This past Easter Sunday, Diddy hosted a “Team Love” Dance-a-Thon for frontline workers, a fundraiser for COVID-19 relief. This idea already suspiciously looked like a billionaire asking other people for money instead of just donating it himself. He did recruit and court other celebrities to dance on his Instagram live with him and his sons, and ended up raising millions, so let’s hope the bulk of donations were from other famous people.
Anyway, while the online party did have some highlights, the reason it was contentious was because he stopped Lizzo from twerking, citing the children who may be listening, but got DOWN to Draya Michele’s twerk later the same day. Diddy quickly tried to cover up this blunder by claiming he was critiquing the explicit song Lizzo selected (“1 2 3” by Moneybagg Yo) and that his “sister” is “one of the best twerkers in the world.” But Draya was twerking to the explicit Juvenile classic, “Back That Azz Up.” Lizzo the went on Tory Lanez’s increasingly popular Quarantine Radio and doubled down on Diddy’s assertion. If only it were that simple.
The best part about 2020 is accountability and receipts. It doesn’t matter that Lizzo proclaimed she wasn’t offended by Diddy – he’s a gatekeeper in her industry. More importantly, the onus is not on Lizzo to hold him accountable. When he cut her off, many read that as fat phobia, something the internet quickly pointed out after seeing him celebrate Draya in a totally different way than Lizzo. Without even taking fat phobia into account, we already know that Black men routinely dictate the often racially ambiguous (i.e. Draya looking) and white adjacent beauty standards in the Black community. We also know how Lizzo often gets treated and talked about, by Black men and everyone else. Anyone who refuses to see this either has the privilege to ignore it or does not care.
Understatement: It is very difficult for people to celebrate fat Black bodies. Diddy himself has a complicated relationship with Black women. While his children are with Black women, he spent a decade dating Cassie (who is biracial) and people often cite his relationship with JLo as his most culturally impactful relationship. These issues are not new. Whether it’s entertainers or random men on Twitter, these ridiculous desirability politics exist, no matter how much denial is present. In entertainment, mainstream examples include white culture vulture Iggy Azalea, eating off of an appropriated image, and Black men, like T.I., who defended her until it was not profitable. Most recently, Bhad Bhabie came under fire for her increasingly racially ambiguous look. Her most recent response was blatantly racist, saying, “Who wants to be Black, I don’t understand that! I just can’t comprehend it” – and that it’s because she grew up in the hood, among other things. Profiting off Black women’s likeness does not mean one wants to be Black, it means they recognize the rewards a non-Black person receives for performing a likeness that is Black. It is rooted in anti-Blackness. Kodak Black and NBA YoungBoy are two Black men who have worked with and allegedly dated her (respectively), inadvertently co-signing her behaviour. In terms of the mixed race or racial ambiguity being uplifted in the Black community, there’s YG, who made headlines at Nipsey Hussle’s funeral when he said, “We got some light-skinned pretty girls we got to raise. We in trouble my n---a, what we gonna do?”
It’s important to understand that all Black women have to exist in order for the ones who are deemed desirable to enjoy this privilege. Colourism and anti-Blackness is an incredibly perverse and troubling phenomenon in the community that hurts Black women the most. It crosses diasporas, and can operate in silence.
Which is why it’s also important that Lizzo is given the place to sing, twerk, be visible, be celebrated, and make space. It’s the responsibility of any community interested in progressive consciousness raising to centre the people on the margins first. What Diddy should have done is analyze his position in the conversation and take some responsibility for the result of his actions. Unchecked and without accountability, we already know what bodies are most celebrated in our community (thin, closer to white) and what bodies are demonized. While there are some exceptions, and some leniency when it comes to curvier bodies, it often does not extend to include all sizes. Diddy should thank the internet for letting him know.