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100% her year: How Lizzo became the one thing we all loved in 2019

Gerrick D. Kennedy, Los Angeles Times on

Published in Entertainment News

LOS ANGELES -- Lizzo's dressing room at the Forum felt as if it would collapse at any moment from the piercing screams of fans.

In the arena, 17,000 tweens and teens were greeting, at delirious volume, K-pop phenomenon BTS, co-headliners this early December evening, alongside Lizzo, Billie Eilish and Katy Perry, of KIIS-FM's Jingle Ball, the annual processional of the year's most au courant hitmakers.

Backstage, the 31-year-old singer-rapper-flutist was curled up on a leather couch in leopard-print pants and a nude blouse. "This is almost surreal," she said, leaning closer to the wall to feel the commotion.

In an hour or so, Lizzo would take the stage to a similarly joyful noise, a remarkable turn of events for an artist who has defied most of the modern rules of pop stardom in her unexpected ascent to the top of the charts.

Six years after releasing her first album -- so long ago, Macklemore(!) was headlining Jingle Ball -- she broke into the top 10 with her delightfully peppy major-label debut, "Cuz I Love You," featuring the inescapable No. 1 Hot 100 empowerment jam "Truth Hurts."

Pop stars like Lizzo aren't the norm. She's 31, typically an age in which singers are more likely to be plotting their inaugural Vegas residency or a Broadway musical, not their first Grammy outfit. She sings effervescent, genre-blurring music steeped in positivity, and she's doing so as a proud "beautiful and fat" (as she stridently puts it) black woman in an industry that has historically favored the blond and the thin. Lizzo's messages of loving yourself and living your best life -- which she's been doling out from stages for years -- has taken off and made her pop music's patron saint of self-care and self-love.

 

"When you're in the room with her, she makes you feel good. She radiates," says songwriter-producer Ricky Reed, who signed Lizzo to his Atlantic Records imprint, Nice Life, in 2015. "The reason she has connected is that her music is so infused with her message. It's a real-time, blow-by-blow of her life."

A showgirl at heart, Lizzo was the highlight of this year's Coachella and stole the spotlight everywhere from the MTV Video Music Awards to the Met Gala red carpet. She made her film debut alongside Jennifer Lopez in the hit stripper crime drama "Hustlers" and is slated to perform on "Saturday Night Live" later this month. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Beyonce are among fans.

And that's on top of logging over 1 billion streams and earning eight Grammy nominations -- the most of any artist this year -- including a sweep of the top four categories: record, album, song and best new artist.

"It's been amazing to see Lizzo's meteoric rise," says friend and collaborator Big Freedia. "Her messages about strength and her body-positive image are having an impact on people everywhere."

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