Lizzo is still working to combat negative stereotypes about plus-size women: 'I’m destroying them by just living'
Lizzo has worked to rid society of stigmas surrounding the plus-size community as she uses both her music and her social media platforms to celebrate her body and to combat the negative ideas that people have of it. But when it comes to widespread representation and size inclusivity, the singer believes there's a lot more work to be done.
"It's not happening quickly by no means," Lizzo told Variety when discussing size inclusivity in storytelling, specifically onscreen. "It’s happening very slow and select, and there’s a long way to go. But I have seen it budge, and that’s better than nothing."
The 33-year-old reflected on what she had grown up with in terms of diversity on television, sharing that "The choice of Black girls they used in media was the same kind of Black girl." And when it came to having any hope that she'd feel represented or accepted by any other means, Lizzo recalled a level of toxicity surrounding beauty standards and body shaming that even victimized thin white women like Jessica Simpson. "Y’all want me to believe this is an overweight, obese woman and that she should be ashamed of how she feels — how the f*** was I supposed to feel?"
The limited representation of fatness that existed in media was often used for comedy, including Eddie Murphy's character in The Nutty Professor, which Lizzo pointed out.
"He definitely had a collection of fat-suit movies that people would be laughing at, but I would feel sad. Not because I felt like, 'Oh, my gosh — that’s me.' But I had this empathy for Professor Klump," Lizzo explained. "Like, the scene where he opens his drawer and there are all these candies and M&Ms in his desk? I could literally cry right now thinking about it. People around me were laughing, but I hide food too. I feel him. I feel sympathy and empathy for him."
The negative stereotypes of people in bigger bodies have followed Lizzo into her career, as she's faced countless criticism from people online and in the public sphere making assumptions about her as a result of her weight. "I think bigger bodies have been devalued in the industry," she said of plus-size people in Hollywood specifically. As a result, she's had to confront fatphobia on a daily basis, even when it comes to people assuming that performing is a major physical feat for the singer.
"I don’t think they’re doing it maliciously. I definitely think they’re conditioned to believe that bigger bodies don’t have enough stamina to perform at the level that I do," she said of fans who have said it looks physically exhausting for her to perform. "For decades, we have been depicted on television and in movies as 'lazy,' and huffing and puffing while the other thinner characters are jogging. It’s fine. It’s a stereotype. I ain’t new to stereotypes. But what I’m trying to do is dismantle every stereotype that I have the power to do. I’m destroying them by just living and being incredible all the time."
On TikTok specifically, Lizzo has been able to take control of her narrative, sharing more intimate sides of her personality and posting videos addressing hate and fatphobia. She's even used the app to remind people of her humanity, despite being a celebrity.
"Fame happens to you, and it’s more of an observation of you. People become famous, and it’s like — my DNA didn’t change," Lizzo told Variety. "Nothing changed about me. My anxiety didn’t go away. My depression didn’t go away. The things that I love didn’t go away. I’m still myself. But the way y’all look at me and perceive me has changed. It’s a very weird, kind of formless thing."
And while she said it "bummed [her] out" to have lost a sense of her old self, the singer explained, "I’m good with it now. I’m fine. I’m young. I’m talented. I deserve the attention." She's also gearing up to release her debut TV project with Amazon called Watch Out for the Big Grrrls that she hopes will bring even more Black plus-size women the same attention and recognition.
"I’ve been watching the industry change slowly since I’ve been in the game. I’ve watched it change, which is encouraging," she said. "I see lots of size inclusion in commercials. I’ll be looking and see a big Black girl dancing in the front. Sometimes I’ll watch that shit and be like, 'Did I do that?'"
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