celebrity

The fury over Lizzo's Instagram posts has unmasked an uncomfortable truth.

This post deals with eating disorders and might be triggering for some readers. 

To most of the world, award-winning, chart-topping musician Lizzo has ceased to be a person.

When looked at through a pop culture lens we've labelled her with literally everything. From a musical genius to a breaker of barriers, a body image warrior and, in the more extreme cases, our saviour.

The fact that these titles are ones she never asked for make that crown we've placed atop her head all the heavier.

This week, the Grammy-winning musician posted two reels to her Instagram account documenting her experience taking part in a 10-day smoothie diet detox. 

Lizzo noted that she was undertaking the detox under the care of a nutritionist and said of her decision "I drank a lot, I ate a lot of spicy things and things that f**ked my stomach up, and I wanted to reverse it and get back to where I was".

The videos immediately triggered an avalanche of news headlines, comments and conversations alleging that Lizzo was promoting diet culture and disordered eating.

Basically, the conclusion was that she had let us all down.

Listen to The Spill hosts explain the real discomfort behind the Lizzo conversation. Post continues after podcast. 

Lizzo then addressed the conversation in an Instagram post where she urged her followers to not starve themselves. 

"I detoxed my body and I’m still fat," she wrote. "I love my body and I’m still fat. I’m beautiful and I’m still fat. These things are not mutually exclusive. 

"To the people who look to me, please do not starve yourselves. 

"You don’t have to do that to be beautiful or healthy. That was my way. You can do life your way. Remember, despite anything anyone says or does DO WHAT YOU WANT WITH YOUR BODY.” 

Despite this post, the conversation rages on.

Now with the added pressure for us all to come to one singular conclusion on the issue. To assign a villain to a narrative that is so much bigger than one series of social media posts.

Yet, the reality here is that multiple truths can exist within this conversation all at the same time.

For instance, it's true that conversations around detoxing, liquid diets and food restriction are triggering and dangerous for many women and men.

There's no denying that when this conversation appeared in people's social media feeds this week, in any form, that it triggered a cold and all-encompassing fear.

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A fear that has been multiple decades in the making, one that hinges on people's bodies, minds and lives being destroyed by eating disorders steeped in the societal pressure around what a 'good' body looks like.

"I love my body and I’m still fat. I’m beautiful and I’m still fat. These things are not mutually exclusive." Lizzo wrote.  

It's also true that policing Lizzo's body, food intake and social media is layered in its own problematic history of ownership around certain women's bodies.

And, more broadly, the danger of singular representation and the expectation for one person to champion all causes. To fix our broken world, simply by existing in a fat Black body in the public eye.

The truth is, the fandom around Lizzo has always been a pressure cooker threatening to burst.

All because, for too long, Lizzo has been 'the one'. 

The one plus-size woman with her songs at the top of the charts, covering the front of Vogue, selling out arenas, and walking the red carpet at awards shows, simultaneously. 

In a sea of smaller bodies, of white bodies, millions of women grasped onto the idea of Lizzo for dear life.

So desperate were they for representation and role models in a media landscape that is usually a barren wasteland of diversity.

But here lies the danger of having so few women in the spotlight who don't fit the traditional beauty mould. It means that the burden of being a role model is placed, often uninvited, on their shoulders.

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Despite the progress that has been made in this area, we still don't really see bigger women's bodies on our screens, or our magazine covers, morning TV shows, blockbuster movies, books, websites or newspapers. 

Lizzo should not be held accountable for this global failure. If we didn't have just one woman effectively standing alone in this spotlight, there wouldn't be this storm of ownership and expectation swelling so violently around her right now.

Quick watch: An ode to Lizzo. Post continues after video. 


Video via Mamamia. 

The other uncomfortable truth of the matter is that when Lizzo posted these detox videos to her social media platforms and followed it up with another video saying "I'm still struggling to find balance, still trying to mend my relationship with food, my anxiety, my back fat. I've spent my hardest days trying to love me," a spell was broken.

A spell that gave false comfort to some around an idea that the world was becoming a less prejudiced and dangerous place. All by using Lizzo's success as a beacon.

"Things are changing, things are getting better! How can you say fat people, Black people are still so underprivileged when you look at LIZZO? People love her!" has been a catchcry heard often.

For too long, we've seen Lizzo as more of a cartoon character than an actual person. 

There's been an expectation on her to scream about self-love and body acceptance from the rooftops, to be a font of never-ending positivity. 

To not exist in the moments she's not putting on a show for us.

We don't want to hear about her own self-doubts; her struggles or any form of words that don't mesh with the Lizzo we've concocted in our minds.

Or dwell on the torrent of abuse she would see each day, some of it we are witness to, most of it we're not, that comes her way for simply existing as a fat Black woman. 

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That's just not a catchy tune.

It's true that our world still doesn't make room for plus size women, for women of colour or for a society not built on dangerous views around body image and dieting.

But the answer is not to let Lizzo stand alone in the spotlight with a wall of ownership around her.

The answer is also not for media outlets, individuals and creative forces to take Lizzo's image and words and slap it across their properties. In lieu of doing the work themselves, of making decisions and hiring more diverse faces and voices to shape the world we live in.

Talk of restrictive diets has no place in our world, a world that still tells us we have to be smaller.

But the solution alone does not lie solely within Lizzo's Instagram page. 

For help and support for eating disorders, contact the Butterfly Foundation‘s National Support line and online service on 1800 ED HOPE (1800 33 4673) or email [email protected] You can also visit their website,  here.   

Feature Image: Mamamia/@Lizzobeeating Instagram.