Celebrity trainer Jillian Michaels, known for any number of infomercials after being one of the original taskmasters on The Biggest Loser, appeared on Buzzfeed’s morning show AM2DM Wednesday morning to hawk her fitness app, during which she managed to prove that the biggest loser may actually be the one with the biggest mouth. Asked by host Alex Berg for her thoughts on the wave of body positivity promoted by stars like supermodel Ashley Graham and superstar Lizzo, Michaels gave a characteristically unfiltered response, saying:
“I’m sure [Lizzo]’s a cool, awesome chick...but why are we celebrating her body? Why does it matter?” Michaels asked. “Why aren’t we celebrating her music? ‘Cause it isn’t gonna be awesome if she gets diabetes—I’m just being honest....there’s never a moment where I’m like, ‘And I’m so glad that she’s overweight.’ Like, why do I even care? Why is it my job to care about her weight?”
To be fair, the question wasn’t ideal, nor was Berg’s fairly silent handling of Michael’s response. After all, we’re talking about a human being here, not a trend. We’re also side-eyeing Michael’s assinine suggestion that diabetes is exclusive to overweight people, because while we’re fully aware that there’s an increased risk; we also know plenty of fit-looking folks with “the sugars.”
What we know for sure is that minding your business is low-glycemic.
The truth is, we also wish it didn’t matter—and as watchers and producers of woman-centric media who have an unabashed love for Lizzo, we have, at times, wondered if all the chatter about her body—which is well in line with the current American average but somehow still an anomaly in the music industry—threatens to overshadow her ridiculous talent. Sometimes, we’d also love to just celebrate her music—but that’d be a hell of a lot easier to do if she wasn’t constantly derided for standing proud in the space she takes up in the world.
Maybe that was what Michaels was trying to say to Berg, however ill-phrased. But any and all of Michaels’ personal opinions aside, Lizzo has chosen to make her body part of her platform (as have any number of pop stars before her), and it certainly hasn’t inhibited her highly active live performances. In fact, many might say, as did The Root’s Jay Connor, that her body—and the self-love she’s built around it—inform her music, as well as her identity.
And who are we to say it shouldn’t? That she shouldn’t?
Besides, would Michaels have made the same comments if asked about Beyoncé or Cardi B’s physical presence? Or even Adele, for that matter? (We couldn’t help but notice that Ashley Graham escaped further mention.)
Body positivity is about far more than shouting affirmations; it’s about creating a culture in which we’re all allowed to celebrate our own bodies as much or as little as we want—without being questioned or policed by someone whose chosen occupation is to help people become skinnier, at times via drastic and dangerous methods—as more than a few Twitter users were quick to point out.
Berg garnered significant backlash for the exchange as well, as many felt she should’ve taken the opportunity to defend Lizzo, especially after introducing the topic for discussion.
In response to the criticism, Berg tweeted:
“I just wanted to say: I really appreciate folks [sic] thoughts and checking me on the conversation. I’m reading through the comments and discussion, and wanted to acknowledge that.”
What we’d like to acknowledge is that just because someone talks about their own body doesn’t automatically make it fodder for a public forum. Were we to give both these women the benefit of the doubt, we suppose each might’ve “meant well” (we guess). But to Michael’s point, it’s not her job to worry about Lizzo’s body...and she could’ve just left it at that.
Because shutting up is always (fat) free.
Updated: Wednesday, Jan. 8 at 6:22 pm, ET: Though currently taking a break from Twitter, Lizzo posted a cryptic Instagram post on Wednesday afternoon. She didn’t directly acknowledge Michaels’ comments or the ensuing controversy, but the musician offered a moment of self-care to her legions of fans, writing: “today’s mantra is: This is my life. I have done nothing wrong. I forgive myself for thinking I was wrong in the first place. I deserve to be happy.”
Yes. Yes, you do, Lizzo.