Lizzo’s rapid rise to fame in 2019 came suddenly and shocking for the 31-year-old singer/songwriter, rapper and classically trained flutist. After nearly a decade of touring and recording, Lizzo’s music took mainstream radio by storm this past spring. From living in her car, to being named “Entertainer of the Year” by TIME Magazine, the singer’s success is undeniably impressive. However, her accolades have come accompanied by significant critique. While her musical talent is truly undeniable, it’s her message of body positivity and self-love which have led to plenty of internet hate. From trolls to a celebrity trainer, Jillian Michaels, negative comments regarding Lizzo’s weight have surfaced in retaliation to the praise her body confidence has received. Some call her corny, but many recognize the necessity behind the message encouraged by her music and her platform. In an era of overedited and fabricated internet influencers, it is extremely important to encourage public figures who celebrate authenticity and positivity.
Just one week into the new year, on Jan. 8, 2020, Jillian Michaels spoke out against Lizzo’s weight in an interview for Buzzfeed News’ “AM to DM.” Michaels, most popularly known for her work on “The Biggest Loser,” asked, “Why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter? Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes.” Though the trainer and television personality did admit to being a fan of her music, it was evident that she had an issue with the idea that people should celebrate the plus-size singer’s body type. After undergoing online backlash, she later took to Instagram to further elaborate on her argument. She explained, “As I’ve stated repeatedly, we are all beautiful, worthy and equally deserving. I also feel strongly that we love ourselves enough to acknowledge there are serious health consequences that come with obesity…”
Michaels is just one of many individuals who have found an issue with Lizzo’s outspoken body positivity. Whether with intentions of comedy or concern, critiques of the artist’s weight and speculation of health issues are fairly present in spite of her large fanbase. Particularly amidst a social-media obsessed moment in time, haters are an inevitable element to fame and being a celebrity. However, in this particular case, it is important to recognize the issues embedded in these critiques. My first concern with this argument is the assumption of health issues. The assumptions that Lizzo is at risk for obesity and other health issues simply by observing her weight is ignorant and unnecessary. Also, it’s difficult for me to believe that anyone capable of such high intensity performances, complete with flute playing and unbelievable high notes, is worthy of serious health concern.
I do agree with Michaels in the sense that Lizzo’s weight should not matter in relation to her career. However, it is an unfortunate reality that the bodies of female celebrities are constantly under examination. Whether Lizzo had chosen to acknowledge her body type or not, I have no doubt that the media would have made it a topic of discussion. Furthermore, it is also an unfortunate truth that there are few other female stars who represent women that look like Lizzo. With this in mind, it is all at once important and impressive for her to show women, particularly plus sized black women, that they are beautiful and worthy of love and praise. I hope to one day experience a time when women’s bodies do not play a critical role in their career and public perception, and it’s people like Lizzo who are helping to make that day a reality.
In reference to her personal style and outspoken perspective, Lizzo is inarguably fearless. Whether we like it or not, Lizzo is going to do what Lizzo wants to do. In spite of all the watchful eyes and words of hate and rejection, she is completely and totally unapologetic in her approach to fame. She dares to do the most in any given scenario and has found much reward in taking every imaginable risk. Regardless of your personal opinion of her music or her looks, you simply cannot dispute the insistence of her fearlessness. Without even considering the content of her message, I absolutely have to admire her inability to be influenced by public pressure or critique. Her willingness to be outspoken for those who are constantly silenced, or are simply too afraid to speak at all, is not only remarkable but also impactful. Though they will surely try, I’m not sure how anyone can victoriously argue against a star so unafraid and firm in her commitment to spreading positivity. What is there to gain from fueling a fire of hate against someone so inherently well-intentioned?
The real irony of it all? Lizzo doesn’t care what you think of her body. Her conviction to self-love for the sake of herself and her fanbase transcends any desire to subscribe to the words of small-minded individuals. Though she readily admits to the struggle of finding and maintaining a positive self-image, she also provides an authentic and accessible example for those experiencing that struggle. The reason why we must celebrate Lizzo and all that she stands for is to enforce the idea that worthiness of self-love is a universal truth. In order to reach a point where an individual’s body type is not of anyone’s concern, we must first celebrate the bodies of those who have been told for so long that they are less-than. I celebrate Lizzo and any public figure willing to speak out for messages of positivity.