying and do whatever the hell I want because you all hate me because I'm different anyway. 

Annie [00:19:16] So suddenly you didn't feel like you had to conform?

CMAT [00:19:18] So I was completely non-conformist. I was anti conformist and I still have that in me it's like, I really try not to do the same thing as anyone else, ever, ever, ever so they can't compare me *Annie humms* because  the minute I get compared then people will suddenly find out I'm ugly. You know, it's like that kind of thing. That's a really good skill that has come from a really not good place. But again, now I'm a lot more open and I think I'm a lot more loving and I think I'm not out to get people as much and people, I don't have as much anger but I still have the benefit of being a nonconformist. 

Annie [00:19:48] Yes. 

Unidentified [00:19:48] [Lonely by CMAT plays]

Annie [00:20:13] Was your dad around? 

CMAT [00:20:14] it was definitely- he was not there all of the time from maybe seven onwards because he was, he worked for a digital data computer company that I shall not name who made him like the manager of like, the Nordics and then it was like the manager of Central Europe so he was always like 2 or 3 weeks away and then 1 week back. And when he was back, it wasn't particularly pleasant. He was a, he was an angry guy. He, he, he had a hard, hard upbringing. 

Annie [00:20:45] Also a Dub?

CMAT [00:20:47] Also a Dub, he's from Finglas. Love my dad, love my dad. But it was- he was difficult to live with I think. And then him and my mam eventually split up which was the best thing that could have --- *laughs*. 

Annie [00:20:56] And when was- when- what age were you when that happened? 

CMAT [00:20:58] I was 18, so that took a while. Like it was weird, like he was kind of gone- there was definitely big chunks, especially when I was a teenager, I think it kind of got more frequent and more long when I was a teenager. And then, this is in my records, this crazy thing happened where he decided, and my mam decided that we were all going to move to Denmark when I was 18. And so it was like two days after I finished the Leaving Cert, I moved to Denmark in this big barn house in Lyngby, just outside Copenhagen. And we were like setting up a new life for ourselves there. And it was me and my little brother and my dad and my mam, and it just absolutely was a disaster. It was a fucking disaster. It was absolutely terrible. It was one of the worst periods of my whole entire life. I was supposed to be there for like two years or something, and I left after- I got into Trinity, which was shocking. 

Annie [00:21:53] Trinity College, which is like the most prestigious university in Dublin. See Normal People for reference.

CMAT [00:21:59] *Mockingly* Trinity is for winners! But yeah, I got into Trinity. No one else in my family had ever, ever, ever gotten into Trinity or anything like it before so it was then like I had to move back home and I lived at my nanny and grandads then.

Annie [00:22:08] And were you delighted to move back home? 

CMAT [00:22:10] Yes, absolutely. And move in with my nanny and grandad who are my best mates. So, I lived with them-

Annie [00:22:14] Okay, is that your mum's mam and dad? 

CMAT [00:22:16] Yeah, yeah, yeah. So I lived with them on and off for like six years, seven years and then that was where I was based when I was like, open micing, boots the house down, in Dublin City for like seven years. So I was open micing, I was working in the SuperValu in Finglas Village. Then I worked in every de- 

Annie [00:22:31] You dropped out of college? 

CMAT [00:22:32] Oh yeah. Had a mental breakdown, had my first proper real mental breakdown six months into being in Trinity. And I can't blame Trinity College for that, that was a me problem. That was a me.

Annie [00:22:41] What happened? 

CMAT [00:22:43] Ermm, everyone in my family is kind of- we're kind of, we're kinda thickums, we're kind of soft round the edges. No matter what I did, I was never, ever going to be skinny. And I could not deal with that fact when I was a teenager, I wanted to be tall and I wanted to be skinny and I wanted to be beautiful so badly because I wanted to be a pop star, and I wanted to be a model. I wanted to be anything that all those important people were and I thought that you had to look like that in order to do that, and I thought there was no way around it. Denmark was my first proper full blown bout of anorexia. Full blown. One half bowl of Cheerios in the morning, four hours of cycling around Denmark, and then when I felt like I was going to pass out and I was really faint, I'd have another half bowl of Cheerios. I just ate Cheerios. My hair started falling out, like my nails flicked back but I was really, really, really anorexic. 

Annie [00:23:33] Did anyone notice at home? 

CMAT [00:23:35] I think that, you know, and I don't want- I don't want people to get in trouble because I just feel like this is the way that everything is lads, you know, like people mean the best, but they just don't have the right- 

Annie [00:23:47] Tools. 

CMAT [00:23:48] They don't have the right tools. But I had been chubby and then all of a sudden I was a size eight. So everybody was like, 'Ciara, you look amazing, you've been taking care of yourself. You look so incredible'. That was it. Like, you know, my parents, my family, I- so I've been in Denmark for three months and then I went back to Ireland for my debs and everybody, every single person was like, 'you look incredible. You look so amazing. You're the best you've ever looked in your life. You're so hot now'. And that was what happened. So no, people noticed but they got it wrong, you know what I mean? Because I was kind of shredded from the cycling as well, so I kind of had like, muscles and stuff, and I was really toned. So I guess to the untrained eye, I probably did look quite healthy because I wasn't skin and bone. You know, cause I was, I started off from like a size 14 and I went down to size 8. So everybody was just like, she's slaying. --- erm but I wasn't slaying, I was being slayed *laughs* I was dying. 

Annie [00:24:43] You were being slayed. Why do you think, I suppose it happened then? To me, it feels like you, you had no control, you were moved halfway across the world. A lot of that is just trying to fucking maintain a bit of control in your life, isn't it?  

CMAT [00:24:54] Yeah. Another thing that's going on at this time as well was that I got into my first relationship. 

Annie [00:24:58] Right. 

CMAT [00:24:59] So I was in secondary school, I was- it was a month after I turned 18, and I met this guy who was eight years older than me. He was much too old for me, and it was weird, like I was going to the debs and then I was going back to the house of some guy who was 26 or 27. 

Annie [00:25:19] Wow, yeah. 

CMAT [00:25:20] It's not good, like. And he acted badly. He definitely did things that were bad, but I think he acted out of a place of like fear and also self-loathing. Like, I think he was also mental. He was not in a good place at all. He basically was like, did that classic thing of like, I'm in love with you but I also have to see five other women. And I was like, that's fine. And he was like, 'well, this is what adults do anyway', because I didn't know, because I'd never been with any- I'd never even, I think I had one really terrible kiss in the Browns --- disco when I was 12 years old, and then I did not get kissed again until I was 18, right, so it was like, I was so immature in that way and I was like, so new to it. And I think the anorexia was also me, was like, I think I was trying to get control over something and try to make people be nice to me, *whispers* because when you're skinny, people are nicer to you. People, the world is really nice to you when you're skinny and really attractive. It's fucking terrible but it is the truth. Like, and I noticed that distinctly that the skinnier I got, the more pleasant people were around me and wanted to be around me and wanted to hang out with me more. It's nuts! It's nuts. And the same thing happened with him was like, the skinnier I got, the more of a prize I was, the more of a, a trophy that I was to like the lads. It was so distinct. I also developed an addiction to prescription painkillers, which I was stealing from my grandparents because my granddad was on the good shit because he was old. I was totally overdosing on painkillers every single day that I was going to college. And then there was one day where I one hundred percent took way, way too much, and I experienced my first overdose. And I lay down on the floor, and I was just lying on D'Olier street and like, had snots coming out my nose and like, my eyes were streaming and I like, had rigors and people were just kind of like- 

Annie [00:27:15] What's rigors? Sorry. 

CMAT [00:27:15] Where you're like *shivers* where you're like, shaking. It's like something that happens when your kidney starts to go, which is clearly what was just happening to me. 

Annie [00:27:22] Fucking hell. 

CMAT [00:27:22] And I didn't go to hospital, I didn't go to a doctor, and I was just lying on the side of the road. I was there for hours, and then I just, like, got up and went home and pretended I went to college that day. It was, it was bad. Like it was crazy crazy. So, and I was doing all of that, all of the time for six months when I was 18. And then I had to hand in my first project, right, which I- which like every other college kid stayed awake for three days writing, three days before it was due. 

Annie [00:27:49] Of course, yeah. 

CMAT [00:27:49] Of course, did that whole thing. Woke up that morning to hand it in, went to have a shower and I collapsed in the shower then, and I collapsed over and over again. I kept like blacking out and then waking up and blacking out, waking up. And like, every single time I was like trying to get out of the shower but then I'd like pass out again. 

Annie [00:28:06] Oh my God, Ciara. 

CMAT [00:28:08] It was really bad. And then the last time that I eventually pulled myself up, I fell into a coat hook on the back of my nanny and granddad's door, and I put a hole in my lip, you can see the scar there. 

Annie [00:28:19] I can see the scar. Yeah. 

CMAT [00:28:20] So I put that hook through my lip. And then that morning I went into Trinity College and I handed it in to my tutor, and she just looked at me and was like, 'I don't think you should be in college right now'. And I was like, I don't think I should be in college either. She was like, 'I think you need to drop out, and I think you need to drop out right now. And I think you really need to sort your shit out'. And I was like, yeah, okay. So then I did. 

Annie [00:28:37] Wow. And hang on, so that's a big thing for your tutor to say. 

CMAT [00:28:40] Yeah, she just looked at me- 

Annie [00:28:41] Obviously you had a big cut mouth on you. 

CMAT [00:28:43] Yeah. And I was grey. I was grey from like, all the painkillers and the clearly slightly poisoning myself and I had a hole in my lip and I was like, at least two stone lighter than I was six months ago, cause I was just getting skinny, skinnier again, you know? And she was the smart person who's been around college kids and was like, this one can't do it. And she was right, she was totally right. So yeah. 

Annie [00:29:08] How did you feel dropping out of college? Was it a relief or a-? 

CMAT [00:29:11] Well, my family were fuming because they just didn't understand any of the context of it and when I eventually told them, you know, years later about the context of it they're were like, oh, Jesus, okay, yeah should have said it at the time. And I was like, I was never going to tell you the time. But it was actually great! It was really good for me. I went on the dole for a little while so that I could lie in bed and eat food for the first time in, like, a year but- 

Annie [00:29:34] And were you able to come off the painkillers? Because that's the hard stuff to come off. 

CMAT [00:29:37] No! I feel like when I didn't have to go to college and I was allowed to like sleep and like kind of relax for the first time, I just- and I also think I scared myself a bit right? Because that was really bad. That really felt like I was going to really, like, have a heart attack. 

Annie [00:29:51] Yeah. And when you have a tutor, when you have someone tell you about yourself and it's indisputable you're like... Oh, yeah.

CMAT [00:29:57] Yeah. And then, if we can move on to a positive? 

Annie [00:30:00] Yes please. 

CMAT [00:30:00] Eventually, that was when I got my job in the SuperValu in Finglas. And that was the best thing to ever happen to me because I loved working in that SuperValu. And then I had all this free time and I was like, oh, I should make music! 

Annie [00:30:14] And that would- that just- 

CMAT [00:30:15] And that was it for- 

Annie [00:30:16] So had you made music before? 

CMAT [00:30:17] Yeah, yeah, I had been writing it, I'd been writing it and I'd been doing some- 

Annie [00:30:21] And you'd been playing guitar? 

CMAT [00:30:22] Yeah, I played guitar. I, you know, I did it all through school and stuff and, you know, I learned how to play every Laura Marling song on the guitar *Annie laughs* when I was like 15, so I could play, and I was singing and I was learning how to write. And then my routine became work in the SuperValu Finglas, and then get the bus into town and then just do whatever open mic was on that night. And then that was my daily routine and I was so much better immediately. It's crazy. So quick. But this is where the, I guess the, the difficult part comes in was like, I was the happiest I'd ever bee- not the happiest I'd ever been but it was definitely so much better, and my family were all fuming at me, and they were quite angry at me for the way that I was living my life. And they like to- I'll be honest, I'm putting them on blast, they like to deny this now and be like 'we always knew, she was gonna be a star' and I'm like, no, you fucking didn't! No you didn't! They were fuming with me because they thought I was doing- they were like, you got into Trinity, like you're supposed to be the one that has the good job. You're supposed to be the one that you know, becomes successful but no, you're throwing it out because you're with this old guy and you're just playing fuckin music and you're probably on drugs- I was, but like, the good ones later *Annie laughs* erm and, the nicer ones that you do with people when you're- 

Annie [00:31:35] The recreational ones *laughs*. 

CMAT [00:31:37] The recreational ones where everyone's laughing and like- 

Annie [00:31:39] Hugging!  

CMAT [00:31:47] Having a lovely time and hugging and listening to music you know. We were doing loads of that, it was wonderful! And like, doing open mics regularly and writing regularly and having that outlet was like, chef's kiss. It was so good. 

Annie [00:31:55] Saved you. 

CMAT [00:31:55] So saved me, so saved me. You know, hashtag music saved my life, obviously a bit of a cringe statement *Annie laughs* but definitely true of definitely me. 

Annie [00:32:04] What do you think was the biggest adult change that you went through? 

CMAT [00:32:08] Probably the break up then. 

Annie [00:32:10] How long had you been with him? 

CMAT [00:32:12] So that relationship started when I was in school and it ended when I was 23 or 24. 

Annie [00:32:17] Okay. 

CMAT [00:32:19] We were together for a while. 

Annie [00:32:18] Six years. That's a big- that's your entire, well, that's a big transition period in your life. 

CMAT [00:32:23] Yes, yes. And we moved to Manchester together. 

Annie [00:32:29] And he was a musician? 

CMAT [00:32:31] Yes. He was also a musician and he was in my band and- 

Annie [00:32:34] Oh right! 

CMAT [00:32:34] And we moved to Manch- well, I moved over to Manchester by myself, and then he kind of followed over, and I think that was me not knowing that I wanted to break up with him, but I just needed to get away, but then he followed me over anyway. 

Annie [00:32:49] So how did it change ya, that break up?

CMAT [00:32:51] It changed me because it gave me, I think when I was smoking copious amounts of weed and living Manchester and living the lie of, this is a great relationship and I definitely want to be in it, and I definitely don't want to break up with him, I kind of stopped writing music that was good, like I really didn't- my music was not good at that time because I was like, I was being false in every way. Like I was kind of lying to myself. When he left, I think I was alone in the house for like 2 or 3 days, losing my mind, I'd quit my job. I was just like riding it until I had to move back in with my mam. So I, like, stood in the mirror, was crying, I'd like, looked at myself and wrote [music plays] the song I Want To Be a Cowboy Baby in about 20 minutes.

Annie [00:33:35] Wow. 

CMAT [00:33:35] And then I wrote that song and I was like... That's *laughs* I was like, that's the best song I've ever written. 

Unidentified [00:33:42] [I Want To Be a Cowboy Baby by CMAT plays]

CMAT [00:34:19] I still kind of think that's the best song I've ever written. And that re-energized me again and I was like, okay, fuck, I can do this. I'm gonna go back to Ireland, I'm gonna live with my mam, I'm going to post loads of videos of myself playing my weird songs on YouTube. I'm going to work and just like, go back to doing open mics in Dublin again because I think that's what I need to do. And I was right. I was right again. Because then weirdly, the minute I came back to Dublin, I feel like I had all these friends that I didn't know about. Like everybody was like, oh my God! Ciara's back, like CMAT's back, like, let's play shows together like, I'll put you on. 

Annie [00:34:55] Seeing you on stage is, is quite something *CMAT giggles*. I've never, like, seen someone who has the audience in the palm of her hand in the way that you do, it is- it's really remarkable. Like you're such a natural performer. 

CMAT [00:35:06] Thank you. 

Annie [00:35:07] It's fucking boombastic and it's theatrical and it's grand and it's tender and it's hilarious and it's all of these things. Let me ask you, then, like, just to go back around about bodies and stuff and to come full circle actually to the Brits because, you know, we've, we've heard why *CMAT laughs* what happened next, what was the, what was the reaction to you going and showing your bum crack to the world? 

CMAT [00:35:32] Well, on the night it was so lovely and so cool. Like, *clenching her jaw* there was one band who were making annoying comments behind me and I shall not name them. 

Annie [00:35:39] Pricks? You can tell me about who they are. 

CMAT [00:35:40] I'm going to tell you off mic. There was one ba- but other than that, every single other person that I bumped into was just like laughing at me and was like, 'ha ha ha! That's so funny. That's so fun. That's so cool. Can I get a picture of it?'. All my friends and all the people I know, and then, you know, all of my, you know, kind of more hardcore fans and then just like the, the queer people of the world were like this is the best thing I've ever fucking viewed. 

Annie [00:36:05] Iconic, yep. 

CMAT [00:36:06] Amazing, iconic moment. And, you know, of course there's negative comments. Of course there is right. And I, I don't really mind and I don't think it's a bad thing. I just find it interesting. I find it really interesting that like the same amount of bum cleavage as breast cleavage is like they're not equal. There's no equality of crease *laughs*. 

Annie [00:36:31] Yes. 

CMAT [00:36:33] And I find it interesting and honestly, not a very- not a very trendy thing to say maybe at this moment of time, but I really do think everyone is entitled to their opinion. And I think that if somebody saw it and was like, oh, I don't like that, I'm not sure about that, that doesn't make me feel good, I don't like to look at it, that's fine. That's just like a different reaction. Everyone's entitled to their opinion. Even the Daily Mail commenters are entitled to their opinion. You know, like, I'm- like, it's fine. It's just a bum. 

Annie [00:37:01] It's just a bum, yeah.

CMAT [00:37:03] If the worst thing you can say about me is that you don't like my butt crack I can live with that, you know what I mean? 

Annie [00:37:07] Yeah, yeah. And let me ask you, like, about body image as a whole, as a pop star. Like, what are your experiences, I suppose, about being a woman and being a pop star through the prism of bodies? 

CMAT [00:37:17] Yeah. I mean, it's so different now. It's so different now compared to where it was. I think that ultimately there's still a huge section of the population that are just not comfortable with seeing a woman that is not commercially attractive, right? 

Annie [00:37:34] Yes * laughs*. 

CMAT [00:37:34] People love to use the word unconventionally attractive, I hate that term. Because I only think there's two types of attractiveness. I think there is commercial, saleable attractiveness. There's commercial beauty and saleable beauty, and then there's the unsaleable and the uncommercial. Well everybody is beautiful in both of those categories, right. Like everyone across the board is gorgeous, it is just subjective. I think I'm a ride now. 

Annie [00:37:59] You are an absolute ride. 

CMAT [00:38:01] Slay boots the house down. But I also think it doesn't matter what I look like, you know what I mean? At the same time, it's like. 

Annie [00:38:04] It shouldn't matter. 

CMAT [00:38:05] I think my hair and my makeup is cool and my clothes are cool, and I think my body is a functional one and you know, you know, I love my ass. I do love my ass, she's the love of my life. But, you know, I don't, I don't worry anymore any day about whether or not other people find me attractive, which is something I used to really constantly, constantly worry about. 

Annie [00:38:27] What changed? Because that's a big transition. 

CMAT [00:38:28] I don't know, just can't be bothered. 

Annie [00:38:30] No, isn't it liking yourself? 

CMAT [00:38:31] Probably people I know dying *laughs*.

Annie [00:38:34] Perspective? 

CMAT [00:38:34] Probably people I know dying and just being like, well, I don't really care about anything else anymore! Like, I don't really care anymore. Like, you know, that helps *laughs* sadly, it does help. I don't know, and just also seeing other friends who I think are the most beautiful people in the world getting negative comments about their body and I'm like, what are you on about? Like, what are you talking about?. People having any kind of negative reaction to the way that Lizzo looks to me is bananas. That makes no sense. She is so good looking *Annie humms in agreement*. She is so beautiful. Everything about her is so beautiful and like the way that her body moves in particular on stage is one of the most aesthetically pleasing things I've ever seen. And yet there are people who, every time they see her they're like *pretends to choke* no, I can't, I can't do that, no. And it's just so ridiculous. I just think that, like, a lot of things have just made me just really not care anymore. And I think that's been a good thing because then you can just have fun with it, you know? And also, I don't like, starve myself anymore, and I don't fucking- there's so many reasons to just not care about what other people think about your body, because it's going to change as well. 

Annie [00:39:50] All the time, yeah. 

CMAT [00:39:52] No matter what you do, you can work so hard and you can lose so much weight and you can be, you know, so ripped and so jacked and you're still going to fucking get old bitch. You're still going to get old and you're still going to die. And in that your body is just going to- it's so ephemeral. Like it's just not going to be here like this for a long time. So you have to just get on with it and enjoy it right now for what it is and enjoy while it's working, you know. Like, you know, everything's gonna start breaking down soon. You know, my back's going to go, and my this is going to go, and my voice will go eventually, you know. All of these things I'm aware of so you just have to have fun now while you can. And then, you know, when my voice does go and my back does go I'll find something else to have fun with, you know? Yeah. I just don't think it's important. 

Annie [00:40:41] I'm so happy to hear that. 

CMAT [00:40:43] Yeah. 

Annie [00:40:43] I love that. 

CMAT [00:40:44] It's great. 

Annie [00:40:44] It's so brilliant. Let me ask you quickly about erm, the fact that every woman I know pretty much has had an eating disorder. 

CMAT [00:40:53] Yup. Every single one. 

Annie [00:40:54] It's so normalised. 

CMAT [00:40:56] Yeah. 

Annie [00:40:56] In everyone's life. Do you think that will change? 

CMAT [00:41:03] No! 

Annie [00:41:04] Oh, God. Too depressing!

CMAT [00:41:08] I hate to say, I hate to say it, I don't think it'll change anytime soon. 

Annie [00:41:12] Not even with our Lizzo's and our Adele's and our, you know, our Rebecca Lucy Taylors, you know, like, we need people out there who are normal sized and-. 

CMAT [00:41:21] We do but-. 

Annie [00:41:23] Aspirational. 

CMAT [00:41:24] But unfortunately, capitalism, the big bells of capitalism rely too heavily on women hating themselves in order for them to fundamentally change. And you know, you can have your fucking ads where they're like 'love the skin you're in', and they're showing normal people on the telly as much as you want. You're not confusing anybody like, you know, I have seen single handedly the re-emergence of like pro-ana culture on the internet, and it is due to Tik Tok. It is single handedly due to that platform and the way that they sell things to young girls and they are selling a body type. You know, I'm older and I-

Annie [00:42:07] You're 28 now right? 

CMAT [00:42:08] I'm 28, and I survived my period of the pro-ana culture on the internet. But it's come back and it's reared it's ugly heads and young girls hate themselves now more than ever. It's same shit. And literally the reason for it is capitalism. 

Annie [00:42:24] We should say, sorry, boys too, right, like they have to be hench, you know. 

CMAT [00:42:28] Boys do- I don't- 

Annie [00:42:29] Steroids. All of that business. Yeah. 

CMAT [00:42:32] Yeah 100 percent and, you know, I think I'm only talking girls in context because I was one right. 

Annie [00:42:37] That's your personal experience, of course. 

CMAT [00:42:38] So I understand that a little bit more and I don't want to speak to a- but yeah like defini- every gender and every, every version of whatever it is, there is some, you know, beacon of 'this is what you should look like and if you don't look like it, no one's going to find attractive. And also, if you want to look like this, here's 75 million things you can buy and do in order to do it'. Capitalism is capitalising more than it ever has done. It's working so insidiously, so insidiously. 

Annie [00:43:07] What do you think about the kind of homogenisation of the female form thanks to the Kardashians? Like, that everyone looks the same now? 

CMAT [00:43:15] And that- *sighing* yeah. 

Annie [00:43:17] Isn't that terrifying? I find that, like, genuinely terrifying. 

CMAT [00:43:20] We all- I don't want to be preachy about it, we all need to come off the internet. Girlies, get off the internet, get off the internet, get off it like. I know TikTok is so fun and it's, you know, I love to turn off my brain and have a little scroll and watch three hours of videos about the Willy Wonka Glasgow experience, but inbetween my amazing videos about Willy Wonka Glasgow experience is someone with a waist trainer on and someone with a hula hoop, a fucking fake hula hoop that you take bits out of it and it has a little ball in the middle and you spin it around and you're supposed to lose weight. None of those things are actually going to make you lose weight. Like, trust me, I've been on every diet, I've done every exercise routine under the sun that you can possibly imagine. Girl I did Ozempic, I did ozempic- 

Annie [00:44:00] No way. 

CMAT [00:44:01] For a while like last year because I was really in a place where I was not liking myself. Didn't work! I just ate through it *laughs*. 

Annie [00:44:06] Right *laughs*.    

CMAT [00:44:15] It didn't fuckin work on me! Literally I didn't lose a fucking bit of weight *Annie laughing*. I did not lose a lick of weight because I just powered through. People are absolutely free to do whatever they want and I know people with like, you know, overeating issues and overweight issues and stuff, you know, they're absolutely valid in whatever they choose to do and I don't want to preach them, but if you're a size 12 or a size 14 or size 16 and you're completely functionally mobile and there's nothing wrong with you in a tangible sense, *high pitched* do not go on Ozempic! Don't do it! It makes you ill! It makes you feel like you're going to puke all the time. 

Annie [00:44:42] Oh, oh, that's the worst feeling in the world. 

CMAT [00:44:47] It gives you- you wake up in the morning and you have this headache, and then the headache turns into what feels like your stomach like, crunching in on itself. And you just feel like you need to puke and you have to breathe through your nose really heavily for ten minutes in order to stop it from happening. 

Annie [00:44:57] Oh my God! 

CMAT [00:44:58] Girl, it's terrible! It's not good. 

Annie [00:45:01] How long did you last? 

CMAT [00:45:01] Oh, I was on it for about three months and then I was like, wow, this is a fuckin waste of money because I haven't lost any weight! 

Annie [00:45:07] Was it loads of money? 

CMAT [00:45:08] Yeah, it's really expensive! Especially over here.

Annie [00:45:11] Yeah, I bet it is. Back to capitalism. Looking forwards, right? 

CMAT [00:45:14] Yeah *laughs*.

Annie [00:45:15] As you say, you've been, you've been through it as so many women have, right, so many women have been through every diet, every different way, like extreme exercise, eating disorders as we say, I suppose, what is your relationship with your body now? 

CMAT [00:45:30] I love it, I love my body. I'm very proud of it. I like being a short little thickums queen. You know, people die on you and you're like, oh my God, I still have this thing working. And it just, every one of the kind of superficial things about your body gets progressively less important. And I'm not saying that it's not ever going to creep back in because I go through periods, I'll have like a six month period where I'm like, love myself, I love the skin I'm in, love the body I'm in. And then suddenly I'll realise that I'm like a half stone heavier because I was having so much fun. And then I'll panic and be like, fuck, what am I gonna do? And then I'll do something crazy like go on Ozempic. 

Annie [00:46:07] Do you weigh yourself? 

CMAT [00:46:09] No, not right now. 

Annie [00:46:10] Me neither. 

CMAT [00:46:10] But I went through a phase recently enough where I was weighing myself every day to make sure that I didn't put anymore- this is what I mean, it's like I can say all this, and then I'm still fallible to- 

Annie [00:46:21] Of course! 

CMAT [00:46:22] The workings of capitalism. I'm still fallible to the way that things work. But no, I'm in a really, really good place right now, especially after the Brit Awards weirdly because like, having my bum out and having people slag me off for having like, dimples in my back and stuff and like, back rolls, I was like, yeahhhh, it looks cool though. I was like, I do have all those things that you're talking about but I also think it looks cool. 

Annie [00:46:47] Yeah, yeah. 

CMAT [00:46:49] So, you know, so I'm in a really good place right now with it all. 

[00:46:50] [Stay For Something by CMAT plays]

Annie [00:47:21] The last question that we always ask everyone is a change you'd still like to make? 

CMAT [00:47:25] I would like to be less selfish all the time. All the time, that's the thing I'm trying to work on is being less selfish because I am very self-centred. I am a very selfish person, I'm a pop star. It's very hard not to be. 

Annie [00:47:37] Mmmhm. Was there a catalyst there? Did something happen to make you be like, wow, I need to try and do this? 

CMAT [00:47:41] Probably just the entire structure of my life being constantly about me all the time. 

Annie [00:47:45] I mean, it is like, frankly absurd isn't it? It is like, by its very nature, not natural. 

CMAT [00:47:51] There's no way of describing to someone who doesn't do this like, you know, and I, for multiple reasons, have hired in my life, you know, all the people that work with me, like my manager, like my, my sister, who's becoming slowly but surely my day to day if she ever leaves Australia. My tour manager and my band mates, they're all like my really, really close friends and I really love all of those people very deeply, very, very much. I would not be able to work them if I didn't. But then as a result, you just kind of realise, I want to be hearing more about them and more about what's going on with them, but all they do is work towards my goal and my thing, and that is a difficult place to be in because you just kind of feel like an obnoxious arsehole all the time.  

Annie [00:48:38] It is hard but you can fight against it in your personal life. 

CMAT [00:48:40] Yeah, yeah exactly. Exactly. 

Annie [00:48:41] And that helps you feel more grounded too, doesn't it? 

CMAT [00:48:43] Yeah, yeah. Like I am literally, most of the time I'm that guy on the bad date. You know, the way girls are like, I went on a Tinder date with someone and he didn't ask me single question. That's me. I'm that fucking lad like, *Annie laughs* I'm so bad at asking people questions about themselves, it's fucking terrible. And so I've caught on to it now and I'm like actively trying to be less selfish, but that's gonna take a while. 

Annie [00:49:06] It's a work in progress! 

CMAT [00:49:07] So that's the thing. 

Annie [00:49:09] Umm, Ciara, thank you so much for this. 

CMAT [00:49:11] Thank you. 

Annie [00:49:12] It's been really deadly. And thank you for sharing. 

CMAT [00:49:14] Thank you. 

Annie [00:49:15] And best of luck. *Whispers* I don't think you need any luck, to be honest. 

CMAT [00:49:18] Well, we're gonna see what happens aren't we *laughs*. 

Annie [00:49:20] You're gonna be absolutely fine. 2024 is gonna be such a busy year for you. You're in America you said for a month and a half. 

CMAT [00:49:24] Yes. 

Annie [00:49:27] All over and hopefully making a new album you said somewhere along the way? This year, maybe? 

CMAT [00:49:31] Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, realistically. Just shlot that in there at some point, yeah. 

Annie [00:49:34] Yeah, yeah. Okay. Well, thank you so much. 

CMAT [00:49:36] Thank you. 

Annie [00:49:42] What I'm most glad about is that of all the body issues Ciara discusses in this episode, all of the stuff that she went through, none of it stopped her getting this far. What did you think? Let me know. As always, you can email or comment on my Instagram of course. Now next week we bring you our first ever Q&A episode, Doctor Jen Gunter, a huge women's health advocate will be answering your questions about your bodies. Please make sure to subscribe so you don't miss out on any Changes episodes and do share this podcast around, it really, really helps. Changes is brought to you by DIN Productions, produced by Louise Mason with assistant production from Anna de Wolff Evans. See you next week!