Radical Self-Love with Lizzo

As a fat, black woman, Lizzo brings a radical, fresh perspective to the classic self-love anthem.

Written by Delaney Davis

Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue

Photo courtesy of Teen Vogue

With appearances on “The Ellen Show” and “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon,” Lizzo has finally broken through to the mainstream. But, this come up didn’t happen overnight. Lizzo’s debut album Lizzobangers was released six years ago in 2013, yet this is the singer’s first taste of widespread commercial success.

The Rolling Stone described her track “Juice” as a “near-perfect retro funk nugget.” The article’s introduction finishes off with an open-ended piece of social comment that “if life were fair, [‘Juice’] would be as big as ‘Uptown Funk.’” Lizzo took that sliver of social commentary even further, quoting the article on her Twitter.

 
 

Merely existing as a fat, black woman in a music industry dominated by thin, white women is a phenomenal feat in itself, but achieving commercial success is a completely different story. The path to stardom in an industry saturated with talent is difficult for any musician, but for those with marginalized identities, reaching that final destination is even more impossible. Lizzo’s long overdue mainstream success makes listening to her music an even more meaningful experience, and her identity has given a radical twist to her signature self-love anthems.

Lizzo’s discography grapples with self-love in a variety of forms. In the aforementioned “Juice,” Lizzo oozes body positivity, singing, “No, I’m not a snack at all / Look, baby I’m the whole damn meal.” That same self-confidence is seen in her dance track “Fitness,” where she rebuffs the centuries-old idea that women exercise to gain the attention of men. The accompanying music video features diverse body types, further illustrating that fitness and fatness are not incompatible. Her group of backup dancers, nicknamed the “Big Grrrls,” are all plus-sized women of various shades, showing that Lizzo truly puts her money where her mouth is.

GIF courtesy of Giphy

GIF courtesy of Giphy

In “My Skin,” the Houstinite continues her body positivity message, but adds nuance by singing about her love of her own skin. In a toned back, acapella-like track different from her current releases, Lizzo proclaims emphatically, “I love you, don't forget it, you beautiful Black masterpiece!” In an article with Noisey, Lizzo states,

“Being black in America is a unique experience. All people have a unique American experience, but I can’t speak for all people. I can only speak from my unique experience as a black woman. The 'African-American' myths that cloud non-black people's judgment are taken from the worst part of our struggle and paraded as fact. I could write this essay trying to debunk 'black-on-black crime' and fill it with pleading persuasive prose, but I’d rather just tell you what I know. I met a boy who told me he thought I was cute, but not anymore' because he thought I was 'lighter skinned in person.' That is what I know. That is a fact. If you are not a person of color please ask yourself if that has ever happened to you. No? Now imagine if it did. I’ve heard of rejection for being 'too fat' or 'too skinny,' too poor,' even 'too ugly,' but guess what? Bodies change, money comes and goes and beauty is in the eye of the beholder. Skin does not change. It is our permanent marker in this life; a calling card to ethnic pride. I was appraised and judged based on the color of my skin, and trust me I am not the only one.”

Self-love anthems certainly aren’t a new phenomenon. Who can forget Hailee Steinfeld’s upbeat “Love Myself” or Marina’s somber, but still empowering “Happy?” The messages behind these songs are without a doubt impactful, but are sung by thin, white women who are given constant praise for their appearance by society. Self-love from these women is not as radical as it is for a fat, black woman like Lizzo.

The intersection of Lizzo’s identities as both a black and fat woman make the fact that she has created a space for herself in the self-love movement all the more revolutionary. Her songs are well-written and well-produced on their own, but knowing the identity of the singer behind the bop makes the meaning behind the lyrics even more significant. Feminism should always be considered through an intersectional lens, and that applies to our self-love jams, too.

Lizzo’s latest album Cuz I Love You is slated for release on April 19, 2019. Based on her previous releases, the album is sure to be full of even more radical self-love bops that will help improve representation for marginalized artists in the music industry.

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