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  • Writer's pictureJessica Taylor Yates

Why everyone's talking about Tina Arena and her lockdown opinions

Heaven Help My Heart - Tina Arena has exposed herself, and it's giving French bulldog and croissants in Paris vibes.

Singer Tina Arena
Oh Tina. Wasn't It Good when you talked about things other than lockdown? Image: WikiCommons.

Man, I hate when entertainers I love start doing something besides entertaining, and I realise they actually suck.

I'm not talking about the ones that have actually committed crimes or uttered hate speech and therefore belong in the bin forever - looking at you, R. Kelly, Kanye West, Chris Brown, Mel Gibson - but ones whose opinions I just can't get around at all (Melissa George, Samaire Armstrong). People can say what they like - but then, so can we.

I believe in free speech, and I don't think we all have to agree on everything - LAL is anti cancel-culture - but you can also hear a person utter statements that seems so downright ridiculous and out of touch that now when you see or hear them, you get the immediate ick.

Who is Tina Arena?

Okay, if you're asking this, legit offended. Tina Arena is well known in Australia - she's one of our most successful female artists with 10 million records sold and counting. She's been in numerous theatrical productions like Evita, and like Melissa George of croissant and French bulldog fame, she's big in France, and gave us such bangers as Chains, Sorrento Moon, and Now I Can Dance.

She also comes across as quite clever - she speaks four languages, was knighted in France, has an OBE, and is on the Australian Council of the Arts. Cool, great. Totes awesome for you as an artist. Oh man, for a while there, Wasn't It Good.

What are Tina Arena's lockdown opinions?

Arena's distaste for lockdowns was prominent in 2021, during Melbourne's infamous hard-af Stage Four lockdowns which affected, you know... all of us. No matter how you felt about it, there were obviously those of us it affected more than others - like the nurses who decked themselves in full PPE for 12 hour shifts, people living on Centrelink because they couldn't work, those who couldn't go see dying relatives or, you know... those of us locked in our houses with our partners when the TV broke #same. We were all in Chains.

According to Arena, though, in an interview with The Weekend Australian, she seemed to be the only one who noticed:

“I didn’t hear anybody complaining ­during lockdown other than me: ‘Why are we locked up? Where’s your science? What? Why?’ The fear was so much for me; it was choking me, I was like, I can’t cope with all of you being so fear-driven like this, and compliant.”

Um... what? Literally... everyone hated it. Some of us agreed with it, some didn't. Dating was hard, school was hard, people home with kids all day was hard, not going to drag brunch was hard.

As for the science... think I'll get that from the literal doctors with science and health degrees to decide, not a singer complaining that now she can't dance?

Then she got super entitled

In a 2021 interview, she decided that rather than promote an upcoming album, she was going to say why it was fine for her to break the rules like WAGs on Kmart plates, but not for us, apparently:

"“And why can’t you drive more than five kilometres? Guess what – watch me. So I did. I drove past my five kilometres. Am I a criminal now? You want to pull me up? Pull me up. You want to fine me? Fine me. I’m not the one with the issue here."

Kinda think you are, doll. Like, feel how you want. But to publicly go complain about driving from Toorak to the Sorrento Moon when, as of June 2023, over 21,000 Australians have died from COVID-19? Like... are you serious? It's giving Big Wanker Energy.

The part I found most embarrassing is when she stated during this same interview that artists seemed to be the 'hardest hit' during lockdown, which she said was "unfair" as artists are always the ones to pitch in and help:

“If anything goes wrong, the artistic community has always lifted their sleeves up. We’ve gone in there and done what we needed to do. We’re very happy to play that role to help people – it’s what we do.”

Ew, Tina. Image: Wix GIFs.

I'm sorry, but this legit make me laugh out loud. And before you @ me - my sister has worked in the arts her whole life, my mother is a performer - she was a singer on The Graham Kennedy Show, she performed for troops in Vietnam, sang on cruise ships and has made a life out of music. I too have spent time as an (unsuccessful) singer. And we all find this incredibly misguided.

Do performers get together for events like Vision Australia's Christmas Carols, Bushfire Relief Concerts and Live Aid? Yes, noone is saying that isn't fantastic work. It's amazing. As my sister reminded me, there was so much about the arts that we loved in lockdown - ballet companies performing for free online, Andrew Lloyd Webber's free musical YouTube, comedians doing free stand-up routines online, watching people sing on their balconies in Italy. It brought us together, was important, and beautiful.

But like... you're also performing, doing what you love, for a huge audience. It's not exactly a give-take ratio of 100:0 for people like Arena. Her going on tour isn't the same 'giving' as people who worked at PCR testing sites standing in the rain, a wedding singer who was on welfare, or people who volunteer time with the elderly. But she continued:

“Now we’re in trouble, is someone helping us? No."
"It’s amazing how people just fly away and disappear, however they’re very quick to ask us to work for free, to relinquish any kind of remuneration from sales of record."
“You know what? DONE. We’re done, and now we’re saying it. Just stop this ridiculous, preposterous behaviour. It’s got to stop.”

Done... singing for charity?

Tina on her way to catch that sweet Sorrento Moon outside her 5 km. Image: Wix GIFs.

She compared the arts to sports

She also refused to cancel her 2021 tour (which obviously was cancelled for her - just like everyone else who had cancelled trips, concerts, events - I lost two weddings, seven trips, one large funeral, two birthdays, a Passover, a job, and a partridge in a pear tree, but #putyourmicsout for Tina Arena's tour).

She then stated that this was grossly unfair, as AFL continued while concerts stopped:

“I also hate the differentiation between sport and arts in Australia. As the artistic community, we will draw the line in the sand now and say, ‘No more of your double standards now.’”

Like... what?

Listen. I'm not into sport, like, at all, unless it's the Olympics, then I'm weirdly mad for it. Love concerts, theatre, plays, all of it. Like, I am the personification of Glee Club, you'll hate me IRL. But there is a huge difference between the billion-dollar AFL running with empty stadiums, playing outside, and then quarantining the entire league with their families (of which the mental toll must have been huge), and your personal indoor concert with fans mingling together during a pandemic.

While talking about her mental health struggles and the financial struggles of many artists during lockdown is important, aligning this with how you brazenly did whatever you wanted while the rest of us didn't (even if we wanted to), arguing that there is no science, and comparing apples and oranges, honestly, just makes you sound like a privileged, out-of-touch idiot.

No doubt many artists did struggle financially - it was a terrible time to be a performer. I doubt, though, that Tina Arena, worth an estimated $12 million, was one of them.

A better idea

We get what she means about artists helping, but I don't really get what her overall point was, or is. I asked my sister Emmalee Meisels, a choreographer who has also worked in many arts organisations like Ministry of Entertainment and Live Performance Australia, for her take:

"There were many artists who did the best they could in the situation, offering free performances for people to enjoy. So... exactly did she want different treatment for? Or was she just having a public (embarrassing, misguided) whinge? [There are artists] who use these opportunities to help in dire situations (you know, like all the other Aussie artists who performed in the live Anzac Day concert that she was noticeably absent from, or Celeste Barber's bushfire campaign). Or if you don't want to do that, you know, keep your incredibly elitist views to yourself."

Agreed. So, here's an idea. Instead of running around doing interviews about how draconian it was to make sure people (like my mum who is severely immuno-compromised) wouldn't die before a vaccine was out, why don't you help?

Rather than starting Tina Arena's Lockdown Complaint Channel (we already have that, it's called Twitter), put your money where your mouth is.

Start a fund for the artists who were suffering. Host a concert to raise money for virus research. Be the first to roll up your sleeve with a vaccine on TV like #DaddyBrett, or like Elvis did for polio. Be an advocate for getting help for your mental health.

Be part of the solution, not the problem, or just go back to singing. Kthanksbye.

If you, or someone you know needs support, connect with Lifeline by phone 13 11 14 (24/7), text 0477 13 11 14 (24/7) or chat at (24/7).


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