Written by Penelope Farthing
For those of you who might not know, Lizzo, a musician and incredibly talented flautist has been reaching new heights with her catchy songs and lively personality. I first heard of her when she was a guest judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race a season or two ago, and her music videos pop up in my YouTube recommendations sometimes. She’s definitely worth a listen.
Lizzo is very much a supporter of body positivity, and flaunts her obesity with pride, even going by the handle @lizzobeeating on Instagram. In my research for this article, I had a scroll through her IG feed, and saw that many of her photos feature her in some state of undress, posing provocatively and showing off her assets. I’m no prude, but there’s a lot of T&A showing. She has been featured in Playboy and her latest album cover features her posing in the nude.
This photo in particular that I saw on Madame Noire is the one that gave me pause.
It features the songstress in what looks to be a public place, speculated in the comments to be either an airport, (which, I really hope not, airports are gross and sitting your bare ass on anything in public is foul), or an Italian radio station RTL 102.5, with a lacy black thong, ass to the camera, and a white woman looking pretty perturbed in the corner. Praise was showered onto Lizzo in the comments, calling her brave and beautiful. Additionally, a common theme was that since the white woman was wearing Crocs, her opinion, that we can discern based on her facial expression, was moot. I can’t make that make sense so I won’t try.
In any case, is this display a good look for black women?
If you’ve read my blogs, you’ll know that I’m going to say…definitely not.
Black women keep losing by doing things that are within our control.
Despite all her undeniable talent, Lizzo falls into a few of the common stereotypes of black women face: that we are adorned with unrealistic knee-length weaves, and are fat, over-sexualized women who rely on the overdone trope showing our bodies off to get attention, rather than our talent.
I have a completely different (and probably controversial) view of body positivity that I will share in a future blog. To me, this display was in poor taste and completely unnecessary, not because she is overweight, but because it’s simply inappropriate for the setting. I would feel this exact same way if she was a CrossFit athlete or Olympic runner, or if it was any other black female entertainer. There’s a time and place, and wherever she was, it was neither.
Additionally, since this took place in Italy, this is doubly a bad look. Black women are often viewed as prostitutes over there, no matter how good they look, so this display just gives credence, though untrue, to another negative stereotype on a global stage. Not to mention, the image in question has garnered over 400,000 likes, compared to a significantly lower number out of the other photos presented here.
Look at this woman’s face.
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Saw a random dude say my hair was “crunchy” well bitch this hair culture inspired ur fave “influencers” stiletto nail/baby hair/gold jewelry #lewk so suck my dick you’ll be seeing this hair on a Milan runway soon don’t come sucking up to it when it’s on fairer skin ho. And to the 1.4 million ppl that’s seen juice and said nice things I LOVE U!!!! 🌈🥰 nails @nailfiestudio | makeup @iwantalexx | hair @theshelbyswain 🎶
Look at it. Do you see her face? She is beautiful, enviably so, in fact. And she is incredibly talented with an impressive vocal range, flow, and flute skills that could make any of the classical greats write a sonata just for her. Is all this booty showing necessary? I bet it won’t be long before people know Lizzo by her bounteous butt rather than her song catalog.
There is a line between loving the skin you’re in, and just being inappropriate. Is this body positive or simply an attention-seeking gimmick? Sad to say, I’m going with the latter.
Black men call us every name in the book when it comes to our appearance, and when pictures like this show up, they’ll say “SEE! I told you, you’re all fat and disgusting!” Because the counter promotion of black women at healthy weights is less frequent, images like this:
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you know how many times i’ve been told this couldn’t happen? i’ve heard the word “marketable” tossed around like a football at a public park, but i’ve never bought into they hype. when you have something to say— your own narrative & line of thinking, when you’re vocal about who you truly are, that is your selling point. there’s not another you. and whatever body you were placed in is worthy of celebration. fuck marketable. we’re iconic. | thank you, @calvinklein. this is the beginning. ✨
(Chika, a black female rapper who was promoted in an ad not too long ago looking downtrodden and depressed in her Calvin Klein drawers), get to pin the collective with the fat, unappealing black woman stereotype.
And yes, I’ll be waiting for the “you’re fatphobic!!!” commentary I’m sure will fill the comment section, to which I say, sure, why not. Not every criticism is phobic. I don’t like when black women twerk on a graduation stage. Does that make me twerk phobic? I don’t like when black women have children out of wedlock. Does that make me birth phobic? Face tattoos disgust me. I guess I’m face-tattoo-phobic. If strongly disagreeing with obesity promotion for my fellow black women makes me fatphobic, sign me up. Mind you, her obesity is only one reason why I don’t like this. If she was a healthy weight I wouldn’t like this either. The ho stereotype is alive and well today, and highly visible black women with their ass out where the setting does not call for it only adds fuel to the fire.
We are judged as a collective whether we like it or not. The image of the half naked obese woman, or the warrior woman, or the one-woman graduation twerk team, will be shared more than the black demure, petite PhD candidate or the entrepreneur successfully growing her small business.
So to my fellow black women, take heed. You don’t have to show off your thighs, cakes and pies to get noticed. Obesity is not cute, but that doesn’t mean you can’t love yourself as a work in progress. And remember, not all the attention you get is attention you want.