JOHANNESBURG — A woman sits on a church pew, wearing a veiled hat, flawless make-up on (or, as those in the know would say, “face beat”), rocking a lacy white blouse, fanning herself while she listens intently to the preacher preaching.
But it’s not some kind of holy spirit that’s possessed her — it’s the spirit of radical self-love.
“Look up in the mirror, oh my god, it’s me,” she sings.
This a scene from the musician Lizzo’s Scuse Me video released earlier this year. If the body positivity movement had an anthem, this would be it. Scuse Me is catchy, it has a killer bass and the lyrics are fun to sing along.
It’s an ode to self, a melodic tribute to those days when your skin is popping (“coconut and rose in my skin regime”, she sings), when you look in the mirror and see more pros than cons (“I’ll be slappin’ on that ass, gettin’ thicker and thicker”).
But the song isn’t just about looks. It is also about attitude and knowing your worth. As Lizzo sings later: “I don’t need a crown to know that I’m a queen.”
Real name Melissa Jefferson, Lizzo has been garnering attention not just for her music (it’s great), but also for her sassiness and confidence. (Side note: Yes, it’s problematic that a confident big girl is treated like an anomaly, while a confident smaller girl is seen as a given.)
In an interview with Vogue, the muso acknowledged the importance of representation of different body types in media, and the role she plays.
“I want to put women who look like me in the mainstream, I want that visibility and fairness. Visibility is important because it lets people know those opportunities are available. I want little girls to see me and my dancers and be like ‘Hey, I can do that too’,” she said.
She says: “I want another artiste to see the big girls onstage doing the splits and entertaining the crowd at size 16, 18 and I want that artiste to say ‘Who cares about their size? They’re great dancers’.”
The artiste hasn’t always been so confident about her body. In a 2015 video for the What’s Underneath project by mother-daughter blogging duo StyleLikeU, Lizzo explored her relationship with her body, one that was often fraught with tension.
She said her initial body goals were unrealistic (for example, at one point she wanted to be white). It was in high school that she began to embrace self-acceptance.
“I learned to love my bigness so much that it turned into this awesome thing where I feel like I’m bigger than every person I know. I feel bigger and taller, and it’s a good thing. I have this reverse body dysmorphia, where all my insecurities are awesome things,” she says.
Asked why her body is a good place to be, she responded: “Any body is a good place to be if you’re listening to and taking care of it. I am, for the first time, listening to it and giving it what it wants: from vitamins, to positive reinforcement, to sunlight, to rest. I think it likes that, so it’s being nice to me back.”