By Heidi Stevens/Editorial Chicago Tribune
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) As Heidi Stevens so aptly puts it, "Lizzo's body type doesn't get a lot of love in this culture. So she piles love on it herself.That's worth celebrating, because it gives her fans and followers permission to define their own self-worth and cherish their bodies for what those bodies accomplish and where those bodies take them and how those bodies feel."
Unless Jillian Michaels is holding a chart of Lizzo's bloodwork, she has no business speculating what diseases the pop singer is at risk of developing.
"Why are we celebrating her body?" Michaels asked Alex Berg, host of "AM to DM," a BuzzFeed News morning show. "Why does it matter? Why aren't we celebrating her music? 'Cause it isn't going to be awesome if she gets diabetes."
Her comments, understandably, struck a nerve. The interview took place on a recent Wednesday morning. By Thursday morning, the "AM to DM" clip had been watched close to 3 million times.
The short answer is we are celebrating her music.
The longer answer is we're also celebrating her body, because her body is such a gorgeous, glorious part of her music. She struts on stage and spends hours dancing and running in heels and playing the flute while twerking and pulling off feats that most of us couldn't muster for a minute and a half.
We're also celebrating her body because she celebrates her body. And her body doesn't look like the bodies that usually get celebrated in this culture, the bodies we put on billboards and magazine covers and runways and red carpets and commercials for tropical vacation destinations and jewelry stores and lingerie stores and all the other consumer goods and services that signal love and worth and appeal and acceptance.
Lizzo's body type doesn't get a lot of love in this culture. So she piles love on it herself.
That's worth celebrating, because it gives her fans and followers permission to define their own self-worth and cherish their bodies for what those bodies accomplish and where those bodies take them and how those bodies feel.
Michaels sees it differently.
"I'm just being honest," she said. "I love her music. My kid loves her music. But there's never a moment where I'm like, 'I'm so glad that she's overweight.' "
Michaels, a personal trainer and the former host of NBC's weight-loss show "The Biggest Loser," makes her money selling a certain body type, taut, toned, compact. It boosts her bottom line to disparage bodies that don't fit that mold.
But her concern for Lizzo's health feels phony.
For starters, it's worth noting that Michaels has been sued multiple times for endorsing diet cleanse supplements that consumers allege were ineffective and harmful.
Beyond that, it's disingenuous to pretend you can diagnose a person's risk factors simply by looking at them. Lizzo's blood sugar may very well be perfectly fine. A person half her size may very well have dangerously high levels. Same goes for cholesterol and blood pressure and triglycerides. Her ability to dance and run and sing and play flute simultaneously on stage certainly implies an impressive level of physical fitness.
But we're not really talking about her health, are we? We're talking about her looks.
We live in a culture obsessed with an extremely narrow set of beauty standards. And shaming people for their weight lets the beauty gatekeepers criticize people's appearance under the guise of caring about their health.
You don't see health gurus sitting on Buzzfeed morning show coaches wondering whether pop stars wear seatbelts or bike helmets or sunscreen or live around secondhand smoke or visit tanning salons or have been tested for the breast cancer gene. Those risk factors aren't so sexy to speculate about.
Weight, though? Weight is fair game. Millions upon millions are made demonizing and dehumanizing bodies that have been deemed too large. Lizzo appears to be having none of it, and that is infinitely worth celebrating. ___ Join the Heidi Stevens Balancing Act Facebook group, where she continues the conversation around her columns and hosts occasional live chats. ___ Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.