“I was born like this, don’t even gotta try” – Loving myself loving Lizzo

13 Jun

When I was in grade school, visiting the downtown Richmond Public Library was a treat. They had books I couldn’t get at my local branch, and every time we went I made a beeline to one in particular: The Fattest Bear in the First Grade, by Barbara Robinson.

The story centers around Roberta, a pudgy koala who breaks swings by sitting on them. When she whimpers, “Bears are supposed to be fat,” as a carnival guy extracts her from a go-cart after getting stuck, he replies, “Yes, but some bears are fatter than other bears.” Even worse, she splits the seams of the pink party dress with ribbons she covets at the dress shop. So, she swears off sweets in favor of raisins and apples, and voila! A few weeks later, the pink party dress fits. The End.

I was 100 pounds at eight years old, so this was the ultimate fairy tale: pudgy turning into pretty. While I didn’t adopt any of Roberta’s healthier habits, I did digest the subtext of this otherwise unassuming little picture book: Fat is shameful, and only thin bears deserve pink party dresses.

Some 45 years after my trips to the Richmond Public Library, that book continues to exert its power. I know full well weight is not the only measure of good health, and standards of beauty evolve constantly — and really, self-worth shouldn’t boil down to what other people think. Yet any time my pants feel tight, I’m Roberta sitting alone in the classroom during recess, berating myself.

Thank God for Lizzo.

Although she’s made the rounds for a while, 2019 has been a monumental year for the Detroit-born, Houston- and Minneapolis-bred Melissa Jefferson. She’s a one of a kind: a rapper who only discovered her monumental singing voice at 19, a self-professed band nerd who plays jazz flute then twerks. She performed at Coachella; she’s one of the headliners at MoPop in Detroit in July. After performing on Ellen, being written up every five pages in Rolling Stone and getting rave reviews on NPR for her first major label record, Cuz I Love You, even white suburbanites are singing along to “Juice” during their morning commutes – at least this one certainly is.

If I’m shinin’, everybody gonna shine (yeah, I’m goals)
I was born like this, don’t even gotta try (now you know)
I’m like chardonnay, get better over time (so you know)
Heard you say I’m not the baddest — bitch, you lied

It’s no secret that Lizzo is a thick girl. That is often the lede with interviewers because, frankly, it surprises them that she loves herself as she is, and her size is not what she considers to be her defining characteristic. (It is just one more item on the list of all things Lizzo, along with being a dancer, Prince collaborator and funny as hell.) As Trevor Noah rightly told her, “You’ve really dismissed it and said, ‘I’m not doing this for your brave label. I’m just me.’”

“Before the term ‘body positive’ was just, kind of like, a mainstream thing, I was just making music about my body that was positive,” she said. “My mere existence is a form of activism, and I wear that hat really well—or not wear the hat at all,” she told Trevor Noah, laughing as she held up the Cuz I Love You album cover showing her in all her naked glory.

The notion that women could live in their own skin without a second thought is so alien to most of us. It challenges all we were taught as girls about what is and isn’t worthy, much less beautiful or healthy. Lizzo’s gift to the Robertas of the world is her absolute joy in being herself, every unique bit of it.

Ya-ya-yee!

See you on the flip side …

2 Responses to ““I was born like this, don’t even gotta try” – Loving myself loving Lizzo”

  1. Tom Doyle June 18, 2019 at 10:15 am #

    Thanks for posting!

    • lpon45 June 18, 2019 at 10:56 am #

      Thanks for reading!

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