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OPINION: Lizzo and the Music Industry

On Mar. 29, pop star, Lizzo, released an official statement on her Instagram account claiming that she is “tired of putting up with being dragged by everyone” in her life off-stage and on the internet. Lizzo concluded her statement by saying that she “didn’t sign up for this sh*t,” in reference to the turmoil she has faced as a celebrity and feeling like “the world doesn’t want [her] in it,” and that she quits. 

Like most people, I was alarmed by this sudden outburst despite being aware of the allegations made against her last year by backup dancers who claimed that Lizzo had been engaging in sexual harassment, racial and religious discrimination and went as far as to fat-shame one of her dancers as well. I admire Lizzo because of her presence and success in the music industry and the way that she uses her platform to uplift and empower plus-size Black women like me. At the time of these allegations, I was in complete disbelief that a figure like Lizzo, who I look up to, would even do such heinous things. While a judge dismissed certain allegations, the case as a whole has been set to move forward to a trial according to Billboard. I was relieved to find out that some of the allegations were thrown out and I felt empathetic about her statement that she was quitting because I understand feeling overwhelmed by criticism. 

On Apr. 2, Lizzo released a video clarifying that she is not quitting the music industry but instead, she is no longer “giving any negative energy attention.” In this video, she discussed how making music and connecting with others is something that she loves to do, and that being able to inspire others to “stand up for themselves” is more fulfilling than she “could ever hope for.” Watching that video not only gave me a sense of relief but it also gave me more to think about in terms of the things Lizzo has had to endure as a plus-size performer. Lizzo has faced tons of backlash for her weight since her emergence into the music and performance industry, facing her work being downplayed as a musician and performer because of her size and even accused her of promoting obesity because of her involvement in the #BodyPositivity movement. `It is disheartening to see people say such demeaning things about someone who represents my demographic of people and to think that such backlash would get to the point of pushing her to the brink of quitting made me extremely upset, mainly because I feel like people who dislike and openly criticize Lizzo for her character are viewing her from a discriminatory perspective. 

While this topic may be uncomfortable to some, I believe that race plays a factor in the way that people treat Lizzo and whether they choose to support her or degrade her. I would like to reference one of the harmful stereotypes of Black women called “the mammy.” This stereotype refers to a specific type of Black woman who is plus-sized and dark-skinned and, unlike other Black women who are hypersexualized and sexually exploited, is desexualized because of the implicit notion that this kind of woman is unattractive. I feel that the presence of this stereotype in our history and the way that it is ingrained in our society has a lot to do with how Lizzo is received by viewers. I believe that Lizzo makes people uncomfortable because she breaks the norms of what is to be expected of someone who looks like her and like me. She dresses in revealing and/or tight clothing and shows nothing but joy in doing so, even when people disapprove of her media presence and image. 

Despite her strength in the face of negativity, Lizzo announced on Instagram that she had written an essay and posted it on Tumblr. In her essay, Lizzo vulnerably expressed her complicated relationship with her own feelings despite being able to ​​”process, decipher and regurgitate other peoples emotions effortlessly.” Lizzo referred to herself in the third person by her legal name, Melissa Jefferson, and told a story about how she grew up and the way that she lived her life under 3 rules, namley being : “Don’t cry,” “Stay neutral;Deescalate'' and   “Don’t take anything personal. This isn’t about you.” This essay evoked a strong emotional response from me because as a Black woman, I am also heavily affected by the Strong Black Woman schema. I, like many Black women, feel pressured to remain neutral even in situations like Lizzo’s where she is constantly being scrutinized for her appearance and other aspects of her identity. Sometimes, in my opinion, it may feel like expressing one’s emotions is a sign of weakness, and oftentimes when Black women are emotionally vulnerable they are criticized more intensely and invalidated for how they feel. While reading Lizzo’s essay, I felt hopeful, because by the end of her story, she explained that she has embraced her emotions and declared that her “feelings [give] life purpose.” Her story about being able to overcome that barrier with her emotions is also a story about strength and overcoming societal barriers as well. 

Lizzo is constantly fighting against societal norms as a plus-size Black woman and I think that she is a very inspirational figure since she represents those who are not conventionally attractive according to societal beauty standards and in comparison to others within the music industry. From my perspective, Lizzo’s announcement about no longer entertaining negativity is part of a bigger conversation about harmful stereotypes against Black women and how Black women are impacted by them personally and professionally.  

By Elaina Irving, Staff Writer


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