Top musicians like Rihanna and Adele sing to sold-out crowds whenever they go on tour. But despite performing in front of thousands and thousands of people on a fairly regular basis, they too suffer from anxiety from time to time and have their own ways of overcoming intense stage freight.
Whether it’s listening to music, engaging in their favorite hobby pre-concert to calm themselves down or relaxing with their friends and family, these celebrities bravely go on stage and lay their hearts and passion out for the audience despite their anxieties. It’s true that every minute of their performances is being judged by faceless people, but it’s made easier knowing that the people in the audience are dedicated fans who genuinely wish the best for them and not haters hoping for them to fail.
17. Zayn Malik
Zayn Malik‘s level of stage fright has been described as “crippling” for the former One Direction boy bander and he’s in fact had to cancel performances because of his performance anxiety. He had traveled to the UK to perform at the Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium back in 2016, but took to Instagram and sent a note to his fans, saying “Unfortunately my anxiety that has haunted me throughout the last few months around live performances has gotten the better of me … with the magnitude of the event, I have suffered the worst anxiety of my career.” Oh, Zayn! Apparently, this condition is to blame for him opting not to do a tour after the release of his first solo album Mind of Mine.
Lorde, who is one kickass performer BTW, is no stranger to having anxiety attacks before she gets up to perform. In an interview with Spotify, she said, “Before I go onstage I lock into this period of the most crippling fear. It’s something I wouldn’t wish on someone that I hated … It’s the worst half-hour of my life, every night! But then, y’know, it gets replaced by something magic.” The Grammy Award-winning artist has had many successful hits since she broke onto the scene in 2014 and is known for having a very carefree stage presence. As much as it hurts to hear about her struggles, we can’t help but admire her courage to speak so openly and continue to put herself out there.
Adele, whose songs continue to break records, still gets stage fright, despite being so well into her career and her reputation as one of the strongest vocalists in the world. In an interview with NPR, she said that she gets really nervous doing live shows, mostly because she doesn’t want to let fans down. (As if she could!) In fact, the more she performs, the worse her anxiety gets, perhaps because of the mounting pressure and level of expectation that come after each performance to do better. She said she often throws up before getting on the stage and has escaped via the fire exit before a concert in Amsterdam. This breaks our hearts!
14. Demi Lovato
It’s the offstage shows and events that really get this former Disney star’s heart pumping… and not in a good way. While she’s a pro at live performances, she grows nervous in crowds and starts to hyperventilate if a fan comes and hugs her. Demi is a recovered drug addict and has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder and depression, so her severe anxiety in these stressful situations is completely understandable. She bravely puts her fears and emotions out on the table in hopes of inspiring others to cope with their mental wellness problems, and that’s something we applaud her for!
13. Bridgit Mendler
Bridgit Mendler has come a long way since being the proactive older sister on Disney Channel’s Good Luck Charlie. With a debut album under her belt, she hopes to focus more on making music than acting for the time being. However, she told Billboard that singing on stage still doesn’t come natural for her. She explained, “I definitely get nervous about if I’m going to forget the words to the songs or something. And I don’t enjoy being the center of attention for an hour straight – I think that’s really stressful.” Bridgit also said that her nerves start to let up with each show and it becomes gradually easier to deal with the anxiety the more she performs. Given how much she loves music, we have no doubt that she’ll always do her best to push her against her fears and not let them get in the way of her passion.
If Queen B herself can’t get a hold on her anxiety, then where’s the hope for the rest of us?! Not only was Beyoncé super nervous about the reception of her self-titled album LP, but she freaked before doing a performance with Prince at the 2004 Grammy Awards. Talk about pressure! In a 2006 interview with MTV News, Beyonce confessed that she takes on a fierce stage persona but that it greatly differs from her real-life personality, which is more quiet and reserved. “I get nervous. I’m actually really scared when I’m not nervous because then I don’t transform into that person that people are used to seeing,” she said at the time. You’ll always be perfect in our eyes, Queen Bey!
11. Harry Styles
Despite winning the hearts of thousands of fans, former One Direction member Harry Styles has been known to get nervous to the point of throwing up before performing… or sometimes even during a concert. Unlike his former bandmate, Zayn, this hasn’t prevented the heartthrob from touring, but it’s scary nonetheless as Harry has become ill while performing on various occasions. When doing concerts with the 1D boys, he was often known as the most active on stage and even now as a solo act he’s got a killer presence, but it just goes to show what a talented performer Harry really is.
10. Eddie Van Halen
Despite being insanely talented, Eddie Van Halen of the hard rock band Van Halen has had quite the jitters when it came to live performances in front of crowds. He was only a young boy when he joined his father’s wedding band, and at 12 years old, sought advice from his father on how to combat his stage fright. Instead of actually being helpful, his father gave him vodka and a cigarette, which he heavily depended on for the next few decades until he quit drinking in 2008. According to Eddie, “[Alcohol] does enable you to lower your inhibitions. At the same time, it also gives you a false sense that what you’re doing is great. Now I’m so afraid of everything that sometimes I’m afraid to pick up the guitar.” Poor Eddie.
9. Ozzy Osbourne
The former lead vocalist of Black Sabbath-turned successful solo artist is a perfectionist when it comes to performing onstage. That said, Ozzy dished during a recent interview Ozzy Osbourne with Rolling Stone, saying he starts to freak out and get nervous right before he performs. It’s become a regular occurrence during each of his tours. Additionally, in his memoir I Am Ozzy, he explains, “To say that I suffer from pre-show nerves is like saying that when you get hit by an atom bomb it hurts a bit.” Although he’s been on the road for 50 years, he accepts the anxiety for what it is and still loves performing live.
8. Hayden Panettiere
Hayden Panettiere is a singer and actress extraordinaire. We’ve seen her everywhere, from Disney Channel Original Movies to Bring It On: All or Nothing, Heroes, and most recently, Nashville alongside Connie Britton. And while her character is a country star on the latter show, Hayden explains that the experience has helped her with her own stage fright because, “I get to go out there during scenes with a crowd full of people and pretend like I’m performing onstage, and I’m actually performing a live show.” It’s helped her get used to the crowds, and she sees her character as more of a persona she is donning when she’s performing so it leaves her less vulnerable. Makes sense!
7. Barbra Streisand
Award-winning actress, filmmaker and singer (we could go on, tbh) Barbra Streisand is a legend. But there’s a reason why she took such a long hiatus from live performances, namely because her pre-show fears and nerves are quite fierce. In a 2005 interview with Diane Sawyer, Barbra recalled forgetting the lines to one of her songs during a performance in Central Park in 1967, and it crushed her because she couldn’t improvise on the spot. And in a 2017 interview with Newsday, Barbra went into detail about how she knew she needed to push herself to overcome the fear, especially in light of the fact that she’s the new chairwoman of the performing arts center that will open at the World Trade Center site. It’s crazy to think how long that one incident stuck with the entertainment icon, we’re sure she’s probably the only one who remembers!
It goes without saying that Sia’s voice is MASTERFUL. Anyone who has heard of her or seen her perform (even on YouTube) knows that she has a signature wig she likes to wear (often half black and white) that shields her face from the public. However, it’s important to clarify that she wears the wig not for stylistic purposes, but because she’s an extremely shy person. In fact, back in 2016, she confessed to crying in her dressing room before performing at Good Morning America. She gets terribly scared when she has to perform and doesn’t like doing so, but has told her followers that the reason why she continues to sing and make music is for them. Have we mentioned how much we love Sia?! That’s a huge sacrifice she makes for the fans and it truly shows how much she cares.
5. Taylor Swift
Despite being a worldwide phenomenon, Taylor Swift isn’t free from some pre-show jitters herself. Apparently, she talks to herself in the mirror to reassure herself that everything will be fine. I mean, who hasn’t done that once in a while when we’re about to do something monumental? We’ve had our fair share of talking ourselves off the proverbial ledge. She elaborates by saying, “‘I get pretty nervous. I kind of like go through, you know when you talk to yourself in the mirror? And I’m like, ‘They’re not going to throw things at you, it’s going to be OK, it’s going to be OK.’ It’s not like that, it’s more like, ‘Mmm … it’s going to be OK?'” Once she gets up on stage, Taylor’s anxieties fade away because she realizes that her concerts are made up of HER fans, but still with other performances (especially at award shows) she gets concerned about the crowds.
4. Ariana Grande
If you’re not obsessed with at least one of Ariana Grande’s songs, you’re missing out. Her soprano voice gives her a lot of vocal range, which sounds AMAZING when heard live, and it’s been such a thrill to witness her meteoric rise since her days on the Nickelodeon show Victorious. But the young singer has admitted to having her fair share of performance anxiety, particularly when she was performing at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards. At the time, she was still getting used to the spotlight and mentioned, “I’m super anxious before these kinds of things because it’s so nerve-wracking.”
3. Ellie Goulding
This English singer looks comfortable as hell on the stage, but that doesn’t mean she’s immune to pre-show anxiety! During a 2012 interview, Ellie Goulding described what hard work it is to energize UK audiences, which is partly why it’s been tough to overcome her strong bouts of stage fright. But because she knows she’s been successful in the past, now when she gets nervous, it’s more out of excitement and anticipation rather than insecurity or fear.
Over the years, she’s become more confident in herself, but she used to have severe panic attacks. In fact, when Zayn told his fans about his own traumatic experience that led to his show’s cancellation, Ellie empathized on Twitter saying, “Anxiety is real … I know the feeling.” People with anxiety need to stick together!
2. Katy Perry
Much like her peers, Katy Perry too suffers from stage fright, which caused her to have a breakdown at Radio 1 Teen Awards in London back in 2010. She told the Daily Star, “It’s not that I don’t feel ready but I worry that they’ll rush the stage as they’re all screaming my name or I feel like a wanna yack!” In fact, she said that she takes Beta Blockers to stabilize her heart rate before going on stage because she doesn’t want her anxiety to get the best of her and give her a fans a disappointing performance. Trust us, Katy, you aren’t disappointing anyone!
Despite being a Grammy Award-winning singer who’s been in the music biz for over a decade, Rihanna still gets nervous before she goes on stage. She often gets “shy and awkward” before a performance and gets a “fluttering” in her stomach. Considering her engaging and confident presence onstage, this certainly comes as a surprise. Singing hits like “Umbrella” and most recently, “Wild Thoughts” with DJ Khaled at the 2018 Grammy Awards, Rihanna owns the stage every time she’s on it. She’s got a damn good poker face!