I still remember the very first time I saw the cover picture of Lizzo’s 2019 album “‘Cuz I Love You”. It shows the lady in question sitting – nude – in front of a dark background, with her shiny black hair hugging her figure. From the photography itself (sultry warm lighting, making her skin glow) to the pose and her hard-to-read, may I say mysterious, expression: this picture is very sexy. But that is, of course, not the reason anyone would think twice about it; many album covers are quite racy. No, it is sexy in a way that is seldom afforded to women of her size. In a world where seeing a so-called “plus-size” model (read: probably of average weight or a little “curvier”) on an advertisement for jeans, underwear or – god forbid – food has become quite the daily and mundane occurrence, seeing a fat WOC so unapologetically being portrayed as sensual, confident and desirable, still isn’t.
I am obviously not the first to notice this. Ever since Lizzo started making waves she has been celebrated as the new face of body positivity by fans and outlets around the world. Working in one of the industries that arguably scrutinises the appearance of female artists the most, Lizzo has managed to carve out a place for herself. She continues to blow away fans with amazing, shiny, flamboyant stage outfits and props (think the giant inflatable butt at the VMAs) and videos of her enthusiastically playing the flute on stage have gone viral a number of times. Hell, even the Obamas put her hit-single “Juice” on their 2019 Summer Playlist.
Now it’s easy to get distracted amidst all those flashy visuals and events, but it is important to take a look at what Lizzo is really trying to say and what she stands for. The lyrics to her album “‘Cuz I Love You” and her music before that illustrate a picture of a confident woman who knows what she wants, and who is able to put up boundaries when she needs to (look no further than her anti-fuckboy ballad “Jerome”). Lizzo shows us that independence and having high standards is, ultimately, worth it. Her confidence in herself and her own worth is evident in most of the tracks as well, but her message of love of all different kinds of people doesn’t stop there. Both in “Better in Color” and in “Boys” she celebrates diversity of stature and type in men, partners and people in general.
Lizzo isn’t oblivious to the position she has taken in the body positivity movement either, nor is she unfamiliar with its nuances. In a recent interview with KEXP she said: “I don’t know the future of self love. I don’t know the future of body positivity. […] I don’t want to be so much attached to it as much as I want to rep it and represent it and be parallel with it and help it.”
She is right. Body Positivity is having its moment in the public eye right now but it’s hard to tell whether this is going to affect major changes in the way that different body shapes and people are represented and treated in the future.
“I can’t wake up one day and not be a woman. I can’t wake up one day and not be fat,” Lizzo told Teen Vogue. It is refreshing to see a pop star acknowledge that self love takes a lot of work and is not all about having a spa day or “treating yourself” (a.k.a. spending money) or tagging your Instagram pictures #bodyposi. It takes self reflection, time and energy but it is so incredibly worth it, especially when the world seems to not love you back.
Lizzo said it best herself: “I don’t think loving yourself is a choice. I think that it’s a decision that has to be made for survival […] Do you want to live? ‘Cause this is who you’re gonna be for the rest of your life. Or are you gonna just have a life of emptiness, self-hatred and self-loathing? And I chose to live, so I had to accept myself.” (NBC).