Written by Saran Lawson
When I think of Lizzo, I’m actually transported back to a time before I knew of her existence. A past space where Missy Elliot was before her time in hip hop music; making space available to Black women everywhere who didn’t conform to the norm. Or even in recent times where Childish Gambino, the alternative hip hop artist, was known to the rest of the urban world as Nerd Rap. If you were a stan before 2016, you were most definitely perceptive of the greatness he embodied. You were a nerd too. I can guarantee you, anyone, who didn’t know who he was thought you were lame for supporting him.
Missy Elliot was one of the earlier modern representatives of Free Black Children. Black people who refused to be defined by the archaic monolithic stereotype of American Blacks. Black people who resisted the American trope forced upon them by our country, the world and even each other. We didn’t have to only define ourselves one way. We are as undefined and strong as the coils that grew from our scalps. We were allowed to be free-spirited and explore what that meant to us. We were allowed to define ourselves just as white people have always been able to. We are and always have been freaks, geeks, nerds, flower children, lolitas, and everything in between. We could listen to whatever music we wanted and be whoever we wanted to be.
We are as undefined and strong as the coils that grew from our scalps. We were allowed to be free-spirited and explore what that meant to us.
Upon her arrival on the scene, the woman many women in music credit as the person who let them know it was ok to be a “weird black girl”, Missy Elliot made a space for women like Lizzo. A free-spirited black girl who dares to give us feminist power ballads like, Good as Hell and Truth Hurts while embracing who she is. She has made it clear that she hates to be told that she is bold for embracing her body, but I’ve read many comments from women saying she gave them permission to embrace themselves. Although she doesn’t see herself as bold for doing what she should be allowed to do anyway, the rest of the world sees her as rebellious. How dare you defy our standards of beauty and create your own?
Although she doesn’t see herself as bold for doing what she should be allowed to do anyway, the rest of the world sees her as rebellious.
Lizzo is an alternative Hip Hop artist known in the same way Childish Gambino was before we were allowed to like him. Or even Missy Elliot, making hip hop music all in a lane of her own. She created an alternative sound all her own. She didn’t set out to be a martyr for women looking to see themselves in the music industry; women who wanted to see themselves as pop princesses in an industry who denied them a mirror.
The rapper and songstress dished out two albums; Lizzobangers and Big Grrrl Small World. The two albums were released on independent labels. They both received major praise from critics. She then signed to Atlantic Records and released her EP Coconut Oil and recent album, Cuz I Love You. Even early on in her career, she preached loving yourself. My Skin, on her second studio album, describes her consistent message in her career, Learning to love yourself and your body. The intro opens up with her speaking about learning to love your body saying:
“Learning to love yourself and like learning to love your body is like a whole journey that I feel like every person, but more specifically, women, have to go through so I feel like doing this is a good way to kinda breakthrough and kinda seal the last chapter of the “learning to love” and just loving..”
Perhaps, the reason she is described as bold is her message to the world emphasizing the importance of loving yourself. A message that societal standards frown upon. She pushed past the stereotypes of the industry and cracked the mold she was supposed to fit in. She wrangles the monolithic black woman telling the world that we exist outside societal expectations. She shares her message in her outstanding performances; a message that says, you should love yourself because there is only one you. Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson in Detroit and raised in Houston, Texas. She is the girl who slays the flute and twerks simultaneously. She is relatable as a self-proclaimed band nerd and 100% That Bitch. She didn’t ask to be the face of body positivity. But, she is exactly what we needed to set a new standard in an industry totally dependent upon the standard.