Fun fact: Every few months, I play this game with my co-workers where I excitedly mention the singer and rapper known as Lizzo, and they all play like they have no idea who I’m talking about, despite likely hearing her music on about half a dozen commercials daily (“Worship,” anyone?). Then I hit them with a link to her Spotify or a video on YouTube, and their memories are instantly—and happily—refreshed.
Why do I love Lizzo so? Because she is a brilliantly talented, body-proud, sex-positive, say-it-to-your-face (or “Say it with your chest”?) singer-rapper who makes flat-out bops and bangers. (If you don’t believe me, I highly advise taking her music with you to the gym. In fact, try “Fitness” or her recent feature on Big Freedia’s extended play Ward Bounce, “Karaoke.”)
So I was thrilled that one of my personal faves was featured as one of the cover stories of Teen Vogue’s weeklong “Pass the Mic” music series. While Lizzo—born Melissa Viviane Jefferson in 1988 in Detroit—is a fully grown adult, it’s good to know that up-and-coming generations are beholding this star on the rise (even if my colleagues are slow to catch on).
Speaking of stars, Lizzo is fixated on hers—astrologically, that is. In fact, after much begging on her part, along with a little coaxing from Teen Vogue, popular astrologer Chani Nicholas was persuaded to read Lizzo’s birth chart, which apparently has “an undeniable bounty of personality, vitality and ambition.”
What follows is a fairly insightful astrological ride through the performer’s cosmos, but what gives the most insight into the magic that is Lizzo is her own charting of her musical journey, which began as a Pentecostal church girl (“Secular music was the devil,” she says) to making her way to Minneapolis to start a music career, as she explained to Teen Vogue:
I see similarities from gospel to metal music in the technique and in the feeling. I think because of that I’m able to find that common thread ... I have to find the soul in everything.
And if folks tend to feign ignorance about Lizzo’s existence despite her very memorable music, she knows why. She gets real about how the noninclusive music industry parallels the high school pecking order:
When I was in high school, I was a big girl with a cute face. So dudes liked me secretly, but they didn’t like me publicly. I never had a boyfriend because they didn’t want to claim me. So, now, in this industry, I’m a big girl with a cute face and some cute music and I’m still being liked secretly and not claimed publicly ...
[People] will be like, ‘Lizzo’s my favorite new artist ... why am I late for the Lizzo train?’ You’re late, honey, but it’s not your fault. You’re late because I’m just at the back of the shelf. But I’m glad you’re here because you worked to find this.”
But as secure in her body as the artist may seem now, she admits that self-love has been a hard-fought process. “I didn’t love myself until I was 21,” she tells Teen Vogue about the year after her father died, which she describes as “hitting bottom.”
As she told Teen Vogue:
Everyone shouldn’t have to hit rock bottom to love themselves. That’s just the society we’re all unfortunately born in—the one where you have to hit your worst and hate yourself in order to love yourself? Those laws only exist because self-hate is so prevalent. Body positivity only exists because body negativity is the norm. ...
It’s bizarre to me that what I’m saying and doing is revolutionary, because it should be so innate and first-nature. ... We should love ourselves first. We should look at our bodies as vehicles for success, and not a signifier of who you are, how good your pussy is, if dudes like you or not, or if you can fit certain clothes ... that’s not what your body’s for. ... That’s a part of my journey: I want to love myself, and to truly be in love with yourself is freedom.
And though Lizzo’s stars aren’t yet aligned enough to tell us when we can expect a next album, she does give Teen Vogue “The Playlist of [Her] Life,” calling Missy Elliott her ultimate icon and “The Rain” the song that “made me believe I could do anything.” She also shouts out Destiny’s Child’s “Lose My Breath,” Crime Mob’s “Knuck if You Buck,” Ciara’s “Goodies” and, because she was a “band nerd,” the theme song to ... Jurassic Park.
It’s the kind of out-of-left-field choice that signifies why Lizzo is such a special artist, and why hers is the kind of voice we need to hear more of:
I’ve always stood up for the underdog and the underrepresented because I can’t escape from that myself. I can’t wake up one day and not be black. I can’t wake up one day and not be a woman. I can’t wake up one day and not be fat. I always had those three things against me in this world, and because I fight for myself, I have to fight for everyone else.