Lizzo, The Lakers Game, and the Fetishization of the Big Girl

Thinker’s Notebook
By Marlon Rice

This past Sunday evening, rapper and singer Lizzo began trending on social media for appearing at a LA Lakers game wearing a black T-shirt dress which was cut out in the back, revealing her thong and fishnet stockings. Doubling down on the risque, during the Lakers cheerleaders’ performance to her song “Juice,” Lizzo got up from her seat and began twerking, her scantily covered hindparts moving to the beat on the jumbotron. The dress and the dance became the most talked about thing on social media all week, but the conversation was about far more than dresses and dances.

Lizzo, the 31-year-old musician whose music has made her one of the most visible new artists on the scene, has become known for being comfortable showing off her body. On the artwork for her latest album, ‘Cuz I Love You, she appears completely naked. On her IG page, she consistently pushes the nudity envelope. Now, what Lizzo is doing image-wise isn’t that far off at all from what many young artists do to reveal their sexuality. We’ve seen dozens of pictures of Rihanna in various stages of nudity. Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, Demi Moore and even Beyonce have all taken pics or have performed in various stages of nudity. The only thing that makes Lizzo’s self-expression different is that she is a voluptuous Big Girl. 

I read an article on “Medium” a few weeks ago, and it was written by a woman who was obese, and it was about her experiences being a Big Girl in the dating scene. Something she said bothered me, and the Lizzo incident reminded me of it. She said, “Like them, I had learned that bodies like mine were impossible to want. The only way for any of us to conceive of my body as being desirable was if that desire was pathological.” The “them” she was referring to were her friends, but in a way we all are the “them” in some form or fashion. I can remember being in junior high school and liking a particular girl and being ridiculed by my friends when they found out that I liked her. My friends, the kids that I trusted and loved, said things to me like, “You like fat girls!” As if something was wrong with that. But it wasn’t that I liked fat girls. I liked her. Still, as the author of the “Medium” article said, the only way that our society can conceive of a big girl being desirable is if that desire is pathological. In other words, I can like dozens of skinny girls without anyone chiding me for liking skinny girls, but as soon as I show interest for a big girl, my intent switches from being romantic to being pathological.

That’s us. That’s society. Rail-thin supermodels starve themselves so that they can walk the runway in expensive and glamorous frocks. Brides and bridesmaids across the country worry and fret about being able to fit into a dress that could’ve simply been purchased to fit the size that they are, and all of this insecurity breeds a consumption that feeds the markets. Yes, America gets rich off of your insecurities and fears, normalized in such a way that you don’t even notice that you are insecure and scared. But this pathological behavior concerning a voluptuous body has to surface somewhere, doesn’t it? 

The most popular porn category search for the past five years is BBW, which stands for Big Beautiful Women. Porn watchers search for Big Girls more than anything else. So, why is BBW porn so popular if men hate Big Girls? This only reinforces the sick pathology that my 7th-grade friends tried to feed me by teasing me for liking Big Girls. Big Girls are viewed as other than. Their bodies are sexualized by society, but in a method akin to taboo, something to be enjoyed and controlled behind closed doors, not to be celebrated in public. While thin bodies are universally accepted, fat bodies are not. They are enjoyed, fetishized and ogled. But they are not accepted. 

Which brings us back to Lizzo. Her outfit and twerk at the Lakers game last Sunday made waves because she’s a Big Girl. Yes, the dress was cut out in the rear end. Yes, you could see her fishnets and thong. Yes, the whole thing was provocative and most likely planned by Lizzo to elicit all of the thinkpieces and status posts that it has. But the incident became a public conversation because she is a Big Girl. Nicki Minaj dressed in all fishnet and sat courtside before. Rihanna once grabbed her braless breasts through her shirt and shook them at a game. There were no thinkpieces written about either because those women have normally accepted body types. Big Girls aren’t supposed to be accepted. 

Way to go Lizzo. You’re beautiful!  

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