Pop Culture

A Tale of Two Beauties: Lizzo & Zozibini

Written by Penelope Farthing

Feature photo image credit: People Magazine

Do you remember back in July, a day or two after we were all celebrating Halle Bailey getting cast as Ariel in the live action Little Mermaid, the Disneyland brawl popped off? Something similar has just happened again. Mere hours after Zozibini Tunzi of South Africa was crowned Miss Universe, another black woman was broadcast the world over, albeit in a different way.

 

Songstress Lizzo went to a Lakers game dressed in a thong, her buttocks revealed by a dress that looked like more like a hospital gown than a garment meant to be worn outside.

As she is wont to do, she even got a twerking session in on the big screen while the cheerleaders danced to one of her hit songs.

I got dragged the first time I wrote about Lizzo, so I’ll try to keep this short and sweet.

 

Was this display appropriate? No. There is a time and place for everything, and this was neither. Remember when that black woman in the yellow outfit twerked at her son’s high school graduation? It wasn’t appropriate then. Or another twerk-gate, when a graduate walked across the stage, threw up a bunch of ones, and dropped it low, low, low as she accepted her diploma? Still not appropriate. It is not a difficult thing to understand – there are places better suited for certain things, and any of these three venues were not it.

 

Interestingly enough, I didn’t see as many people defending this display. The usual praise of this being empowering was still there, but in smaller numbers. Personally, I don’t see this as confidence. Nakedness is not confidence. The need for constant attention, be it via photos shared on social media, or thonging it up at a basketball game, reads as insecure to me more than confident. Not everything a black woman does is deserving of praise, and not every criticism is rooted in negative feelings. Her talent can speak for itself, is this extra stuff necessary? I get that bare backsides is her brand, but is it perhaps a little gimmicky now?

 

And another thing. I know you can’t catch diseases off toilet seats, but is it possible to end up with some crazy bacteria when you pop a squat on a chair that is unlikely to be routinely cleaned, in a public venue?

 

Here’s some yucky (and admittedly unrelated) trivia. Did you know that scabies can live off a person for 48-72 hours? In a world where antibiotic resistant bacteria exists, I cannot think of a sensible reason why a bare booty should perch upon a seat in a very public, heavily trafficked venue. One of my all-time LEAST favorite things is a sticky surface, with an unknown reason for the stickiness. I bet that whole arena is sticky, by nature of it being an arena! I just cannot imagine sitting on a courtside seat with my front and back bits so close to the general public. Plus, aren’t these venues typically air-conditioned to arctic temperatures? So it would be cold and sticky? Like the kids say, I can’t even. But that’s just me. Anyway.

 

If the comments section is to be used as a sample for a wider audience, one would believe that a line was crossed this time. Personally, I’m not offended. I, and many others, have seen Lizzo’s butt many times over. In fact, I see it as part of her brand and come to expect it, and am more surprised when she’s covered up. And no, it wasn’t the time or place, but it just annoys me that this display will get more press, as a walking over-sexualized stereotype of black womanhood.

Pageants just aren’t as “in” as they used to be, so the elegant beauty Zozibini just crowned the most beautiful woman in the whole damn universe might get overshadowed by peak ratchetry. Additionally, I admit the comparison of these two ladies is a bit unfair, as one is an entertainer who makes her living this way, and the other is a pageant queen who likely had to cultivate her poise and grace to compete on this level. However, as both of them made headlines within hours of each other, I wanted to call attention to it. Who benefits from this?

 

As is common, I saw people making false comparisons, such as:

 

People wear that and worse to the beach!

Except, you go to the beach expecting to see T&A. The beach is not the same as a basketball game. Also, the beach is not televised.

You don’t complain when thin women do the same thing!

Except, there is a time and place for everything, of which a basketball game is neither. If Zozibini, or any of the other black Miss Universe contestants, or any other regular black woman, rolled up to the game in the same outfit, I would be just as disgusted. If I recall correctly, another problematic black woman, Azealia Banks, went somewhere in a similar getup a few years ago, and she too was dragged by the edges. Classless is classless, no matter the size.

 

If it was [some other famous person] you wouldn’t care!

In a similar vein, tacky is tacky, no matter who is doing it. So far I haven’t heard of another celebrity going to a basketball game in a dress that looks like assless chaps with a wedgie, and if it does happen, I’m sure the dragging will still happen as scheduled.

There are kids there!

To be honest, Lizzo’s butt probably isn’t going to traumatize any youngins. These days children are exposed and have access to far more hurtful or dangerous things than a naked backside. If a child has a cell phone, I’m pretty sure they will have seen worse. This does not mean this was appropriate in any means. The display was tacky, regardless of the presence of grade schoolers.

I saw comparisons made between Lizzo’s attire at the game, and that of the cheerleaders. The cheerleaders, while scantily clad, still had the tits, pits, and naughty bits covered. And yeah, I own granny panties with more material than the shorts they were wearing, but they are working, and that’s their uniform. Their provocative gyrations could also be seen as questionable in an audience with children, but hardly anyone is bringing that up. You don’t have to use the presence of children as a reason to support that this was not a good look.

Is there something deeper?

The conspiracist in me thinks that this is some higher concerted effort to uplift black women three steps forward in the beauty of black womanhood, and drag us 10 steps back. Here we are basking in the glow of a dark-skinned, natural-haired, eloquent, elegant black woman, and then we get this to knock us down a few pegs. Obviously, there is no conspiracy at play here. And yet…

 

The collective of black women are regarded as the most disrespected woman on the planet. We are not a monolith, but we are treated as one. But how can we expect others to respect us when many of us don’t respect ourselves? We reinforce negative stereotypes in others, hyping it up under the guise of sisterhood, and complain when we get painted with that same broad brush in our personal lives. Lizzo did not sign up to be anybody’s role model, but unfortunately that’s what happens when famous black women are in the public eye. When black women go viral for doing something classless, it affects the collective image. Whether we like it or not, by nature of her fame and talent, Lizzo is a representative of black womanhood. And because she is viewed as relatable, maybe even more relatable than a pageant winner, she, and women like her, will be uplifted in spite of behaviors that reflect poorly on us.

I’m glad Lizzo’s hard work and her talent and her grind has paid off and made her a household name. But her constant playing into stereotypes, and using being a “grown woman” and similar platitudes to justify it, seems so counterproductive, and attention hungry. A true grown woman can take correction and learn from a mistake.

 

At this rate, Lizzo will have to get a colonoscopy at her next concert, because her butt is old news.

 

It’s just so sad to me that on one hand, we can have an elegant beauty like Zozibini Tunzi represent the pinnacle of black beauty and femininity on the global stage, and on the other, the ratchet and the wretched getting equal, or more, press. Undoubtedly, there will be displays like this again, promoting black women partaking in the negative stereotypes we are trying to shake. It is up to the collective to say where we stand on these displays and work hard to reclaim our image. An image, tarnished not just by white society or black men, mind you, but by other black women too.

 

Does Lizzo’s display matter in the grand scheme of black female promotion/representation? Am I reaching? Let’s hear your thoughts in the comments below.

Disclaimer: This blog was written by me, Penelope, and my ideas are not necessarily reflective of Christelyn Karazin or other writers on this platform.

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