Lizzo’s Authentic Brand and her Cover in Essence Magazine

Prem Posted by Prem at May 16, 2019 13:31:46 May 16, 2019 13:31:46

Just under a month ago, I had the undeniable pleasure of seeing Lizzo live at Coachella. Yes, it was the performance where she stopped the music and whipped out her flute to back her own track after the audio cut out FOR THE SECOND TIME. Watching Lizzo perform is a religious and life-changing experience, one I recommend to everyone if they have the opportunity. Lizzo exudes confidence and amps up the energy with her jokes, her twerking, and her powerful vocals. 

Last week, Melayna wrote a great article on Lizzo at the Met Gala, diving into her characteristic authenticity and the media’s difficulty in accurately capturing it. Yesterday, Lizzo’s Essence Magazine cover was released, with a feature interview titled “Lizzo Twerks to the Beat of Her Own Bop”. The interview examines Lizzo’s meteoric rise, and her place as a plus-size black woman in an industry where that’s uncommon let alone unappreciated. It’s fantastic. 

The cover is also AMAZING. Tulle is in right now, as we saw at the Met Gala, but I don’t think I’ve seen it used as effectively as in this shoot. The dress frames her face perfectly, making her the centre of a bright orange flower, and the hair and makeup (especially the green eyeshadow) compliment the outfit well. The cover and the accompanying images play with the idea of spring and full bloom, a metaphor for Lizzo’s career and her impressive cultural capital. Even the banner image where she’s wearing lavender tulle is an outfit that commands respect and admiration, just like the person wearing it. 

Lizzo’s authenticity is irresistible, but what struck me most about this article was her conscious understanding of her position and responsibility as a musician and as representation for many people.

“I made a decision to be myself because I knew I had no choice…Sometimes the label ‘unapologetic’ bothers me because it can be loaded, because it means we have to apologize for something in the first place. I’m not ignorant to the fact that we had to have a demeanor of lowering ourselves culturally just to exist. But I’m trying to shake up the narrative about how we’re supposed to act.”

Even though the article points out that her pride in being a “fat Black woman” isn’t activism, notice how she uses the word “decision” in that quote. For minorities and people of colour, the very act of existing can be a form of activism. Obviously, you can’t decide to be yourself – you just are. Instead, Lizzo is talking about the decision to craft her image, something every celebrity does. When we critique celebrity gossip on this site, we’re often discussing the public persona and narrative constructed by celebrities. In this interview, Lizzo is showing that she understands the world in which she operates and names it as a reason for why she chooses to be herself. All other options aren’t made available to her without “lowering herself culturally” and by recognizing that, she has allowed herself to be carefree. 

Being carefree can sometimes mean too much freedom. Lizzo came under fire last month when in response to a pretty good review of her album Cuz I Love You, she tweeted, “PEOPLE WHO ‘REVIEW’ ALBUMS AND DON’T MAKE MUSIC THEMSELVES SHOULD BE UNEMPLOYED.” Olivia Munn anyone? Although fans were quick to point out the ridiculousness of that statement, perhaps it speaks to one of the difficulties of being authentic. If your brand is being yourself, and that brand is attacked, it can feel like a personal attack. Lizzo later deleted the tweet and apologized (take notes Constance Wu), but it does demonstrate the trickiness of her position. 

Lizzo was featured on Charlie XCX’s new song “Blame It On Your Love” that dropped yesterday. It’s a catchy song, one that’ll stick in your head for the entire day. Lizzo has a relatively small part in the song, but it’s still fire and filled with the same energy we’ve come to expect from her. Trailblazing is hard and being yourself is even harder. Lizzo doesn’t have time to dwell on that though, because as she says in the song, “I’m tryna catch millions, I ain’t tryna catch feelings.” 
 

Photos:
JD Barnes/ Essence

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