Lenny williams

How Lizzo Conquered Her Fears and Found Her Best Self

“The girl that you see onstage is now also coming alive in the songs,” says the singer, whose major-label debut, ‘Cuz I Love You,’ is out now



Lizzo in Los Angeles in March 2019.

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Photograph by Erik Tanner for Rolling Stone. Hair by Shelby Swain. Makeup by Alexx Mayo at TheOnly.Agency. Styling by Marko Monroe

A little over a year ago,Lizzo had an epiphany at the office of her label, Atlantic Records. “I was looking at Aretha Franklin on the walls,” says the singer-rapper-flutist, 31, whose first major-label album, Cuz I Love You, is out now. “I I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You. That’s what I want this to be — the album that defines my career. People are gonna be like, ‘That shit was just the beginning, & from then on it was forever lit, & she won every award.’ ”

It took time forLizzo, born Melissa Jefferson, lớn let herself dream this big. When she began performing, first in her hometown of Houston và then in Minneapolis, she’d enlist collaborators to lớn take the spotlight off herself. “I believed in myself in rock bands, R&B groups & rap duos,” she says. “But I never believed in myself as a solo artist. I didn’t think anyone wanted to lớn look at me or hear what I had to lớn say.”

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That’s changed in the past three years, asLizzo has won fans with a string of supercatchy, genre-swerving pop singles. She can serve up Instagram-caption-worthy self-love (“Good as Hell”) as easily as she does fast-rapping twerk anthems (“Fitness,” “Tempo”). She’s also shown a savvy mastery of meme culture: In October, a fan-made video clip of her playing flute section of Kendrick Lamar’s “Big Shot” before hitting the popular shoot dance at one of her shows became mạng internet gold. New fans flocked to lớn her social media for more flute-and-shoot content, along with clips of Lizzotwerking in a Sailor Moon costume or saying “Bye, bitch!” while being driven away on a cart. “Social truyền thông is a fantasy,” she says. “ I vì chưng it the way that I do because it makes me laugh.”

She credits her decision khổng lồ start going to lớn therapy last summer with having a much bigger impact on her life than social media. “That was really scary,” she says. “But going on that journey of being vulnerable with someone who I didn’t know, & then learning how khổng lồ be vulnerable with people that I vì know, gave me the courage to lớn be vulnerable as a vocalist.” She mentions the new LP’s title track, where she sings lượt thích the words are being ripped from the bottom of her lungs: “I was so afraid of sounding like that for so long. It’s a raw part of me that I didn’t allow myself to celebrate.”

Vulnerability was the catalyst needed lớn record the album in the first place. Every tuy nhiên onCuz I Love You is inspired by events from the same summer she started going lớn therapy; Lizzo says she needed to lớn learn how lớn love herself unconditionally, even when she wasn’t at her best. The resulting sản phẩm is her most honest work yet. It’s a set of self-esteem-boosting anthems from a person who has learned that high self-esteem is about more than what you present to lớn others.

“These songs are soaked into those actual scenarios, versus me being lượt thích ‘This is what you do: You walk your fine ass out the door,’ which is an ideal scenario,” she says, quoting a popular lyric from “Good as Hell.”

“I’m jumping straight into a scenario on certain songs where I’m literally sitting in a car with someone crying và I’m like, ‘Pull this oto over, I need to get this off my chest,"” she continues. “Or when I’m literally sending a text khổng lồ a fuckboy ‘Take yo’ ass home. Stop texting me.’ There’s literal specifics here. You’re in the scene of a movie: my movie, my life.”


— |L I Z Z O| (
lizzo) October 20, 2018

Lizzo likes lớn see her life through the lens of a documentary film, imagining how she or someone else might talk about a given moment on camera. That thought process echoes advice she got from her first co-sign, Prince, when they worked together just a few years before his death: Be eternal.

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“When I have khổng lồ make decisions, I always choose honesty và I always stay true lớn myself, because I know at the over of the day that is what’s going to remain,” she says. “That is what’s going lớn be the legend: That I was true lớn myself và that I honored every person by staying truthful khổng lồ them.”

Lizzo’s myth-making begins on the stage: She’s a powerhouse singer, a fast rapper and an excellent dancer whose charisma makes any performance irresistibly joyful. For years, her concerts helped win fans, và now, for the first time, she feels like she’s releasing a toàn thân of work that can live up khổng lồ her shows.

“Short anecdote,” she says. “For years, people would come up lớn me & be like, ‘You know, your albums are good, but I always tell my friends they gotta see you live ’cause it’s way better.’ I feel lượt thích now is the first time nobody can say that shit to lớn me.”

While she has always felt miễn phí and uninhibited on the stage, in the past Lizzo found herself being a perfectionist to a fault in the studio. She credits X Ambassadors’ Sam Harris, who worked with her on the track “Cuz I Love You,” with helping her realize she didn’t need khổng lồ be scared of what she was recording.

“I was like, ‘I’m afraid of my voice. I’m afraid of people thinking that I’m one thing,"” she says, recalling her concern that she would be pigeonholed as a soul singer for belting the way she did. “I had to just thua trận that fear, because the more people get khổng lồ know me, the more they’ll realize I have many, many, many levels to lớn me.”

This spring,Lizzo is back on the road for her biggest tour yet. “Buy a ticket, bitch,” she only half-jokingly advises. “Last summer was transformative for me,” she adds. “The girl that you see onstage is now also coming alive in the songs.”