The breakthrough star of the year, Lizzo's effervescent brand of self-love and confidence is a joy to behold
Week after week, we have news about climate disasters, rental crises, and the neverending stream of Brexit bullsh*t. I'm tired, you're tired, and we need a remedy for the poisonous atmosphere out there (both literally and figuratively). Who would have thought that a big, beautiful, jazz flute-playing pop star would be the one to do it?
Who is Lizzo?
If you haven't heard of Lizzo by now, it's possible you haven't been privy to any pop culture news of 2019. The Detroit-born singer-songwriter has dominated 2019's music, video and Instagram scenes, and she has climbed her way to the top of the charts in the process.
Real name Melissa Viviane Jefferson, Lizzo's infectious brand of brash, booming, glittery pop-rap is new, exciting, and most importantly, fun. While the never-ending cycle of bad news rages on outside, inside our homes, bars and clubs, all we want is a chance at distraction from the inevitable depression we'll feel when faced with it. We want a chance at a good time, and Lizzo is reporting for duty.
And people are finally waking up. Lizzo's newly-crowned number one single Truth Hurts — a delightfully impetuous response to an ex-boyfriend that can only be described as a f*ckboy — was released in 2017, but has taken two years to break into the Zeitgeist.
Her performances of the hit at the BET Awards and, more recently, the VMAs were undoubtedly the highlights of both nights, as she grabbed her moment in the spotlight with one hand, the other holding a flute (she's classicly trained in the instrument).
The full package
But the magic of Lizzo doesn't just lie in her music (as much of a bop as Truth Hurts is). It lies in the entire package of Lizzo; body, personality, words and all.
The star has become media gold this year for her outspoken personality and advocacy for shameless self-love. Lizzo is a plus-size black woman whose Instagram feed is a kaleidoscope of 'feeling-myself' selfies, twerking videos, memes, magazine covers and fabulous outfit moments.
In other words, her feed is like that of any other pop-star — the only difference is that Lizzo is fat. Why is that a revolutionary act, I hear you cry? Well, of course, it shouldn't be. But the reality is, in a world of manufactured beauty standards and online trolls, Lizzo's joyous celebration of her body, on her own terms, is a breath of fresh air.
While plus-size women are so often told to cover, to conceal, to make modest in order to be a palatable version of 'big', Lizzo strips off every layer with ease and confidence — exactly as she should.
In the debate of body image, we often hear that we should practice body neutrality rather than positivity. Activists such as Jameela Jamil, who has come under fire for her comments on body image, shout that women are so much more than what we look like; that we should take the focus off appearance altogether.
But of course, this is easy to advocate when your body is not the subject of constant scrutiny and debate. It's easy to be neutral about how you look when everyone else is too.
But what's so wonderful about Lizzo is that she is absolutely unapologetic in her attitude to her body — she adores it. She regularly talks about how beautiful she is, how much she loves her body and how she looks, and no one could mistake her confidence when it comes to the red carpet.
Hers is a self-love that is joyous, that takes pleasure from the curves and lines of her body, that revels in feeling beautiful and sexy. It's such a delight to scroll through, and in seeing her posts, you almost feel yourself absorbing confidence and self-love through the screen. It's a stark contrast to the rest of the Instagram experience.
And if it's so beautiful to witness, how beautiful would it be to take part in?
Twerking as self-love
Fun pop songs and twerking dance routines are not groundbreaking — they've been done many times and will be done many times again. It's the age-old feminist debate to question how shaking your arse and taking selfies can be empowering.
But Lizzo on stage at the VMAs, surrounded by smiling dancers and ecstatic fans, singing about hair tosses and being 100% "that b*tch", took the opportunity to show how moments of supposed frivolity can really be the most profound.
In the middle of her set, she spoke to the audience: "It's so hard trying to love yourself in a world that doesn't want to love you back, am I right? So I want to take the opportunity right now to just feel good as hell — because you deserve to feel good as hell. We deserve to feel as good as hell."
I felt uplifted, emotional and so happy that someone like Lizzo is out there — and I wasn't the only one. The feeling of the evening was summed up in a much-replicated tweet: "I need to stop being insecure, I can't keep letting Lizzo down like this".
Seems pretty empowering to me.
Featured image: Truth Hurts video, Warner Music Group
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