Truth Hurts: Lizzo Reminds Us 'Fashion Is So Indebted to Black Women’s Culture'

Illustration for article titled Truth Hurts: Lizzo Reminds Us 'Fashion Is So Indebted to Black Women’s Culture'
Photo: Leon Bennett (Getty Images)

James Baldwin famously said in 1961: “To be a Negro in this country and to be relatively conscious is to be in a state of rage almost, almost all of the time.” We know that to be true, but when it comes to the fashion and beauty industries, to be Black and fat is to be largely invisible. (Trust—as a Black woman who spent two decades fighting for said visibility as a full-figured model, I know.)


Thanks to trailblazers like Lizzo, that paradigm continues to slowly but surely shift, and while some (haters) might be prone to write off the multitalented musician as a novelty, during Vogue’s Forces of Fashion summit this week, she once again said what so many of us are thinking: Black women—and yes, fat ones—deserve to be included in a conversation we so often inspire.

“Fashion is so indebted to Black women’s culture: Bamboo earrings, baby hairs, graffiti…. the list goes on,” she told friend and frequent collaborator Jeremy Scott, creative director of Moschino, via Zoom call from Mexico, where she is working on her next album (h/t Teen Vogue). “It’s not just about ‘ok, we put a Black girl [in a magazine].’ It’s also, we put a Black girl behind the scenes too. We’re giving people jobs. We are including big [and Black] women in the conversation. [Your project] is not going to be less chic because we are a part of it. If anything it’s just going to be more expansive and more impactful.”

As we know, Lizzo actively campaigned for voter participation and the Biden-Harris ticket. Following the election, she garnered some added inspiration from the new vice president-elect. “Now, more than ever, we need everybody’s voices to get the point across. No one could be left out now,” she said. “Putting clothes on big Black women like me is where it begins. I loved when Kamala [Harris] said ‘I am the first Black female VP but I’m definitely not going to be the last because what I represent is possibility.’ That’s how I feel about being the first fat Black woman on the cover of Vogue. I’m definitely not going to be the last.”

Proving why she remains both relevant and relatable, Lizzo gave insight into her always adventurous personal style—even some of her more questionable ones. Reflecting on her teenage years, she shared the frustration of so many of us who weren’t built for the size ranges of 5-7-9 and Contempo Casuals during that already awkward phase (thankfully, Hot Topic at least had the foresight to create its own fashion-forward spinoff, Torrid). Always creative who made her own rules, Lizzo recalled, “If it wasn’t made for me, I made it for me.”

Of course, now, the award-winning singer-songwriter-style icon has designers like Scott eager to help her make her next fashion statement. “[T]o have these great designers do bespoke special pieces that fit my body, my rolls, my belly… that’s the most special feeling. I feel so included, like ‘you belong here,’ versus the opposite of that feeling, which I felt for a long time.”


Now, she wants the industry to recognize the rest of its customers—the big girls, the Black girls, from fast-fashion followers to luxury lovers. And though it may seem she’s stating the oft-repeated obvious, it bears repeating until it bears results.

“We are here to stay. We are important. We are chic. We are beautiful,” Lizzo said. “I love sample-size, blonde, blue-eyed, tall girls. I think they are gorgeous, [but] I think we all could be on a fashion show....I want to see a me, too. I want to see a me, strutting with legs and thick thighs.”

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?