So let’s get right to it. How is the (internet-created) baby shared by Chris Evans and Lizzo?
Lizzo busts out a laugh.
“There is no Chris Evans baby, there is no entanglement, although we’ve had some conversations and he’s cool as hell,” says Lizzo, 34. “But as is clear from this documentary, I am committed.”
“Oh, yeah,” she says with a smile. “It’s always on now.”
For longtime fans of Lizzo, born Melissa Jefferson, the singer’s decadelong journey from flute-playing obscurity to chart-topping celebrity is well-known, with an outsize emphasis on her emergence as a body-positive icon with both a shapewear line (Yitty) and an Emmy to her name (for “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls”).
“Love, Lizzo” candidly fills in the blanks for those whose image of the performer is superficial. It goes beyond how the proudly plus-size rapper found fame with hits such as “Juice,” “Good As Hell” and the Grammy-winning “Truth Hurts,” and digs deep into hardships that include being fat-shamed, losing her father at age 21, living out of her car and, despite finding success, struggling with everything from online trolls to love-life woes.
The documentary is, like Lizzo, unblinking. There’s Lizzo as her overweight young self. Lizzo working feverishly in high school and college to perfect her classical flute playing. Lizzo the homebody disappearing into books. Lizzo and her battered Subaru. Lizzo bawling while listening to a Harry Styles break-up track. Lizzo fearlessly comfortable in various states of undress.
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“The question isn’t how am I so honest, it’s how are people comfortable not being themselves,” she says. “But this world hasn’t made space for being yourself, they’re made space for fitting in somewhere, and I never did. So I decided to make my own space, and I’m comfortable there.”
Lizzo is very comfortable twerking. In fact, she took fire when she went to the Library of Congress last September to see a crystal flute given to President James Madison, and twerked on social media while playing the rare instrument.
Twerking is seriously business for Lizzo; she’s even delved into the deep African influences of rear-shaking movement in a TED talk.
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“I’m fully prepared to get criticism when this film comes out, especially on the topic of twerking,” she says. “It’s not just people who hate on me and are fat-phobic who have issues, it’s even people in the (Black) culture who understand twerking, they criticize me, too.
“So for me, giving American Blackness a classical etymology is important, because so often American Blackness gets taken over by the culture and is diluted. I’m not trying to make you like twerking, or make you decide if it’s good or bad. I’m just saying this is where it comes from.”
If Lizzo is frustrated by her critics, she tries not to let it show. This is a woman on a mission who seems determined to crush any of life’s roadblocks.
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“I’m built for this life,” she says. “The documentary tries to show that throughout I have always pushed it to the max, always been a hard worker with a goal. I’ve been through so much that winning awards and working on dream projects, that’s not work.”
Speaking of future projects, with a long-germinating fourth studio album now behind her – “Special,” with its infectious chart-topping single “About Damn Time” – and her plus-size dancer “Big Grrrls” competition show humming along, could movies be next?
“Hey, it doesn’t get bigger than HBO Max, honey,” she jokes about the platform hosting her doc. But Lizzo has shown a flair for acting, as with her deft comedic guest host (and musical star) performance on "Saturday Night Live" this year. She doesn't wave off the idea, but qualifies it.
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“I can never just do things for the sake of doing them, so that’s why this first film project I’m putting into the world, well, it’s an intro to who I am,” she says. “I’ve gotten massive offers for things that went on to be big, but I said no because I didn’t want to be known as the girl from that movie, but rather for the girl with the music.”
Mission accomplished. Although things turned out not exactly as a younger Lizzo might have envisioned.
“Growing up, I always wanted to be a famous flautist, maybe not James Galway big, but you know, first chair in a symphony, I wanted to be notable,” Lizzo says. “That didn’t happen. But then suddenly I’m at the Met Gala (last May) playing this $55,000 flute on the red carpet, and I’m like, oh, fifth-grade me is happy, I made her dreams come true.”
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Lizzo addresses Chris Evans, twerking criticism, HBO Max documentary