Lizzo Is Feeling Good as Hell

Lizzo Is Feeling Good as Hell

Outspoken and superbly talented musician Lizzo candidly discusses body positivity and racial diversity with Ashley Graham.

Outspoken and superbly talented musician Lizzo candidly discusses body positivity and racial diversity with Ashley Graham.

This article appears in the pages of V112, on newsstands now. Order your copy now at vmagazineshop.com.

Ashley Graham I’m so glad this is happening. You’re goddamn popping off right now. You’re everywhere.

Lizzo Listen, sis, I’ve been doing the same thing, and having people be like, “Who?” for so many years. And now they’re like, “Oh, I know you.” It does feel good to finally feel like I’m popping.

AG The [Swimsuits for All] music video for “Good As Hell” was where we first met. I’d say we had a very great day, but we had an even better evening. I’m just gonna leave it right there for everybody at home.

L We sure did, mm-hmm [laughs].

AG You’ve been pushing the boundaries and advocating for inclusivity for so many years. You even named your album Big Grrrl Small World. How does that play a role in the body-positive movement?

L Everything I say and believe in is literally me trying to get through life. I just happen to have this skill to be able to emote it through music. That said, I’ve been trying to love myself for a long time, and I really think that’s what the body-positive movement is. It’s showing the actual journey of women learning to love themselves, and seeing this positive result in the end. Love songs are really important, but self-love songs are even more important, and we don’t get enough self-love songs.

AG I can’t even imagine being onstage, everybody’s into my song, and then all of a sudden they just start screaming self-care mantras at me that maybe aren’t even mine; they’re theirs. I just got chills through my spine because that’s such an empowering moment. We don’t teach young girls to have affirmations or mantras for themselves. Little girls are taught to be nice, find a man, do what they’re supposed to do—but you never tell a woman, “Love who you are.” Did somebody in your life tell you to stop being insecure and love who you are? Or is it a realization you just had on your own?

L It’s something I had to discover on my own, which made it harder. But it paid off more. I struggled forever. When you’re trying to lose weight, you tell your family, [and] you start working out and they think you look better and give you compliments, it’s such a fine line between them [being] encouraging and [me] being like, Oh, do I just look better thin? Maybe they all think I should be skinny.

AG I hear you, I hear you.

L It’s really hard to get that kind of support to be fat, to be free, to be who you are, and to love yourself. I used to really want to wake up and be somebody else. I would be like, God, if I just woke up and looked like Beyoncé [laughs], just had a completely different hair or body type, I would be so happy. I had fantasies like that when I was a little kid. One day I was like, yo, I’m not changing, this is gonna be my body when I wake up. This is gonna be my face, my hair, and my teeth. You have to learn to deal with and love this [body].

AG It takes years. I tell young girls that you really have to put in time and energy to find confidence. I also say, find a role model. It’s amazing you’re telling your story, because there are so many women comparing themselves to others around them.

L I’ve just felt so unappreciated, being a black woman, and the double negative of being black and fat, and having kinky, curly hair. When I make this music, older women come to me and are like, “I wish I had you around when I was younger.” White women, too. They’re thin and they’re thick and they’re old and they’re young. It’s beautiful that just loving yourself, no matter what your issue is with yourself, is still a universal message.

AG I’m glad you brought up race; it’s an important topic that we all need to be talking about. Being a black woman in the music industry, there’s probably a lot of pressure on you. What do you think is the future of diversity in media and the music industry?

L The wild thing about black women and our influence on culture is that it’s always been really big—in rock ’n’ roll, in literally writing and singing Elvis Presley songs; black women in Motown we’ll never hear about. We’ve been in this forever. The difference today is visibility. Now, we can’t be hidden or silenced, because of the Internet. You can find the originator. You know who created that look or idea or song. You don’t gotta go through no middleman, no labels, to get straight to the art. All of these women, like Ava DuVernay and Issa Rae, are just so important and thriving because of visibility. This is getting controversial [laughs], but I feel like people are starting to put a plastic veneer on self-love and body positivity, and trying to make it marketable. Women who are actually pushing forward in body positivity and inclusiveness have to continue fighting and striving, so that it doesn’t become a fad. We have to be careful that it’s not a trend—that it remains a movement.

AG I agree 100 percent. I mean, being in the game for 17 years and then seeing everything pop off in the last couple of years is like, why now? Are we just gonna be another trend, and all of a sudden all the curvy girls are gone? I really feel like fashion starts trends, but it’s everybody else who makes it a movement—the media, TV, movies, entertainment in general—so we need you, Lizzo.

L [Laughs.] Yo, I’m still here. We need you, too. You were such a big deal to me when you were doing the Lane Bryant ads. I’d never seen anything like that in my whole life.

AG So many people come up to us and say, “How do you get your confidence? Where does it come from?” Or like, “Where does your body love come from?” But are they asking that to women who haven’t had to embrace their curves and their cellulite and their back fat? No. But I think it’s important that we continue to talk about those issues.

L The number-one question women who rap get all the time is, “What’s it like being a female rapper?” Or, “What kind of adversities have you faced, being a female rapper?” I understand why these people are asking, but I think it also perpetuates the stigma. When someone’s like, “When did you learn to love yourself? You’re so brave,” you’re perpetuating the idea that I had to learn how to love myself because I’m fat, and that I’m brave for wearing a bikini. Don’t perpetuate that. That should be normalized as much as a slim girl in a bikini. But also, that slim girl, we need to be asking her, when did she learn to love herself? And you need to tell her she’s brave. We even the playing field.

AG Why is it important to share your personal, vulnerable experiences with the world through music?

L I don’t know how to tell anybody else’s story. A lot of people know how to create fantasy songs. Frank Ocean’s really good at that, and Tyler, the Creator can just go off. Some people sing songs that other people have written for them really, really well, and they’re great emoters and vocal performers. But those things have never worked for me. The only thing that works is my personal life experience. I think it’s really unique telling the story of a big black girl from Houston that plays the flute and loves Sailor Moon. It’s hard to fake that. I’m telling this story and people are really gravitating to it—the uniqueness and specificity of the lyrics, the emotion coming out of my voice. The individual story of the struggle helps connect people even more. If I tweet, “I’m so sad today, I hate everything, are you sad?” [I’ll get] hundreds of replies [saying] “I’m sad too, I’m sad too.” We’re all in the struggle. We’re all in this together.

SCARF MARC JACOBS, NECKLACE AND BRACELET BULGARI, ON BODY NARS MONIO BODY GLOW

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