Jennifer Nettles sure knows how to make a fashion statement — or, rather, how to make a statement with fashion.
The Sugarland singer hit the red carpet of Wednesday’s CMA Awards making a bold fashion move to push for female equality in country music. Nettles chose a white Christian Siriano pantsuit featuring the words “Equal Play.” She accessorized with a hot-pink train displaying a female Venus symbol and “Play Our F*@#iN Records Please & Thank You” written across it.
That’s a significant statement to make at this particular edition of the CMAs, which is focusing specifically on female artists while bringing together three of them — Dolly Parton, Carrie Underwood and Reba McEntire — together to host. The awards show is making history with it being the first time women are nominated in every single category, with one exception – Male Vocalist of the Year.
Following the CMAs, Nettles spoke with Rolling Stone about why she felt it was important to make that particular point on that particular night.
“When I heard the CMAs were going to be celebrating women, and I was going to be invited, I thought, ‘What a fantastic opportunity to take the conversation beyond applause and beyond the ritual, and actually try and further it and put it out into the public consciousness, and send a message to the industry as well,'” she explained. “And what more womanly way to send a message than with fashion?”
As she revealed, she told her team what she wanted to do and they reached out to Siriana and street artist Alice Mizrachi. “I wanted the vibe of it being somewhat punk,” she added. “I knew from the beginning it was going to be a moment. All of these themes are lining up, and it felt right.”
Yet she also recognizes there’s a lot that must be done within the industry before parity is truly achieved. “What I really want to do is to be able to harness people from within our community to talk to programmers and the people who write the algorithms [for streaming services], and who code those,” she added. “That’s what I am interested in. Data is fantastic, but an algorithm is a bias set to numbers. There is human error and algorithms base their information on predictive analytics. They are predicting the past; they are not looking towards the future.”
Miranda Lambert has been among the female country artists to call attention to country radio’s disparity between the frequency that male artists are played in comparison to females.
“It’s B.S., straight up! Carrie Underwood still struggles, and that just blows my mind because she’s got a million hits and she’s Carrie Freakin’ Underwood,” Lambert told Redbook. “I tell them at the radio stations, ‘Just play one of us; it doesn’t have to be me. Then we all win.’ I’ll fight for it until I can’t no more.”
The 53rd annual CMA Awards take place on Wednesday, Nov. 13.