The ass was magnificent. Not Lizzo’s ass, although that is a thing of majesty, too. The giant ass balloon that swayed behind Lizzo – real name Melissa Jefferson – as she tore up the stage at the 2019 MTV video music awards, held in New Jersey last night. The Houston-raised singer and rapper has had a storming 2019: her third studio album, Cuz I Love You, was released in April to positive reviews; her appearance at Glastonbury this summer was a festival highlight.
As the cameras panned across the VMA’s audience, Queen Latifah up giving Lizzo a standing ovation. “I cried like a baby watching Lizzo and all those beautiful black girls whose bodies look like mine on stage tonight,” tweeted the actor Amber Riley.
“I’m tired of the bullshit,” Lizzo said on stage, resplendent in a canary yellow bodysuit with matching eyeshadow. “And I don’t need to know your story to know that you’re tired of the bullshit, too. It’s so hard trying to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back … you deserve to feel good as hell. We deserve to feel good as hell!” Behind Lizzo, her dancers – women of colour, of all body shapes and sizes – whooped and hollered.
Although she specialises in frothy, effervescent pop, there is a sincerity to Lizzo’s music that is tremendously moving. When she sings “I know I can do all things”, in her 2016 empowerment anthem Coconut Oil, she wills young girls listening to her music, who don’t fit the narrow parameters of slim white womanhood set out by the music industry, to believe that they, too, can own the limelight at the VMAs.
Lizzo has had her own struggles. After moving to Minneapolis in 2011 and making inroads into the music scene there – she was a visitor at Prince’s Paisley Park – there followed a low period during which she lived in her car and dieted and exercised obsessively. Thankfully, those days came to an end. She had to will herself into being, but with the release of her debut album, Lizzobangers, in 2013, she has been on an upward trajectory ever since.
Originally a rapper, it took some time before Lizzo found the confidence to sing on her records. But what a voice. Just before the cameras cut away on Tuesday, there was a moment when Lizzo nailed her final note and then burst into a spontaneous, radiant grin. Lizzo is the mood we want to channel in 2019: a much-needed soupcon of self-esteem, wicked humour (the “only exes that I care about are in my fucking chromosomes” she raps on Like a Girl), and the occasional twerking ass balloon. This is Lizzo’s time, and she is grabbing it with both hands – no butts about it.