Joshua trees, fishnets, and a giant ferris wheel. Based in Palm Springs, California, Coachella is known as one of the most glamorous, celebrity-studded music festivals in the world. Because of its proximity to Los Angeles, Coachella attracts some of the most famous singers, actors, and celebrities, which in turn brings thousands of fans to the event from all over the world. Performers also strive for greater fame through extravagant displays and dramatic celebrity dynamics; for example, last year’s Coachella was named “Beychella” for famed singer Beyonce’s presence at the event. This year, Coachella is being called “Arichella” online for Ariana Grande’s headliner presence at the festival as well as her art installation to promote her song, “Seven Rings.”
To those unable to attend Coachella, the festival looks like a beautiful escape from reality. However, beyond the smiles of barely clothed attendees and displays of grandeur lies a less glamorous reality. Deceivingly, the event sells its baseline tickets for approximately $300, creating a false sense that the average person can enjoy the Coachella experience. In the desert, forty minutes away from Palm Springs, this could not be further from the truth. Before even entering the event, the ultra-rich are advantaged, skipping the unbelievable traffic by opting to travel by helicopter. Inside the event, festival-goers are separated by the tier of their pass; the general public is corralled into a separate area from artists, influencers, and celebrities. This might not be particularly disappointing to the viewer, but it is undeniable that the glitzy exterior that Coachella puts on does not reveal the exclusionist principals in which the festival is founded on.
The event creates an exclusionary culture based on its warped standards beauty, wealth, and success. For one weekend, attendees are expected to don revealing clothing, and rarely are photos ever seen of people with waists larger than the flower crowns on their heads. This is not a mistake: Coachella perpetuates a toxic exclusionary culture of fat-shaming that prevents heavier people from attending the event.
Aside from a toxic culture of exclusivity, the festival is problematic even at its core. Philip Anschutz, the owner of the famed music festival, is known for his numerous donations to anti-LGBT organizations, as well as his controversial denial of climate change. Many artists simply ignore this fact while preaching views opposite of that of Anschutz. However, festival-goers have the option to attend, which donates money to a controversial man while spreading the festival’s toxic culture.