Lizzo Says Twerking Helped Teach Her Self-Love in New TED Talk Video
Lizzo regularly talks about the importance of body positivity, and she's also known to completely floor people with her onstage performances. So, it's hardly shocking that the rapper would give a TED Talk on the Black history of twerking—and how it taught her about self love.
The talk—which Lizzo called a "dream [three] years in the making"—is currently available on YouTube, and in it, Lizzo makes it clear that she's big on flashing her butt. "If you follow me on social media, you've probably seen my heinie before," she says. But Lizzo says she didn't always feel that confident about her butt.
"I used to hate my ass, believe it or not," she says in the video. "I have my father's shape and my mother's thighs, so it's big and long. I used to think that only asses like J.Lo's or Beyoncé's could be famous. I never thought that could happen to me."
Lizzo says she always felt like her body type "wasn't the right one" or "desirable" when she was growing up, "because I grew up in an era where having a big ass wasn't mainstream."
But Lizzo says that's no longer the case. "My ass has been the topic of conversations, my ass has been in magazines," she says. "Rihanna gave my ass a standing ovation. Yes, my booty! My least favorite part of my body."
And then she gave what might be the best segue in a TED talk ever. "How did this happen? Twerking," Lizzo says. "Through the movement of twerking, I realized that my ass is my greatest asset. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my TED Twerk."
Lizzo shares that she learned how to twerk when she was a teenager, and she eventually dove into the dance move's origins in Black culture. "Modern-day twerking derived from Black people and Black culture," she says. "It has a direct parallel to West African dances like Mapouka. Black people carried the origins of this dance through our DNA, through our blood, through our bones. We made twerking the global cultural phenomenon it became today."
But Lizzo says that twerking has been disassociated from its roots, pointing out that when Miley Cyrus did it at the 2013 VMAs, it was "misunderstood" and that its history in Black culture was "erased."
"Everything that Black people create, from fashion to music to the way we talk, is co-opted and appropriated by pop culture," Lizzo says, noting that she wanted to do this TED talk to help people understand the history of twerking and to "prevent the erasure of Blackness" from the move.
"For me, twerking ain't a trend," Lizzo says. "My body ain't a trend. I twerk because of my ancestors, for sexual liberation, for my bitches—hey girls—because I can. Because I know I look good. I twerk because it's unique to the Black experience, it's unique to my culture, and it means something real to me."
Lizzo says she twerks "because I'm talented. Because I'm sexual, but not to be sexualized." She continues, "I twerk to own my power, to reclaim my Blackness, my culture. I twerk for fat Black women because being fat and Black is a beautiful thing."
Lizzo also says that twerking is "a pearl of optimism" for her. "It's a form of self-expression, freedom, confidence," she says "Twerking is not just something I do to music. It's extremely useful. It manifests in my life in ways that I need more joy. In the mornings, twerking leads me to stretching and taking care of my body. I bend over and I isolate my cheeks, I'm in downward dog!"
"Black women invented twerking and twerking is part of the revolution," she says. "We been doing it, we going to keep doing it—because we have and always will be the blueprint."
Lizzo wrapped up her TED talk by helping the audience learn to twerk to her song "Tempo." "This is a dream come true," she says at the end.
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