V119: Lizzo by Sam Smith

V119: Lizzo by Sam Smith

Musical sensation Lizzo stars on the cover of V119, V's annual Music Issue.

Musical sensation Lizzo stars on the cover of V119, V's annual Music Issue.

Photography: Chris Colls

Styling: Nicola Formichetti

Text: Sam Smith

This article appears in the pages of V119 The Music Issue on newsstands May 2. Pre-order your copy at shop.vmagazine.com.

This summer, listen up. With her major-label debut, Lizzo champions a new pop era. Joined by model-dancer Alton Mason, the musical force proves opposites attract and self-love comes in all sizes. “Good As Hell” was one big understatement.

Sam Smith Hey, Lizzo! How are you?

Lizzo Hey, Sam. I’m chilling. I feel really good [laughs].

SS I am such a huge fan of you! I was writing some questions in bed last night, so, I have loads to ask you.

L Wow... How sexual [are the questions]?

SS They are very sexual questions.

L All right, ask away.

SS First of all, I just want to know if you’re happy. Because I know you have been working so hard. Is it stressful or are you having a good time?

L That’s a very sweet question, especially from an artist as big as you. You have probably felt this firsthand. I feel like this is the hardest I have ever worked in my life because it’s kind of like a fight non- stop. They be like, “So on your day off you can...” And I be like, “Bitch, where? What day off?” But to be honest with you, Sam, I feel like I’ve just been marathon training for this my whole life.

SS Yeah, and that work ethic is instilled into [people] from a young age...

L When I was little, my mom would always say I was “doing the most.” I would do every class, every elective, every after-school activity. And I would just go until I passed out. And I’m still doing that to this day. I have been working [this hard] for a long time— since before I moved to Minneapolis, [which I did] when I was done with Houston. I had tried everything career-wise in Houston and it just didn’t work.

SS Your hard work is paying off. Everyone is going nuts for your music. As a queer person, I feel like you are Jesus to us right now. We love you so much.

L Thank you. The [queer] community is who embraced me initially. They saw it, like, real recognize real. But I am glad this [new level of success] is happening now, and no earlier. Because I was such a shithead when I was younger. I don’t think I would have been able to maintain this [pace].

SS I’d love to know what little Lizzo was like.

L I was really ambitious, really smart. Teachers would call my mom and be like, “Melissa is trying to teach my class.” So I was nerdy, but also chubby and sweaty. I liked anime and comics. Which just didn’t work in Houston, southwest Alief, where everybody’s black and listens to rap. I was listening to Radiohead and classical music.

SS When did you start playing the flute?

L I was 12 when I started playing the flute. That was definitely my first instrument. I was such a bad singer. I am so glad that my shitty ass [early] demos are probably down the drain now.

SS Listening to your voice, I cannot believe that.

L [That’s the thing:] I never stopped doing what I loved. I never stopped watching Sailor Moon because I got made fun of [for it]. And now being a nerd is hot. Like, you know, bitch, trends really do catch up to you. SS Your voice just sounds so strong, but at the same time it’s delicate. Who were your ultimate top three favorite singers growing up?

L I am going to give you Freddie Mercury... Beyoncé, because I loved Destiny’s Child. I thought she was the greatest singer of all fucking time. And this might be controversial, but I really love Thom Yorke’s voice.

SS I almost see those three as genre-less. As is Missy Elliott—I need to ask you about working with her. Your song “Tempo” is amazing.

L It was so incredible [to work with Missy]. I’d met her two years before, and [I remember] I was shaking. Because she’s my hero. Above every other artist on planet Earth, she helped me feel seen. [When we wrote “Tempo”], I was like, let’s send her a verse and see what happens. She sent back an emoji face of her singing it, which I [watched] by myself, on my couch, saying, “oh my God,” to myself quietly.

SS About feeling seen, your music has played a huge part in my discovery of self-love and body love. Do you think [body] acceptance has increased overall?

L Thank you for feeling inspired by my music because that’s the point. I feel like [in the beginning] I was this industry secret. Part of me took pleasure in that, but then another part was like, are they not posting about me because I am big? I felt this [frustration] with how I was being perceived all through high school, and for much of my life. Until I was like, fuck it. I just need to be undeniable. It’s not about me being big. It’s about me being me. Y’all are going to get this bad bitch. You are going to get these bops and get this show. And you are going to get your life by receiving it.

The part that makes me sad is that I want other people who look like me to have opportunities, to be seen and to get jobs. And I don’t know if it is working or not because I am so in the middle of it, but I will say that I am doing everything I can. I am trying.

SS What you are doing is absolutely moving things forward massively. I would love to know what the LGBT+ community means to you.

L LGBTQ people lifted me up and got me to this point. I have nothing but love for them. I just feel so humbled because I believe that all marginalized people have the experience of feeling unwanted and not being able to just fucking live our lives. I think we all have that common thread—we can look at each other on the sidelines and nod, like, bitch I feel you. We all feel each other on a certain level.

I have felt excluded my entire life, from so many things. I have felt excluded from [my] blackness because I wasn’t [culturally] well-read on certain things. I feel like, because of that, I never want anyone [else] to ever feel excluded. So my movement is for everyone. It’s about inclusion. And if I am going to fight what I have been marginalized for, I am going to fight for all marginalized people.

Also, I honestly feel like there is no such thing as straight [laughs]. Because fuck boxes; I am too big to be put in one anyway. I am a fat bitch.

SS [Laughs] Oh my god, I’m dead. So I was going to ask you, [how do you stay in the mindset] of self- love? Because I am quite a sad person; I get sad all the time. For you, is self-love something you [have to] practice on a daily basis? And what are the top five things you love about yourself?

L Right, well, that is the thesis of self-love; it ebbs and flows and there are levels to it. I don’t think that the culture or the commercialization of self-love has [grasped that] it’s a constantly evolving thing. I’ve had to come to the realization that my self-love once came with conditions. Like, wow, I love myself because I am snatched today. Which makes it easy to slip. So Cuz I Love You is a narrative of how to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back.

First off, I love my body. No matter what angle you shoot it at, no matter the lighting, my body is just so fucking beautiful all the time. I may talk shit about it sometimes, but fuck. She’s still a bad bitch.

My second favorite thing about myself is my blackness. I am really just so honored to be graced with this identity. No shade to any other shade on the planet—I just can’t relate. I just love being a black woman, even in a world where [we] are statistically the least desirable. I am still here, and I still rise.

My third favorite thing about myself is my nerdiness. I was teased like a dog for wanting to be intelligent, for reading, for talking the way I do. But I didn’t dumb myself down just to be accepted.

SS Here’s my final question... When I released my last record, I wanted everyone to have a big glass of whiskey and listen to it by themselves, in a dark room. How do you want us to listen to this album?

L That’s a great question. It’s such a big, bright album, so you [need] to blast that shit. And you should be naked, drinking champagne in a rainbow limo.

SS I am going to do that and send you a picture.

L Invite me. I want to be there.

Lizzo and Alton Mason on the cover of V119. Lizzo wears glasses Alain Mikli, ring Tiffany & Co., dress Laurence and Chico, bodysuit Addition Elle. Alton Mason wears watch Omega 50th Anniversary Speedmaster.
Credits:
Makeup Maki Ryoke (Streeters) Hair Yusef (Factory Downtown) Model Alton Mason (IMG) Manicurist Maki Sakamoto (The Wall Group) Movement Director Stephen Galloway (The Collective Shift) Digital technician Jeanine Robinson Photo assistant Daniil Zaikin Stylist assistant Marta Del Rio Hair assistants Kendall Dorsey, Michael Warren Location Pier 59

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