There’s a new Disney Princess in town, and it turns out she’s 100% that b*tch. She has a number one pop song on the Billboard charts, a certified gold album, an appearance in the movie Hustlers, and serious hype for taking the cake at this year’s music awards. The truth (hurts) is, Lizzo is having a moment and it’s one that you–and more importantly your kids–don’t want to miss.
Meet Melissa Viviane Jefferson, aka Lizzo
For those who haven’t heard of her yet, take it from me, Lizzo is worth the listen. Start with “Truth Hurts” to get hooked, graduate to “Juicy” for Obama’s favorite summer jam, and round it out with “Good as Hell” for a feel-good female anthem. Her signature style is full of witty one-liner lyrics like “No, I’m not a snack at all, look baby I’m the whole damn meal” and motivating mantras like “Boss up and change your life. You can have it all, no sacrifice.”
I spent all summer jamming out to Lizzo because her viral-worthy lyrics are fun to sing, her catchy tunes are easy to bop along to, and her powerful messaging is refreshing. What I didn’t see coming is how much my kids would love her too.
Quick Caveat: The Curse of Curse Words
For parents, Lizzo’s music does pose one problem. You only have to hear your five-year-old scream-singing “I’m 100% that bitch” once to stop in your tracks and take stock of your parenting choices.
Backing up, the millennial generation was raised with what seems like a universal punishment for cursing: “I’ll wash your mouth out with soap.” Now, as we begin having our own children, we’re faced with more serious issues than cursing like body shaming, cyberbullying, racism, and sexism, to name a few.
Enter Lizzo. In addition to her unique talent and hard work, what really sets Lizzo apart from the herd–and why she’s the perfect role model for our kids–is her strong belief in loving and respecting people as they are.
This means that for us millennial parents, Lizzo is forcing us to make a decision: do we pass up a chance to teach diversity and inclusion because it comes with curse words? Which is worse, profanity or “other-ism?”
Sure, it’s not always one or the other, and we can find ways to teach diversity and inclusion without using profanity. But the chance to stress the importance of these morals in a cool, fun, and relatable way is few and far between. And Lizzo is handing it to us on a silver platter.
Body Positivity Needs to be Taught Early
Looking past the profanity, Lizzo’s lyrics touch on a wide variety of positive messages, none more powerful in the context of raising kids today than her normalization of body positivity. I was shocked to learn that by age six, girls especially start to express concerns about their own weight or shape. In fact, 40-60 percent of elementary school girls (ages six to 12) are concerned about their weight or about becoming too fat (National Eating Disorder Association). Worst yet, this concern endures through life and can have long-term ramifications that result in eating disorders, mental issues, or bodily harm.
Luckily, we live in a time when more and more people of influence are awakening to this issue. Padma Lakshmi, an actress and mom to a nine-year-old, recently shared, “I realized my daughter has been listening to me talk about my weight. When we have taco night, I have taco salad with just a few crumpled chips. No tortillas, sour cream or cheese. When we order pizza, I get it for her, but I have leftovers of brown rice and lentils. When we make pasta, I have only Ragu with greens. While I’ve been working to lose weight, she has been going through a growth spurt. She still asks me to carry her, but now she’s four feet tall and weighs nearly 60 pounds. So, I’ve inadvertently been telling her, ‘You’re too heavy now to lift.’ She’s noticed, and suddenly she’s told me and others in our circle, ‘I don’t want to eat because I’m watching my figure,’ or, ‘I weigh too much.’ Her comments stopped me dead in my tracks. Her words scared me. Language matters. We send signals to our daughters every day. And I am her first touchstone of femininity.”
She’s right. What we say about ourselves, both to and around our children, matters. How we act, and how we explain those actions, matters. Vaguely cognizant of this, I’ve adopted proactive efforts to redirect any body conversations from “skinny” or “pretty” to “healthy” and “happy.” We’ve nearly deleted the word “fat” from our family’s vocabulary because we believe it’s loaded with judgement and, in the very rare case that we’re discussing weight as a healthy or unhealthy example, we opt for the more clinical term of “overweight” instead. We encourage our kids to have fun with their fashion sense and try out anything from dresses to pants to overalls. The idea is not to prevent them from wanting to dress up and be “pretty,” but to show them that as long as they’re healthy, they can look however they want, as opposed to what they think other people want them to look like.
Still, countless researchers stress that children learn by example, and that young kids learn by what they see. So when all they see from musicians, actors, and people in the spotlight are the same thin bodies with traditionally attractive faces, they’re taking the cue that that’s what they should strive for as well.
There are a lot of things we as parents cannot control–what their friends say about appearances at school, if their crush thinks they’re attractive, or what they think about themselves when they look in the mirror. Yet, starting from an early age, there’s one thing we can control–what we do, and don’t, expose them to.
Introducing Disney Princess Lizzo
On weekdays, my kids come home from school and turn on the Apple TV Vevo app to dance along to their favorite music videos. Our go-to playlist includes a lot of Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Bruno Mars, always featuring scantily clad skinny women in the background. I hadn’t thought twice about it until I played “Truth Hurts” and saw Lizzo as a seductive bride in white, lacy lingerie who, in the context of the storyline, eventually marries herself. It wasn’t just seeing a woman larger than a size 2 on screen–it was that she was quite clearly (and quite literally) in love with herself…and confident enough to show it.
Watching Lizzo batting her eyes at the camera and my two kids staring in awe, a switch went on somewhere in my brain. There’s nothing wrong with Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Bruno Mars, but there certainly was something wrong with only showing Taylor Swift, Ariana Grande, and Bruno Mars. Parenting is all just one big balancing act and on the topic of exposing my kids to a balance of body shapes and sizes, I had dropped the ball.
Your Action Item: Create Your Definition of Healthy
We’ve seen plenty of artists in the past pushing body positivity, but Lizzo has seemingly shattered the glass mirror to bring it to the forefront. With more and more research highlighting the prevalent issues of body shaming, eating disorders and the like, parents today have a unique opportunity to take more ownership of how they define “healthy” to their children.
In my humble opinion, Lizzo couldn’t have come along at a better time. Our weekday Vevo dance parties are now heavy on the Lizzo with some Meghan Trainor, Billie Eilish, and Beyonce sprinkled in. We’re going for all shapes, sizes, and looks because we’re teaching our kids to strive for healthiness and to love the bodies they’re in. Afterall, as Princess Lizzo says herself, “Mirror, mirror, on the wall, don’t say it ‘cause I know I’m cute.”
Chicago Tribune, 2019 is 100% the year of Lizzo
National Eating Disorder Association, Statistics & Research on Eating Disorders
FamilyDoctor.org, Body Image (Children & Teens)
@MotherMag, Quote from Padma Lakshmi
YouTube, Lizzo Truth Hurts (official video)