After revealing on Instagram that she had posed for a Playboy feature, Maren Morris fielded backlash from scandalized commenters about her topless pictures and her association with the historically scintillating magazine. It isn't as if Morris deliberately intended to shock a portion of her fanbase, but as the interview accompanying her photographs makes clear, Morris thrives on bold career moves and pushing herself to grow as an artist.

"Doing Playboy has been a really fun challenge. I'm trying to do more things that scare me," she explains in the article. "Every year I'm trying to peel back more layers emotionally -- and I guess physically."

It wasn't the first time Morris has come under fire for showing skin: She's clapped back against Instagram trolls who implied that men couldn't possibly be expected to contain their sexual urges around her revealing outfits, and even the album cover for her newest record, Girl, has garnered its fair share of body-shaming responses.

"I knew it would piss some people off that I was in a bra top ... I remember when choosing Girl's cover, I was like, 'Yeah, I have this body; I'm gonna put it on the cover!'" Morris explains. "I felt really sexy, because I knew I was gonna get flak for it, from these little t--ties, but I'm definitely owning it."

In fact, Morris adds, she finds empowerment in showing off her body. The singer has been open about the fact that she maintains a demanding workout regime, and she clarifies that her goal is physical strength. "I don't want to be skinny. I want to be strong and feel like Lara Croft," she relates.

Challenging gender and sexuality norms, as well as pushing the boundaries on what a country artist can and can't to, is equally exciting to Morris: "I like it when I scare the absolute s--t out of myself. That's when I feel sexy," she adds.

Morris' actions might seem a little sordid to fans who like their country music more wholesome, but she's following a long-upheld tradition of female artists pushing the genre's limits. Loretta Lynn's 1975 hit "The Pill" was banned at radio for speaking openly about birth control and female sexual pleasure. In 1993, Reba McEntire shocked the CMA Awards audience with a neckline so plunging it made headlines the next day.

Morris isn't even the first country star to pose for Playboy -- Dolly Parton did too, in 1978, in the midst of a lifelong career of busting gender and sexuality norms in nearly every aspect of her life and music. The more she evolves, Morris says, the more sharply her disdain for the standards she faces comes into view.

"I could just shut up and sing, keep my head down, not talk about politics or sexuality in my songs. But I swear quite a bit. I talk openly about drinking. I'm learning things about myself that are starting to freak me out, in a good way," she muses. "I'm growing up, and that doesn't necessarily mean becoming more mature or wiser or buttoning things up a bit more. Sometimes it's letting it all be a little more freewheeling."

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