By Jessica Dortch
AFRO Production Editor

There has been a lot of controversy around whether or not pop singer Melissa Jefferson, known as “Lizzo” is hurting the image of Black women. Unfortunately, in this country all Black women are involuntarily involved in the uphill battle of image acceptance in some way, shape or form, specifically by the mainstream media. Black women are constantly shamed for their hair texture, their facial features, the amount of melanin in their skin and obviously their distinct physical physique. 

For those of you who may not know, Lizzo has been on the music scene, receiving head nods from the likes of the late Prince among others, for a decade, long before getting her big break in 2019. When Lizzo exploded onto the Billboard charts after being an “underground” artist for so long, she reminded me of a millennial version of Baltimore’s own Mo’Nique who publicly promotes plus size women positivity, like in her iconic BET Awards performance in 2004.  

The irony is that what most people love about the 32-year-old singer and musician also happens to be what others resent.

32-year-old singer and musician Lizzo. (Photo by Scott Roth/Invision/AP)

Lizzo’s music promotes femininity, self love and body positivity and her performances of those songs mesmerize audiences with stunning visuals alongside her team of plus size, diverse women of all shades and shapes. Regardless of how undeniable her gifts are, some people just can’t get over her size. 

In a world where plus sized women are deemed unattractive and undesirable by some people, Lizzo is a ray of light and a breath of fresh air. But just to be clear, I don’t agree with the literal showing of her butt and her twerking every chance she gets, in the same way that I don’t agree when other artists like Meg Thee Stallion do it.

From what I see in the media, the only acceptable image of a Black woman is one that gives in to the stereotypes. It is only acceptable for us to be either super sexualized or ghetto, and anything outside of that is just too good to be true. 

It was for this opinion that my family, at a recent gathering, accused me of “fat shaming” Lizzo. We were talking about the Lakers basketball game incident, and I simply stated that I “didn’t want to see all of that.” They pounced on me before I could even finish my sentence. I’ll admit that my feelings were a little hurt because fat shaming was not my intent. I have plus sized family members and friends who attract more suitors than I do on any given day. My point was that I believe there is a time and a place for everything. When I pondered on the topic a little longer, I realized that my views on the topic were just a result of my conservative upbringing. 

I don’t consider myself to be a curvy woman, but I will still catch a side-eye in a heartbeat from my mother for wearing a pair of leggings without having a shirt that covers my butt. I was raised with the understanding that you put clothes on to be sexy instead of taking them off.  

I love the fact that Lizzo is fearless and comfortable in the skin that she’s in and empowers other women to do so. I think it is important, especially for Black women, that we embrace every quality that the good Lord gave us. If you are uncomfortable with the way that Lizzo loves herself and encourages women, who look like her, to love themselves, then it is because you have been conditioned to think that way, making you a part of the problem. 

The truth is that it is our God-given right to express ourselves freely in any way that we choose, and we shouldn’t hold our biases and opinions as a standard for others. 

Jessica Dortch is an author, a writer and AFRO’s production editor. For story suggestions or other inquiries email jdortch@afro.com and follow her on Twitter @jesscreatively.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO. Send letters to The Afro-American • 1531 S. Edgewood St. Baltimore, MD 21227 or fax to 1-877-570-9297 or e-mail to editor@afro.com.