By Terrance Turner
Nov. 14, 2021
Tonight — after nearly six years of silence — Adele returned to live performing, singing at the Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles and then sitting down for an interview with Oprah Winfrey. It was her first televised interview in six years. There was a lot to discuss: work, grief, divorce, motherhood, weight loss, alcoholism. She is famously private, but tonight she opened up, answering questions about dating, death, and divorce. “Nothing has been as scary as what I’ve been through the past two or three years, behind closed doors,” she told Winfrey.
Adele performed a mixture of both old and new songs at the Obervatory, with stunning views of the surrounding area. She opened the show with “Hello”:
In a clip from their interview, Oprah pointed out that “Hello” is the song Adele opened her concert with. Adele replied, “I think I’ll always have to start with Hello…it would be weird to do it halfway through a set.” Winfrey asked what the song meant to her; Adele described the song as a kind of letter to her younger self.
Then she revealed how unaware she is of her global reach. When Winfrey told her that the “Hello” video has been viewed three billion times, Adele seemed genuinely shocked: “Three billion? That’s insane,” she remarked. She explained that she feels she’s “channeling” something when she is writing or singing. “I don’t have what my music has,” she stated.
Adele explained that she doesn’t see herself as a deep person. But the music can be very deep.
Adele also opened up about her family. “I’ve been obsessed with the nuclear family my whole life, because I never came from one,” told Oprah last month. (Adele’s late father, Mark Evans, never married her mother and split when Adele was 3.) “I from a very young age promised myself that when I had kids, that we’d stay together. We would be that united family.” So the failure of the marriage hit Adele hard. “I was so disappointed for my son; I was so disappointed for myself. I just thought I was going to be the one that stopped doing those bloody patterns all the time,” she added.
Her new album 30 directly addresses her divorce from charity executive Simon Konecki. (Adele and Konecki split in 2019, after less than two years of marriage. They share a nine-year old son, Angelo.) Oprah asked if 30 was a “divorce album”, and Adele confirmed it was. But, she added, “It was really just divorcing myself, really.”
Oprah asked if there was a particular moment that she knew she had to leave. Adele answered yes. “I do remember one of my friends, we were all were answering these questions in this very bougie magazine. And it was — it was something like, ‘What’s something that no one would ever know about you?’ And I just — I just said it in front of three of my friends. I was like, ‘I’m really not happy. I’m not living. I’m just plodding along.’”
Her friends had no clue about Adele’s marital difficulties and were shocked. “But it was when I made it known to my own friends, who thought I was really happy, that actually I’m really unhappy — and they all gasped,” she remembered. “I felt like it was from there that I was like, ‘What am I doing? What am I doing it for?’”
She referenced one of her lyrics from her song “Love In The Dark”: “I want to live and not just survive.”
Winfrey asked why she thought Simon had come into her life; Adele responded: “I think Simon probably saved my life, to be honest with you.” Adele speculated that she might’ve gone down a self-destructive path if not for him, saying that Simon and Angelo brought a sense of stability to her life. She called Konecki “the most stable person I’ve ever known,” adding: “I respect him more than anyone.”
As she prepared to leave her marriage, Adele left something else behind: alcohol. She stopped drinking during the divorce process. Oprah noted that Adele had talked in the past about being “fascinated” by alcohol. “Yeah, very much as it took my dad from me,” Adele responded. (Her father Mark Evans was absent from much of her life; the two were estranged for years. But they reconciled before he died of cancer in May 2021.) ”Once I realized I had to do a lot to work on myself, I stopped drinking and started working out a lot.” Oprah asked if there was a wound that she was trying to heal. There was.
“My dad’s absolute lack of presence and effort with me,” Adele answered. “As I got older, I definitely understood that it was the alcohol, it wasn’t a choice he was making himself…During the last two-to-three years of my life, my dad got really sick. That happened just after having left my marriage when I made the conscious decision to get to know myself and figure some things out. April, when he died, we had our peace together. I felt that huge gaping hole filled. We forgave each other.”
While she made peace with her father, Adele also worked to explain things to her son. The new album’s lead single “Easy on Me” was written for Angelo, to help him understand the divorce. He’d ask questions like “Why don’t you love Daddy any more?” Adele explained: “‘I do love him. I’m not in love with him.’ But that doesn’t make any sense to a six-year-old.” She wrote the song to express to Angelo things she couldn’t say in conversation, she said. Adele admitted that she still feels discomfort with the idea of “choosing to dismantle my child’s life for my own.”
Still, Adele remains on good terms with Konecki, who even lives across the street from her. She told Oprah: “Even now, I trust him with my life.”
But Adele still dealt with guilt and embarrassment from the divorce. “I’m just embarrassed that I didn’t make my marriage work,” she admitted. That angst manifested itself physically: “I had the most terrifying anxiety attacks after I left my marriage. They paralyzed me completely and made me so confused because I wouldn’t be able to have any control over my body, but I was aware of that happening because it was kind of still very much there, while my whole body was just like, on another planet, it felt like,” she told Oprah.
In order to deal with her anxiety, Adele started working out. She noticed that she wasn’t as anxious when she was with her trainer. She increased her workouts to every day, saying that the practice gave her structure. The daily workouts included both cardio and weights (she says she can now deadlift 160 lbs.). The result was her losing a hundred pounds within two years.
But it was never about the weight, Adele said. It was her “me time”, a way to build up her body and mind. “I thought, If I can make my body physically strong, and I can feel that and see that, then maybe one day I can make my emotions and my mind physically strong,” she told Vogue weeks ago.
The reaction to the weight loss was widespread and mixed. But Adele seemed unbothered by all of it. “I [wasn’t] shocked or even phased by it — my body has been objectified my entire career. Am I too big or am I too small, am I hot or not or whatever. I never looked up to anyone because of their body,” she said. “I never admired anyone because they had the same hair color as me or the same style as me. I was body positive then and I’m body positive now. But it’s not my job to validate people feel about their bodies — I feel bad that it’s made people feel horrible about themselves but it’s not my job. I’m trying to sort meself out,” she laughed.
One thing making Adele laugh these days is her new boyfriend — high-powered sports agent Rich Paul. Adele told Oprah: “He’s hilarious… and very smart. You know, he’s very, very smart. It’s quite incredible watching him do what he does. And just the easiness of it. It’s just very smooth.”
This relationship marks a kind of personal breakthrough for Adele. Oprah began, “This relationship is the first time you’ve actually…”
“…loved myself, and been open to loving and being loved by someone else,” Adele finished.
UPDATE (Sept. 4, 2022): “Adele: One Night Only” won the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Variety Special. The program won five Emmys in all, including for outstanding lighting, sound mixing, and art/technical direction, at lat night’s Creative Arts Emmys.