“They made her this poster child for this mainstream body pos movement.”
Last Tuesday, rapper Lizzo was a topic of Twitter debates once again. This “seems to happen every time she wins an award, does something on social media or takes another step toward greater success,” wrote fat activist Sydneysky G for Wear Your Voice Mag.
This time, Lizzo made headlines because she revealed that she had done a smoothie detox, after which critics accused her of promoting toxic diet culture. Although Lizzo said it was for health reasons, critics still found crafty ways to express their disdain.
The vitriol that Lizzo faced over her decision is an extension of celebrity worship syndrome.
According to Psychology Today, this is, “an obsessive-addictive disorder where an individual becomes overly involved and interested (i.e., completely obsessed) with the details of the personal life of a celebrity.”
In the video “The Anatomy of Stan Culture.”, author Elexus Jionde talks about celebrity worship culture in depth. Quoting Susan J. Douglass and Andrea McDowell, Jionde said, “When we judge celebrities and find fault in their actions, we have the opportunity to affirm our own moral codes.”
Jionde also talked about the three-tiered celebrity worship scale that was created by psychoanalysts in 2002. The three tiers on this scale are low worship, intermediate worship, and high worship.
The high worship category is described as “overidentifying with a celebrity," amd this where stans reside. The word Stan originates from rapper Eminem’s song about an obsessive fan. The song describes a crazed fan who drives himself and his pregnant girlfriend off a bridge because Eminem won’t respond to him. In its colloquial usage, the word Stan elucidates the toxicity of celebrity worship culture.
“Don’t give ‘em too much you. Don’t let ‘em take your soul,” J. Cole advised on his song “January 28th.” In this line, he was talking about how celebrities have to preserve parts of themselves, else their fanbases will take their souls. Then, social media makes it no easier.
With so much visibility into other people’s lives, we are able to live vicariously through celebrities in a way past generations have not. However, in living vicariously through celebrities, we subscribe our own ideals onto them and get upset when they do not fit the image we have created in our heads.
This is what happened with Lizzo.
We have to be more conscious
Sydneysky G, Writer & Fat Activist
Many lauded her as a body positive role model and saw themselves in her, but Lizzo never branded herself as a fat activist, Sydney points out. “Lizzo isn’t an activist. She’s a musician. She’s a person…she’s never claimed to be an activist,” Sydney said in an interview.
Yet, society “pushed her to be the poster child of self-love and confidence” and Lizzo never asked to take on that role. Although there is more visibility for fat bodies, Sydney stated, this does not automatically make someone an activist or a fat activist. “We have to be more conscious of who we label as fat activists,” she advised.
Moreover, the treatment of Lizzo is related to the policing of fat Black bodies, Sydney added. According to her, the policing of fat Black bodies relates to “how much control [society] can have over Black people and their bodies.” For fat Black people in particular, Sydney said “it’s about keeping us in line.”
When it comes to Lizzo, she has been the subject of heavy scrutiny for what she wears and what she does with her body. Sydney confessed that she was “sad” when she found out Lizzo was doing a detox but noted that, “Every fat Black person has been there,” or had moments when they might not like their body.
She added that people have taken Lizzo’s journey as their own. “They made her this poster child for this mainstream body pos movement” and “she never asked to be that,” Sydney said. Because Lizzo has become this symbol, she faces a double-edged sword: she will be criticized by fatphobes when she chooses to embrace her weight, and she will be criticized by certain members of the fat community when she chooses to do something for her health.
Sadly, it seems Lizzo is damned if she does and damned if she doesn’t. Yet, beyond the scrutiny, one thing is important to remember: Lizzo doesn’t owe us anything. ~ℝ
Javanna Plummer, Rwebel in Chief
Javanna is the editor of "Rwebel Magazine," the architect behind "Rwebel Radio," and the pioneering force of "Xscape." Through her words, Javanna hopes to inspire creativity, passion and forward-thinking.
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