Tonya Harding, who has been back in the news since Margot Robbie played her in her new film I, Tonya,, has some strong thoughts about Sufjan Stevens’ song named after her—despite never having listened to it. In a lengthy New York Times profile, the famed figure skater—whose career ended after she pleaded guilty to hindering the prosecution in a trial involving her rival Nancy Kerrigan, who was clubbed in the knee by her ex-husband’s hired hand Shawn Eckardt—is speaking out about her portrayal in the media. When asked about her thoughts on Stevens’s recently released song “Tonya Harding,” the athlete who now goes by her married name Tonya Price said that she has no interest in it.
“Who gives these people permission to use my name?” she said. “You all disrespected me and it hurt. I’m a human being and it hurt my heart,” she said next, referencing the media. “I was a liar to everybody but still, 23 years later, finally everybody can just eat crow. That’s what I have to say.”
Ironically, Price’s NYT profile ends with the author Taffy Brodesser-Akner writing, “With her head against my chest, I leaned down and hugged her. Here is something I’ll never understand, that you can be sitting across the table from someone who certainly did something bad, who appears to show no remorse for it and you can still feel the oxytocin rush of love and sympathy for her. ‘This world is a bitch, girl,’ I told her. ‘Don’t end up in a ditch, girl.’ She looked up at me and smiled and then Mrs. Price hopped into her truck and drove home to her husband and son, who were eagerly awaiting her return.”
That quote uttered by Brodesser-Akner happens to be a lyric directly from Stevens’ song.
Other lyrics in the song, which humanizes Price, include: “Well this world is a cold one/ But it takes one to know one”; “Just some Portland white trash/ You confronted your sorrow/ Like there was no tomorrow/ While the rest of the world only laughed”; and, “Tonya, you were the brightest/ Yeah you rose from the ashes/ And survived all the crashes/ Wiping the blood from your white tights.”
Stevens wrote the song not because he was commissioned to do so for the movie (as he did with two songs for Call Me By Your Name) but because he was inspired by Price. Later, he sent them to the film’s music supervisor only to have them turned down. “It’s not at all related to the new biopic,” he wrote on his tumblr when he shared the song. “I sent it to the music supervisors but they couldn’t find a way to use it.”
The singer-songwriter has since responded to Price’s reaction, though, writing on tumblr, “The world is abundant and strange. The New York Times interviewed Tonya for a recent long-form feature (spoilers: Tonya is not interested in hearing my song!), and The Believer has a great think-piece on Tonya and the complicated world of women’s figure skating. Riveting journalism. Enjoy! Take two Aleve® and keep it moving!”