What Did Harry Styles Actually Mean When He Said “This does not happen to people like me”?
Singer, songwriter, and actor Harry Styles was involved in controversy this month after claiming that awards like the Grammys don’t “happen to people like him”. While some believed his words were insensitive and incoherent, mainly due to his privileged background, others claim he only expressed his lack of experience as a solo artist.
Styles began his career at only 16 years old through a famous British television show: The X-Factor. Facing harsh judges and poor performances, Styles could not advance as a solo singer, being instead placed in a band in order to keep competing. Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Zayn Malik, Louis Tomlinson, and Liam Payne formed One Direction, a band that achieved significant success in and out of reality TV for 5 years. Eventually, the band drifted apart and opened a pathway to solo careers, which Styles began in 2017.
Dealing with great insecurities regarding his style and true self during his career in One Direction, Styles took a long time before properly expressing himself the way he had always wished. Claiming in interviews with tears in his eyes that his great wish was “to not care what people think of him,” Styles still saw himself as a normal teenager rather than a celebrity. In an interview with Tracy Grimshaw in A Current Affair, Styles said: "I think that people imagine that if you’re in a band or something, you kind of lose all normal things, but I think… we still have every insecurity that every 19, 20, 21-year-old boy has."
After leaving One Direction and getting into his solo career, Styles began changing his style, having the freedom of expression and confidence he had always longed for. Despite realizing that he was achieving greater success, Harry Styles often said in concerts and interviews that he did not expect to obtain such high levels of fame. Styles still saw himself as the young boy that grew up in Holmes Chapel and worked in a bakery. When winning his Grammy award for Album of the Year, Styles still couldn't believe how much he had grown after less than six years of a solo career. Running against great names in music like ABBA, Beyoncé, Adele, Coldplay, Kendrick Lamar, and his great friend Lizzo, Styles went up that podium with no preparation. The singer could not believe that award was his, and ended up claiming that these accomplishments did not happen to “people like him.”
What Styles actually meant had nothing to do with his privileges, like being a white cisgender male with a good financial condition. Styles meant that he never truly believed that a young insecure boy who had a poor audition in the X-Factor would get to reach such an immense level of success so quickly in his solo career. He intended to emphasize that he never saw himself so lucky to have as many fans and awards. He meant that he never saw himself so free with his music and his own style and, most importantly, that other people would enjoy it as much as he does. Styles sings for fun and has become one of the most famous pop singers in the world. Consequently, it is important to place trajectory and context before the moment, as Styles never intended to offend or harm anyone.