Music

Lizzo is the woman we’ve always needed in the public eye

Defiant and positive, Lizzo is a self-love icon.

A wide-eyed Lizzo gazes softly at the camera, in a white, wedding-dress–esque negligee. We see her being fit with a veil, sitting on a daybed with a feather and satin robe overtop. The faint piano beat plays softly before we hear the lyrics: “Why men great ‘til they gotta be great?” Which brings us to the iconic first line of “Truth Hurts,” sung by a powerfully confident Lizzo: “I just took a DNA test, turns out I’m 100% that bitch.”

If “that bitch” means that confident woman that every girl wants to feel like, she is indeed “that bitch.” Who would’ve dreamt, even five years ago, that a plus-sized, black, woman would be singing anthems about loving yourself? Everyone wants to see themselves represented in pop culture, and that’s been proven difficult when you don’t fit the skinny, straight, white image. Black role models in the music industry are hard to come by, as many black women are painted as “ghetto” (provocative, argumentative, petty) and black men are commonly seen as thugs (these images are slowly slowing down, but it doesn’t stop the online trolls.)  Lizzo’s career was a slow takeoff, which she blames on the industry itself: “[People] will be like, ‘Lizzo is my new favourite artist… why am I late for the Lizzo train?” she told Teen Vogue, “You’re late, honey, but it’s not your fault. You’re late because I’m just at the back of the shelf.”

Many pop stars have a media persona that they’re supposed to stick to. Ke$ha was the party girl, Taylor Swift was the heartbroken schoolgirl. But Lizzo, her branding, her “persona,” is straight-up Lizzo. Lizzo’s lyrics, like her vibe, are self-confident and real. She’s not afraid of discussing times when she’s been sad, or talking about really personal situations. She told E! News: “There is strength in vulnerability and sexiness in vulnerability.” Between the dignity of “Juice”’s opening line, “Mirror mirror on the wall / Don’t say it ‘cause I know I’m cute” and the unapologetic vulnerability of “Cry Baby”’s “I don’t need to apologize / Us big girls gotta cry,” this girl can cover everything: she’s authentic when she’s self-analyzing, but big and confident when she just needs to give herself that boost. “Cuz I Love You” is the hit song you might see off a Netflix rom-com like the sequel To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before. “Like a Girl” feels like what Kate McKinnon would jam out to in her dressing room while getting ready to perform as Hillary Clinton on SNL.“Tempo” is the perfect beat-heavy hip-hop song that you might’ve seen on America’s Best Dance Crew.  

Her music videos repeatedly feature her in bodysuits, bikinis, and lingerie. Her photoshoots are full of glam, fresh and dewy makeup, sexy and shiny dresses, nudity, and an overall badass confidence. On the cover of her most recent album, Cuz I love you, she poses nude with a sultry, piercing stare at the camera.This image itself is enough to describe her: strong, vulnerable, and confident as hell. Lizzo is the one-size-fit all artist who loves everyone no matter their size.

Her positivity hasn’t gone unnoticed. To most of Twitter, Lizzo means taking nothing less than the best in relationships, and feeling like you’re in your prime when those around you want nothing of the sort. “Truth Hurts” first hit the big time when it was featured in Netflix’s “Someone Great,” a movie about Jenny (Gina Rodriguez) getting over a devastating breakup. Jenny gets drunk in her apartment, dancing all around her kitchen crying and laughing while singing the words to make herself know she’s going to be alright. This was a perfect example of what Lizzo is great for: feeling damn good about yourself.

She may seem happy-go-lucky and inspiring when she’s up on that VMA stage giving a speech about deserving to feel “good as hell!” but in an interview with DAZED, she’s still struggling with who she is and feeling comfortable with it: “I don’t think I’m preachy or condescending,” she says. “You can hear the earnestness [in my music,] and that I’m actually trying and aspiring to be that too.” The hardest part seems to be the double standard that she’s facing by coming into the music industry being herself. Everyone’s happy to see themselves represented, and to see her be so brave in world where fashion designers even refuse to dress larger-sized celebrities, as we’ve seen with Leslie Jones, Octavia Spencer, and Lizzo herself, who has criticised designers on the topic But Lizzo doesn’t care for being a body-positivity icon. “I say I love myself, and they’re like ‘Oh my gosh, she’s so brave. She’s so political,’ she told The Cut. “For what? All I said is ‘I love myself, bitch!’”

In her music video for Truth hurts, Lizzo as a bride floats down the aisle to an altar with a shirtless officiator and avant-garde bridesmaids and groomsmen. We see crying and overjoyed attendees in the pews and an energetic afterparty as we await the reveal of her partner. And there they are: a smiling Lizzo faces her true love, herself.

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