Lizzo Is the Queen of Body Positivity on Social
By Linda Freund · January 16, 2020
Confidence just took a DNA test — turns out it’s 100% Lizzo.
The artist is Time’s 2019 entertainer of the year, is up for eight Grammy awards, and just debuted on SNL, twerking in a tuxedo no less!
The quintuple threat (singer, flutist, rapper, actress, and dancer), Lizzo turns everything she touches into social video gold. Why? Because she makes viewers feel good as hell.
Body positivity is Lizzo’s incantation, and she embodies the message du jour: confidence is self-love. Big is beautiful and vulnerability is brave.
Why are you so surprised when a plus-sized woman is confident, Lizzo often asks the media. “When people look at my body and be like, ‘Oh my God, she’s so brave,’ it’s like, ‘No, I’m not. I’m just fine. I’m just me. I’m just sexy. If you saw Anne Hathaway in a bikini on a billboard, you wouldn’t call her brave. I just think there’s a double standard when it comes to women,” Lizzo said in a recent Glamour interview.
This empowerment message is clearly what viewers want. Lizzo has magnetized 146M views and 19.2M engagements on her social video platforms in the past 90 days alone. Plus, on the official Lizzo YouTube channel, she’s seen an additional 134M views and 2M engagements.
Brands and publishers, are you a fellow confidence builder like Lizzo?
Lizzo is owning it on her video feeds by making confidence a matter of course with:
- Live heart-to-hearts
- Mind-blowing flute playing and twerking
- Liberating nude cameos
- And celebratory uplift of Black culture. On the significance of her 2019 VMAs performance, she wrote: “The world saw black women feeling Good As Hell and cheered us on.” This Lizzo video is one of her most-engaged videos ever at 3.2M views and 1.1M engagements on Instagram.
So, how can brands and publishers effectively normalize confidence in 2020? Lizzo is the superstar to study. Read on for the pudding in the proof.
Singing Lizzo’s Body Positivity Tune
When it comes to body positivity, some brands think that by simply featuring women of all sizes in video campaigns, they will become overnight champions of inclusivity. But brands can’t afford to be PINOs: Positive In Name Only.
They must also, like Lizzo, adopt a confident attitude to match. Brands that can link an ad to their product’s larger empowerment messaging win out in the social video space.
As in: “Yes, our new, inclusive ad is great, but only because it’s core to who we are and our broader messaging around body positivity.”
Lizzo, through her song lyrics, video diary entries, and endless support of fans, has perfected this.
Confidence Is a Dish Best Shared
How does Lizzo normalize confidence with attitude? She makes it a group affair. To uplift yourself, you must uplift each other.
“I want you to look at the person next to you and say ‘I love you, you are beautiful and you can do anything,’” the superstar said to a packed crowd at the 2019 Glastonbury Festival (7.6M views and 233K engagements on Facebook, plus 3.1M views and 720K engagements on the star’s Instagram account).
The impact of this pop-psychology push is clear. Look no further than “College Kids React to Lizzo” (7.2M cross-platform views and 187K engagements). In this video, a diverse group of college students encounters Lizzo’s music, some for the first time. Joy and big feelings ensue.
As one student puts it: Lizzo “embodies that experience of a black woman getting her hair done.” The artist creates a nourishing space for communal uplift, where you befriend everyone next to you, where everyone shares advice.
It goes further: when Lizzo wins, everyone wins. The artist takes every gain she makes (from an awards-show debut to a new wardrobe gain) and makes it relatable.
“I woke up feeling like a gazillion dollars and you should, too. Even if you’re not playing Coachella. ‘Cause you know what, girl. Every stage is a Coachella stage,” Lizzo said in one of her most-engaged videos ever.
The video, which was posted to Instagram’s creator feed, takes viewers into Lizzo’s bedroom for a look at her Coachella fashion (1.1M engagements and 16.3M views on Instagram). We’re talking diamond-studded Dr. Martens, a reflective bodysuit, and a rose gold chain-link necklace.
Takeaway: Everyone Gets a Crown
In 2020, brands can easily leverage this type of shared recognition. The key is to help viewers both appreciate and admire the fantastic, but also take joy in their more simple gains.
Audiences can enjoy and adore bling. But they don’t need a crown (or diamonds) to know that they’re a queen.
Lizzo took just this approach in a partnership with automobile manufacturer Nissan. The pop star took viewers behind the scenes as she rehearsed for the 2019 BET Awards.
The video served up all the glamor of the celebrity lifestyle, but Lizzo also took a moment to discuss easy things you can do to build self-love.
Confidence Is Honesty: Lizzo Opens Up About Depression
Lizzo is the queen of positivity. But the ones who lift us up can also struggle with sadness and self-doubt.
Last summer, the singer turned to Instagram to open up about her battle with depression. “I’m depressed and there’s no one I can talk to because there’s nothing anyone can do about it. Life hurts,” the Lizzo video revealed. What resulted was a groundswell of support and an opening for so many of her fans to share their own struggles.
A day later, the pop star posted a vulnerable video response (2M views and 357K engagements on Instagram). In an unguarded moment, Lizzo sheds tears as she explains how she copes: by using sadness as a tool for gratitude
“I learned in the last 24hrs that being emotionally honest can save your life. Reaching out may be hard but as soon as I did it, I was immediately covered in love,” Lizzo said.
Thanks to social video, people no longer have to suffer in secret. In the past decade, many people have turned to the medium to come out about depression, suicidal impulses, eating disorders, miscarriage.
The fact is, amid all the trolls (weight shamers of late), social feeds are where people can find lifesaving empathy and support.
Lizzo shows us that true confidence is honesty. On social video this translates into opening up about life’s joys and its struggles, even (or perhaps especially) if they shatter one’s curated image.
Lizzo’s honesty is what helps viewers connect with a personality as big as hers. She’s human, like us. The superstar doesn’t have it all together, she doesn’t have all the answers. She struggles, too. And that’s okay!
Both individuals and brands alike can consider ways to be more open in 2020 (from owning up to mistakes to admitting they are in a growth or transformation period). Viewers both admire and benefit from this transparency.
Lizzo Takes on ‘the Male Gaze’
Each time Lizzo performs, the star subverts traditional notions of female sexuality. Music videos have long been obsessed with the male gaze, showing sexy images of women for the pleasure of the male viewer.
Lizzo disrupts this in a novel way. She will whistle with her flute and twerk in a revealing outfit to her heart’s content, as seen in her 2019 BET Awards performance (20.6M views and 556K engagements on YouTube). But in between moves, she’ll shout “b****,” as if to say, “I’m doing this for my pleasure. Not yours.”
In this simple act, Lizzo totally short-circuits the male gaze. She’s not a passive female that can be objectified. She’s actively enjoying her body on her own terms.
Still Lizzo does it all playfully, with some element of camp. It’s less of a male-slamming session, more of a celebratory wink.
“I think the wave of feminism where we’re at right now that’s overtly sexual and in your face is a response to where we are,” Lizzo said in a recent NPR interview. “Where we were burning bras, now I’m like, my bra is in your face.”
Lizzo video feeds are a direct reflection of this:
- She turns her booty into a musical instrument (5.3M views and 720K engagements on Instagram)
- Does a peppery modern dance in see-through apparel (4.7M views and 465K engagements on Instagram)
- Shows off her light bulbs (aka nips) through her tank top (2.1M views and 218K engagements on Instagram)
These examples embody confidence for one’s own pleasure, on one’s own terms.
Of late, when a brand runs an ad counter to this, or implies a woman is changing her body for the pleasure of the male gaze, the response is resoundingly negative. (One word: Peleton.)
This cultural shift towards owning one’s power is bigger than Lizzo. It’s part of the fourth wave of feminism we find ourselves in. And it’s bigger than women’s rights.
It’s queer-inclusive, sex-positive, body-positive, and digitally-driven, according to Bustle. Brands who are up on this progression and contributing to its actualization are the ones nourishing viewers most.
The Age of the Anti-Diet
“I guess I am a body-positive role model. I’m pretty positive about my body. And I have rolls. And I model,” Lizzo said in a recent video.
Lizzo is plus-sized. But instead of covering that up with clothing or starving herself to meet Hollywood standards, she embraces her natural shape.
In December 2019, Lizzo debuted a new music video for her hit song “Good As Hell” (10.5M views, 376K engagements on YouTube). In the video, the superstar snacks from a bag of Cheetos. It’s a graceful act of rebellion in a Hollywood historically obsessed with fad diets and thinness.
In fact, the only time Lizzo actually comments on a fad diet is when she’s joking about it.
Like that time Lizzo went invisible on the red carpet thanks to her green-screen suit: “Me, after drinking 8 glasses of water and eating kale,” she wrote.
Heading into 2020, body positivity is evolving from statements of self-love to real action. In January, London will host its first anti-diet festival. And Instagram has a new policy that blocks teens from seeing diet posts on its social feeds.
This includes influencers promoting cosmetic surgery, diet teas, and supplements. Brands who are reaching teens, in particular, on social have an opportunity to support this anti-diet movement early on.
Takeaway: Brands, Be Our Support System
What does self-love look like from a marketing perspective? Musicians are definitely leading the charge!
For several years, brands have worked tirelessly to break the fake, as seen in this Urban Decay ad, featuring Lizzo. There’s Lane Bryant which told plus-sized viewers: you can do anything (also starring Lizzo).
There’s Calvin Klein, which recently launched a series of confessional ads, in which celebrities shared their truths.
In one memorable ad, musician Billie Eilish explains why she wears baggy clothes. (Eilish is also disrupting the male gaze in her own surprising way.)
Finally, there’s pop star’s Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty disruptive lingerie line that’s using social video to say: goodbye airbrushed fantasy, hello curves and stretch marks.
The connective thread between all: self-empowerment. Brands, it’s time to act as a supportive friend on social. Rather than blast what viewers are missing out on (an age-old marketing tool), 2020 is the time to help folks see what they already have.
As Lizzo sings in “Good As Hell”: “Woo girl, need to kick off your shoes. Got to take a deep breath, time to focus on you.”
Ready to learn more about your audience and what confidence they want from you?
Banner image via Andy Witchger via Flickr and CCA2.0 license