Lizzo Isn’t Just Part of a Movement. She’s a Movement All Her Own.

For Allure.com's first cover of the year, writer Shammara Lawrence spoke to multi-hyphenate Lizzo about inclusivity in the fashion world, her complex hair journey, and why she wants fans to love themselves as much as they love her.

If I am ever shipwrecked, may Lizzo be the person with whom I am stranded.

Allow me to explain: In beauty, it is a common hypothetical question, if not cliché, to ask your subject what “essentials” she would have on a deserted island, if ever she found herself stuck on one. The implication is that the answers would include beauty products — say, sunscreen, a moisturizer, perhaps something colorful like a favorite red lipstick. But when I ask Lizzo this question, she immediately bypasses convention and shoots straight for practicality.

“If I’m on a deserted island, I would not have any beauty products with me,” Lizzo tells me over dinner. “Can I have a walkie-talkie, some AA batteries, a fucking flamethrower, some coconut crackers so I can crack open coconuts, and a knife so I could hunt for fish? I’m trying to be discovered...or just have a great life on an island.”

This response exemplifies Lizzo: a ray of sunshine personified, radiating an infectiously positive yet discerning nature, all with a preternatural talent for humor that makes you laugh so hard, your belly hurts. Given her powerful singing and rapping chops, impressive command of the flute, larger-than-life personality, and singular aesthetic, Lizzo is a force to be reckoned with. With her empowering anthems that celebrate female sexuality and champion individualism, it’s only a matter of time before the polymath is a household name.

Let me rephrase that: If she’s not already a known name in your household, you’re late.

When she arrives for our interview at The Park, a charming New York City restaurant with a Mediterranean flair, Lizzo excuses herself and makes a beeline for the restroom. She came straight from our cover shoot and girl has to go — stat. “Have we met before? I swear we have,” she asks upon her return. "I don't think so," I say, though I consider my longtime connection to her music and how, thanks to that connection, it almost feels like I have known Lizzo for eons.

Believe it or not, I manifested my interview with Lizzo: When she announced her upcoming tour dates in celebration of her new album, Cuz I Love You (out April 19), I hastily sent myself a note that simply read, “Pitch interview with Lizzo,” followed by several exclamation points. Since I discovered Lizzo's music in college, her songs have been a lifeline of sorts — a warm hug in my darkest hour, the kind of breakthrough therapy session that is equal parts laughter, sobbing, and soul-moving insights. Little did 20-year-old Shammara know then that just a few short years later she'd be sitting at dinner with Lizzo, and she'd be asking me whether we had crossed paths. For her, it was déjà vu; for me, it was an answered prayer.

An hour into our conversation, I compliment her striking hair: jet-black, flowy, and slightly tousled, à la a shampoo-commercial model with a perfectly coiffed finish, which tells me her hair is thanks to Yusef Williams. Hours earlier, for the cover shoot, the famous hairstylist and wig connoisseur — who’s also Rihanna’s longtime right-hand man — installed and styled a flawless, lace-front wig on Lizzo in a striking array of updos, with her edges immaculately molded around her hairline. Between bites at dinner, I catch her fondly stroking the wig, unmistakably obsessed with the feel of it. Not only is it impressively laid with zero lace in sight, Williams custom-created the unit using extensions with natural black hair that had been straightened.

lizzo for allure magazine by luke gilford

In a society that prizes bone-straight strands, long, mermaid-esque waves, and curls on white or racially ambiguous individuals, so long as they're not the kinky-curly, tightly coiled type, Lizzo is a decidedly passionate disrupter of narrow, archaic beauty standards through her own style.

“I wear black hair,” she declares, referring to the decision to exclusively wear textured hair regardless of form — wigs, sew-ins, clip-ons, or her own ‘fro. “I don’t wear any other kind of hair anymore,” she continues. “I think it’s really important as a black woman to do that because black women representing black things makes a bigger mark. We’re going to represent for us, by us.”

Indeed, black people live in a culture that stigmatizes us for wearing traditionally black hairstyles, all the while heralding non-black individuals who adopt our techniques and aesthetics, calling them brand-new trends. But Lizzo is having none of that, choosing instead to use her platform as a means to change the narrative and perception of black hair by reclaiming and rocking it in all its glory.

Despite how fans regard the performer as a paragon of self-love, confidence has not always come easy for Lizzo. After we finish our meal, I find myself opening up about my natural hair journey, detailing the years I spent desperately wishing for a texture other than my 4C Afro — a deep-rooted desire that took years to overcome. It is the type of anecdote that comes tumbling out when you're speaking with someone you instinctively sense is a kindred spirit, one who can comfort and truly empathize, too. Listening attentively, Lizzo nods reassuringly at my admission. When I ask what her relationship was like with her hair growing up, she leans in and reveals a story similar to my own.

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lizzo for allure magazine by luke gilford
lizzo for allure magazine by luke gilford
lizzo for allure magazine by luke gilford
lizzo for allure magazine by luke gilford

CREDITS

Luke Gilford | Photographer

Kyle Luu | Stylist

Yusef Williams | Hair Stylist

Grace Ahn | Makeup Artist

Dawn Sterling | Manicurist

Simone Kurland | Tailor

Shot at Pier59 Studios