“Self love is not a trend, it is a radical act of revolution” – Lizzo
The Lizzo T-shirt arrived in the post one day when I was feeling low. As a pick-me-up it worked a treat. Lizzo’s beautiful face and body on a T-shirt sent me skipping back to her music, her words of joy and empowerment, her mood-elevating songs. “I’ve been so down and under pressure. I’m way too fine to be this stressed, yeah,” she declares in her Grammy-winning song About Damn Time.
“That’s right,” I told myself, faking it in the hope I might make it. “I am way too fine to be this stressed.” Pulling on the T-shirt, I gave thanks to my past self for her thoughtfulness. Sometimes after too much wine I’ve been known to indulge in a little late-night online retail therapy. I didn’t remember clicking a button to purchase this Lizzo T-shirt but I must have done, because there it was.
[ Róisín Ingle: ‘I love you so much,’ I shout unconvincingly to my struggling self ]
My friend Lisa texted a few days later. “Did you get my present?” she asked. “No, what present?” I replied. “Feck, I sent you something to cheer you up but it must have got lost,” she said and went off to hassle the couriers. It took a few hours but gradually it dawned on me that maybe I didn’t purchase a Lizzo T-shirt in a tipsy haze. Maybe Lisa had sent me Lizzo in the post. “I think I got your present,” I texted, adding a slightly embarrassed smiley face emoji.
Lizzo started to become a sort of mentor to me when she talked about her fitness regime a few years ago around the time I had started to exercise regularly for the first time in my life
I’ve been following Lizzo’s ascent to award-winning, chart-topping, TikTok- dominating queendom for a while now. It started, for me, with Good As Hell, one of the most cheering songs written. (Put it on now for an instant musical boost.) The 34-year-old American singer became an overnight success after 10 years of hard graft that included a stint sleeping in her car. Her motivation was clear: “When I was a little girl, all I wanted to see was me in the media. Someone fat like me, black like me, beautiful like me. If I could go back and tell little Lizzo something, I’d be like, ‘You gonna see that person but, bitch, it’s gonna have to be you.’”
I put my Lizzo T-shirt on to watch her win Record of the Year at the Grammys over the weekend. She sang her self-love anthem Special surrounded by a gospel choir. “Fame is pretty new but I’ve been used to people judging me/That’s why I move the way I move and why I’m so in love with me.”
Lizzo moves through the world in her body with no apologies. The classically trained flautist has been playing the same tune for years, telling fans they should love themselves, celebrate their talents and reject societal expectations. She started to become a sort of mentor to me when she talked about her fitness regime a few years ago around the time I had started to exercise regularly for the first time in my life. “It may come as a surprise to some of y’all, that I’m not working out to have your ideal body type. I’m working out to have my ideal body type. And you know what type that is? None of your f**king business.”
[ Siobhán McSweeney: ‘As an Irish woman who isn’t Angelina Jolie, the big fear is invisibility’ ]
And now, as Lizzo would say, I’m about to get into my feelings. Like her and many other women and men you know, I’ve been judged for my weight all my life. As though my body was anybody else’s business. As though people were entitled to have an opinion about the body I move around in. I’ve been shamed and ashamed, I’ve been hurt and I’ve cried, I’ve been taught I should loathe myself and tried and failed and tried and failed again to fit into a shape that might finally be acceptable. But lately people like Lizzo, braver and younger than me, have been my teachers. I’ve been learning their lessons well.
I had a chance to prove exactly how well at a lunch the other week. I was with my mother. It was a jolly occasion, a gathering of fun, clever people. We were choosing what to order and I was musing aloud about whether to have dessert. I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I asked the waiter whether I could have a bit of cheese instead. He was about to answer but a woman at the table intervened. “No, you mustn’t have cheese!” she roared. “You are too fat for cheese! No cheese for you!” I sat, stunned, taking in what had just happened.
I’m officially over it. It’s taken decades but I don’t care what anybody thinks of my body or my Gouda consumption. It’s about damn time
The woman insisted she was coming from a good place. She was worried about my health as I aged. She was older than me and struggled with her weight all her life, she said, and she felt she must warn me. It transpired that she actually believed she was doing a good and kind thing.
In the past I might have been devastated by what had occurred, left the table, cried in the toilets, starved myself for two days. But it was heartening to discover I felt sorry for the woman, not for myself. Calmly, in a soft voice, I explained that what she had said was unnecessary. I told her that she didn’t know what might be going on for the person she was cheese-shaming. I pointed out that the psychological stress caused by her comments could be far worse for a person than a few slices of Brie. I told her that ultimately, my body, other people’s bodies, were none of her fecking business. She said nothing for a few moments. “I’d never thought of it quite like that,” she said. She had done this kind of thing before, she told me. I don’t think she’ll do it again.
Now, ‘scuse me while I feel myself a bit more, as Lizzo would say. The radical self-love revolution is being televised. It’s Lizzo, big and bold, twerking in a leotard or jumping for joy in a silver dress while getting a standing ovation from Beyoncé́ at the Grammys. It’s any man or woman anywhere, refusing to be shamed for their shape. Thanks to Lizzo and others, I’m officially over it. It’s taken decades but I don’t care what anybody thinks of my body or my Gouda consumption. It’s about damn time.