Ciara recently clapped back at a critic who insinuated that the quality of her music has decreased, and that at this point in her career, she is now making “TikTok music”. The criticism was directed at one of the songs featured on CiCi, an EP she recently releasedAnd the subject of the comment was a song called “BRB.” 


Fans were thrilled that she called the critic out, and her timeline is full of reposts touting the chart success of the songs on the EP, which include a collaboration with Chris Brown, in which she announced her pregnancy with her fourth child with footballer Russell Wilson, which I covered here

But that initial piece of criticism points to a larger narrative – which is often negative – and mostly targeted towards women in Hollywood who, for whatever reason, take their foot off the gas when it comes to their career. 

Whether women decide to simply take time off, focus on starting a family or spending more time with family, or decide to pivot from one aspect of the entertainment industry to another, any form of perceived “slow down” is typically talked about disparagingly.

This Variety article recently characterized both Justin Bieber and Ariana Grande as being “notably quiet” in recent years. The article discusses Justin’s Ramsay Hunt Syndrome diagnosis, but goes on to say that Ariana has been MIA for longer than Justin, citing the last release of an album by her being back in 2020. 


The writer gives her credit for being “apparently hard at work” for her role in Wicked – which would have an obvious impact on other aspects of her creative output. But grace isn’t always something extended in some media reporting, particularly if you’re a woman of colour.

In 2017, when Serena Williams announced her first pregnancy, sports commentators, who had already subjected her to extremely racist vitriol from the beginning of her career, went so far as commenting on the race of her child.

Romania’s Fed Cup captain, Illie Nastase, infamously said, “Let’s see what colour it has. Chocolate with milk?”

Despite the backlash so many women get for slowing down, in her case, Serena was already facing a great deal of pressure to retire for years from sports commentators who were uncomfortable seeing Black women on the tennis court. 

Madrid Open owner Ion Tiriac appeared on a Romanian television show and referred to Serena as a “monster”, saying that considering her age and weight, she needed to give up her career. 

“At this age and the weight she is now, she does not move as easily as she did 15 years ago,” he said. “Serena was a sensational player. If she had a little decency, she would retire.”


Given how common these ageist and racist sentiments are, particularly in sports, it came as a shock to most when the journalist he was speaking to, Irina Pacuriaru, actually responded by challenging him and calling him out, saying, “You are mean. You were very misogynistic every time you judged Serena.”

Serena is just one of many athletes and celebrities that decided to step away from their careers, either momentarily or permanently, in order to start a family. And while it’s often described as a difficult decision, being away from the demands of such public careers can be refreshing.

That was definitely the case for former actress Alison Lohman, who spoke to The Hollywood Reporter late last year about life after Hollywood. Her big break came when she starred in White Oleander back in 2002. Seven years later in 2009, she’d meet her husband Mark Neveldine, who was co-directing the film, Gamer. The pair slipped away from the scene together, buying a 200-acre farm in upstate New York and becoming parents. 

"I would see all these other actresses being able to have kids and still work but I realized that it was not for me," she told THR. "I miss it but I cannot do two things at once, in terms of juggling motherhood and my career. I decided that I would be a mother and raise them and maybe later, get back into acting."


But getting back into acting, particularly as an older woman, is no easy task. Existing in Hollywood as an older woman isn’t even an easy task, particularly if you’re hoping to have your work recognized. That’s why Michelle Yeoh’s Oscar win was so monumental and historic.

Despite an international acting career that spans 40 years, only recently did she win her first Oscar, which experts say is one of many examples of the racism and bias that exists in Hollywood – and in the Academy itself. Experts also took the opportunity to use Michelle’s win to highlight some of the problems that exist with typecasting actors, especially Asian actors who are often pigeonholed into roles that continue to marginalize them. This is something that most white actors are protected from, and we see that in the way they’re able to flow through different movie genres and roles throughout their careers.

The kind of camaraderie that Irina displayed when she pushed back against Ion is something we’re starting to see more, particularly after #TimesUp and #MeToo. Despite the movements being tied mainly to sexual harassment, it has also exposed the entitlement and misogyny often baked into fandom, celebrity commentary and media reporting – which manifests in so many ways and isn’t always only issued by men.

Earlier this month, a Twitter account suggested that Ciara “leave us alone” with her music endeavours, become a choreographer and “live her football wife life”. The post received thousands of reshares, indicating people agree that she’s past her prime and that she should go fade into the background. This kind of messaging is prominent for women, and not just famous ones. 


It seems that for women in Hollywood, though, specifically, there is so much mixed messaging. If Rihanna steps away from music to turn her attention to building a fashion empire and becoming a mother, fans hound her for new music. If someone like Madonna goes on tour and experiences a health crisis that requires her to pause, she’s told she’s too old to be going on tour anyway.

Last year I wrote about the spike in celebrities and athletes putting their tours, careers or matches on pause for the sake of their mental health. And despite fans growing ever so tired of having to reschedule travel dates and rebook concert tickets, in putting their foot down, celebrities are reminding us that despite the parasocial relationships fans have established with their idols, they are still human beings whose first function is not to make us sing, dance, laugh or celebrate victories. 

If Ciara, at the tender age of 37, is being told by so many that her music career is essentially over, and that she should just stick to being a wife and mom, and that the pursuit of dreams and a career can’t exist alongside that, what hope is there for the rest of us? Perhaps that’s the reason her Twitter feed is full of the success her songs have on charts. She’s reminding us that despite being pregnant with baby number four, despite her focus on family, and despite marrying an NFL star, she’s still here. We are all still here.