Lizzo addresses controversy over Oprah using song in Weight Watchers ad: ‘I was not informed'

Minneapolis-born rapper Lizzo sat down with body positive activist Jameela Jamil for her next episode of "I Weigh Interviews." (Credit: I Weigh)
Minneapolis-born rapper Lizzo sat down with body positive activist Jameela Jamil for an episode of "I Weigh Interviews." (Credit: I Weigh)

If iconic media mogul Oprah Winfrey called you up for a favor, what would you do? Well, Melissa Jefferson, better known as the rising Minneapolis-born rapper “Lizzo,” happily obliged — even though she’s a body-positive activist, and the ask was to feature her song in a newly rebranded Weight Watchers ad.

That decision led to backlash among fans, which the rapper has now addressed on the latest episode of Jameela Jamil’s I Weigh Interviews series.

“So you received a phone call from Oprah,” actress and body-positive activist Jamil asked Lizzo of her controversial decision to allow the use of her song.“And you did it because it’s f***ing Oprah — it’s like receiving a phone call from God.”

In December 2018, Lizzo posted the new Weight Watchers ad, featuring her song, on her Instagram. That’s when she quickly received backlash from fans for working with the diet empire owned by Winfrey— a collaboration that many believed went against Lizzo’s body-positive message. “Like I’m hyped for Lizzo to be getting that Weight Watchers commercial money but seeing Oprah and hearing Lizzo on a commercial telling me that my next year won’t be good unless I diet is bumming me the fuck out,” wrote one user on Twitter.

“Just to clarify that...This was the first time ever that I was on a set or working. And it was a verbal thing,” Lizzo explained to Jamil about the moment her manager approached her on set with Oprah’s request. “It was the quickest thing. It just happened. I was just like shιt, Oprah wants — yeah, bιtch!”

She said she was unaware of the contention surrounding the global weight-loss program.

“To be honest, people may think I’m naive, but I was really happy that Oprah took Weight Watchers and made it into something new. I was happy about that in the moment,” Lizzo revealed to The Good Place actress. “I was not informed about the history of Weight Watchers with eating disorders. I didn’t know about the stigma and the diet culture.”

In the wake of the body-positive movement, Weight Watchers has been under fire from the eating disorder recovery community for claims that it relies on an unhealthy point-based diet system that hinges participants’ success on dropping weight. Perhaps inspired by that, the company recently rebranded itself to WW Freestyle, focusing on “wellness” and the weight-loss management program’s “proven” ability to help people “sleep better and feel happier.”

Lizzo told Jamil that she has taken the experience as a lesson, and will continue to focus on her inclusive and positive messaging.

“My message is positivity, so I cannot let that affect me,” Lizzo told Jamil. “My messaging, my music, who I am is an inclusive person because I’ve been excluded… from a lot of movements, so my movement is going to be inclusive. Come one, come motherf**ing all!”

Also in the I Weigh Interviews Instagram TV series, Lizzo gets candid about her toxic past relationships, learning to love herself and her body, and why she’s dedicated to her inclusive message.

She added, “If you just open your eyes and see, everyone is going through the same struggles — we’re just different colors and different sizes — but that’s what they don’t want us to know.”

Jamil launched the Instagram TV series on March 15, in honor of the one-year anniversary of her “I Weigh” Instagram movement, seeks to empower women to evaluate themselves with the weight that really matters — the weight of their accomplishments. The first episode of the TV series featured Grammy- and Oscar-award winning singer-songwriter Sam Smith, and the follow-up, with Lizzo, launched on Friday, April 5.

"Lizzo has been someone I’ve admired for quite some time, and it has been a joy to watch her rise,” Jamil tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “We have been starving for a voice and power like hers, and I think she’s going to continue to shed light on the body positive community. I’m excited to bring this bold, honest, relatable and incredibly insightful interview from this incredible woman, to people all over the world. I wish she’d been around when I was young, but thank heavens she’s here now."

Read more from MAKERS:

Follow us on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter for inspiration on how to ignite passion and action to help accelerate the women’s movement.