American pop icon, Lizzo, recently came under fire after allegations of sexual misconduct, body shaming, underpaying workers, and a hostile work environment were filed by former employers. Lizzo has since denied the allegations. The artist has since filed a countersuit. Regardless of the outcome of these suits, a certain ugly trend has been rearing its head.
Due to the nature of the allegations the singer is facing, some social media users have taken this as an opportunity to delegitimize what Lizzo has been a proponent of, for the better part of her career. Ever since she broke out as a mainstream singer, Lizzo has been criticised for her weight and for her refusal to conform to Western beauty standards. Like many other plus-size artists before her, she has faced calls to lose weight and been accused of glorifying obesity. However, unlike other artists, Lizzo stood firm and celebrated her fatness. It wasn’t something to be fixed. It just was. Originally, Lizzo was an icon of the fat acceptance movement, along with the likes of Tess Holliday. But as time went on, she became more than a celebrity who affirms fatness. She became the face of body positivity.
Lizzo normalised fat women wearing booty shorts, skinny dresses, and revealing jumpsuits. She constantly faced backlash for it. When conventionally attractive skinny women dress the same, they’re considered bold, daring, and provocative. When Lizzo did, she was shamed for being shameless. Along with this unwillingness to bow to the idea that skin-bearing was best left to supermodels or slim thick influencers, Lizzo was essentially a champion for self-love.
Her music also espoused similar messages. This is especially important for fat black women. While black women do have plenty of role models among artists like Beyonce or Rihanna, they don’t often have the same—appearance—as the women they sing for. Lizzo had a sense of realness to her. And that’s why her music resonated with so many.
To learn that she may have been the cause or architect of misery in her work environment is disheartening, to say the least. Everyone warns fans not to idolise their idols, but there’s something about having people to look up to. People who sing for your pain, make art for your innermost feelings. These people are rarely perfect. But you never imagine that they could be villains.
The allegations against Lizzo, of all people, feel like something out of a book of ironies. That the biggest champion for self-love could be yet another employer who body shames people is unimaginable. The criticisms against her alleged behaviours are absolutely warranted. The reminder that employers owe the people who work under them a safe environment. In addition, it’s a shake that should remind all that everybody in power should be held accountable. The court cases will reveal the truth and hopefully, justice will prevail . But the situation is no excuse for fatphobic people to legitimise their hatred.
Lizzo, a brief history
The situation also doesn’t mean that all of Lizzo’s work should be done away with. Born Melisia Viviane Jefferson in 1988, Lizzo first released her music in 2013. The album had an amalgamation of classical music and hip-hop. Lizzo studied classical music at a university in Texas and then later moved to Minneapolis. She explained that she was bullied growing up for her appearance, and her size, finding solace in music.
After getting mainstream success in 2019, Lizzo found herself on a path to be a self-love pontificator. In an interview with NPR, Lizzo came to accept herself, not because of inspiration, but because of a contusion. While swinging on a rope over a river, it suddenly broke and she ended up with severe scrapes and bruises. When picking herself up, Lizzo realised that her favourite thing about herself was her skin. In the damaged skin, she saw the value of it. This led to the song “My Skin”, an ode to loving your body as is.
Why the body positivity movement wants society to leave people alone
The great thing about Lizzo’s attitude towards her fatness is how she doesn’t make a production of it. She can perform for hours on stage, dancing, singing, and playing the flute, her size notwithstanding. For Lizzo, the world needs to move on from her size and focus on her craft. But all female artists are subjected to this scrutiny against their will. When Beyonce released advertisement footage of her clothing line in 2020, rumours spread that she’d gotten a BBL. Singer and Little Mermaid star Halle Bailey has rumours swirling that she’s pregnant when she appeared to have a bit of a belly.
In 2021, Lizzo called out people who coopted the body positivity movement. Lizzo credits the growth of the movement to Black, Brown, queer, and plus-size women but the movement had iced them out and gone back to body shaming. She called out how fat shaming masquerades as concern for health. She also called out fake doctors who would camp in the comments sections of fat women and give uninformed diagnoses. Studies have also found that doctors have a bias towards overweight women and often incorrectly attribute conditions to obesity.
It’s noticeable that black women have every inch of their bodies monitored and they have to fit into a specific box society has set aside for them. Were Lizzo a man who had been accused of a hostile work environment, none of the conversations would be about his physical appearance. There’d be nuanced discourse around why such culture continues to exist. Why do survivors of toxic workplaces still struggle to come out, and when they do how do they find it difficult to get jobs within the same industry?
What Lizzo has accomplished thus far for the body positivity and/or neutrality movement hasn’t been neutralised by these allegations. If anything, those who believed in her ethos owe it to marginalised people to continue spreading the same message of self-acceptance. Fat people will continue to exist, and take up space. Talented fat people will continue making art that resounds with their audience. When people love themselves, they become healthiest because they’ll treat treating their bodies right. Lizzo’s message of self-love shouldn’t be discarded. Ultimately, even the alleged devil deserves his due.
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