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.
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.
Luke Gilford | Photographer
Kyle Luu | Stylist
Yusef Williams | Hair Stylist
Grace Ahn | Makeup Artist
Dawn Sterling | Manicurist
Simone Kurland | Tailor
Shot at Pier59 Studios