Lizzo is known to give audiences an energetic twerk on stage and social media, but for the Grammy Award-winning musician, it is more than just dancing. In a newly released TED Talk, she shares how twerking is significant to Black culture and history as well as how dropping it low boosted her self-confidence.
“If you follow me on social media before you’ve probably seen my heinie before,” she began. “I used to hate my ass, believe it or not. I have my father’s shape and my mother’s thighs, so it’s big, and long. I used to think that only asses like J.Lo’s or Beyoncé’s could be famous. I never thought that could happen to me.”
The “Good As Hell” singer has faced public criticism over her body since she entered the spotlight. In fact, back in August, social media giant Facebook was forced to delete profiles of users who have left distasteful comments on the singer’s account. Amid the nasty comments, Lizzo received an outpouring of love from fans and her peers such as Cardi B and Chlöe.
During her TED Talk appearance, the 33-year-old discussed how beauty standards have changed throughout her life and how she has been impacted by it all. She also addressed the constant judgment of her size from others.
“I always felt like my body type wasn’t the right one, or the desirable one growing up,” she revealed. “Because I grew up in an era where having a big ass wasn’t mainstream.”
She added, “My ass has been the topic of conversations, my ass has been in magazines, Rihanna gave my ass a standing ovation. Yes, my booty! My least favorite part of my body,” she continued. “How did this happen? Twerking. Through the movement of twerking, I realized that my ass is my greatest asset. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my TED Twerk.”
She continued to discuss how she learned to twerk in the Houston teen club scene and broke down how the rhythmic dance moves came from African traditions and developed into modern-day Black-American culture.
“Modern-day twerking derived from Black people and Black culture. It has a direct parallel to West African dances like Mapouka,” she explained. “Black people carried the origins of this dance through our DNA, through our blood, through our bones. We made twerking the global cultural phenomenon it became today.”
The “Truth Hurts” singer continued, “I twerk because I’m talented,” adding, “Because I’m sexual, but not to be sexualized. I twerk to own my power, to reclaim my Blackness, my culture. I twerk for fat, Black women because being fat and Black is a beautiful thing.”
Watch Lizzo wax poetic on the Black history of twerking and how the cultural-based dance practice helped her love herself on TED Talk above: