Lizzo minds her ‘fat, Black, beautiful business’ — and embodies our Ursula fantasy in Vanity Fair
For Vanity Fair's November issue, Lizzo talks body positivity and bodily autonomy, making history and why she writes for Black women.
Melissa Viviane Jefferson — better known as Lizzo — is no stranger to an artful clap-back. Look no further than her veiled response to unsolicited comments on her weight that Ye, the artist formerly known as Kanye West, made during an Oct. 6 interview with Fox’s Tucker Carlson.
“I feel like everybody in America got my mother—ing name in their motherf—ing mouth for no motherf—ing reason,” she told her audience during a tour stop in Toronto. “I’m minding my fat, Black, beautiful business!” (People magazine).
But if looking good is the best revenge, Lizzo clearly understands the assignment, stepping out in red patent leather platform boots and a matching ruffled tulle coat for the cover of Vanity Fair’s November issue. As the Grammy, NAACP, Soul Train and BET award-winner tells the magazine, everyone could likely benefit from minding their own business — including the U.S. Supreme Court.
“The Supreme Court has politicized law and made it a weapon against human rights,” says Lizzo, who donated $500,000 to Planned Parenthood and the National Network of Abortion Funds. She also compelled tour promoter Live Nation to match her donation in the wake of the decision that overturned Roe v. Wade. “It’s about power and control. It’s about white male supremacy; it’s always been about white male supremacy in this country and the people who are complicit in helping uphold it.
“Black people have been dehumanized so much — especially Black women,” she adds. “The way Black women have been treated in this country has made me feel very hopeless. I don’t think there was a time when [we] were treated fairly and with respect … As a fat Black woman, this country has never gone forward; it’s stayed pretty much the same for me.”
As evidenced by Ye and the remarks of countless others, Lizzo’s status as an award-winning and ridiculously successful entertainer don’t insulate her from the disrespect often aimed at fat, Black women. Lizzo’s body and what it represents have routinely been fair game for those attempting to relegate both her art and identity to the “body positivity” box.
“I can’t fit into a box!” she jokes when Vanity Fair suggests the same. “You mean if I lost weight, what would happen? Is my music and my weight so intrinsically connected that if I were to lose weight, I’d lose fans or lose validity? I don’t care! I lead a very healthy lifestyle — mentally, spiritually, I try to keep everything I put in my body super clean. Health is something I prioritize, wherever that leads me physically.”
”It sucks that we associate weight gain with the negative thing that causes it,” Lizzo continues, admitting that like many, she is prone to comfort eating in response to stress. “[I]t’s the stress that’s the bad thing, not the 20 pounds. I feel very lucky because I don’t feel that weight gain is bad anymore. Nor is weight loss — it’s neutral. And food is fun,” she adds.
Being sexy is fun, too, and whether one personally finds Lizzo sexy, she acknowledges it as a zero-sum game for Black women, in general.
“Black women are hypersexualized all the time, and masculinized simultaneously. Because of the structure of racism, if you’re thinner and lighter, or your features are narrow, you’re closer to being a woman,” she notes.
In Vanity Fair’s cover story — which Campbell Addy photographed — Lizzo once again leans into the type of high-fashion fantasy typically not afforded fat, Black women, including rocking designer Bad Binch Tongtong’s octopus-inspired dress, making us long for her version of Ursula in “The Little Mermaid” (Melissa McCarthy will portray the villain in Disney’s upcoming live reboot). “Look, I’m having a great time, but the things that I’ve experienced that I have to debunk or clarify, just by simply existing, looking like me, is an indication of progress,” she says. “But it’s just the beginning of it.”
Nevertheless, whether being accused of “desecrating” President James Madison’s 200-year-old crystal flute while making history as the first known Black person to play it, or being called “corny” for making unapologetically boppy self-love anthems, Lizzo is learning to handle criticism quite well.
“I just ignore them,” she tells Vanity Fair. “My favorite thing is ‘You’re wrong.’ Your opinion wasn’t fact in the first place.”
And she has a word or two for those who wrongly accuse her of making music for white people. “I am a Black woman, I am making music from my Black experience, for me to heal myself [from] the experience we call life,” she explains. “It blows my mind when people say I’m not making music from a Black perspective — how could I not do that as a Black artist?”
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