This year has already proven to be a big year for Lizzo, who in April will host and perform on "Saturday Night Live" and release a new album.
On Friday, the Grammy winner added another feat to her list of accomplishments: her own dance competition series.
"Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls," which debuted on Amazon Prime Video on Friday, follows 13 plus-size women as they compete to become Lizzo’s backup dancers at the 2021 Bonnaroo music festival.
“It was important that I changed the narrative of what a reality competition television show looks like,” Lizzo, who executive produced and hosted the series, said during her keynote at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas, earlier this month.
It was important that I changed the narrative of what a reality competition television show looks like.
“We don’t always have to be cruel,” she said. “We can be kind, and we don’t have to pit people against each other. I feel like it’s hard enough in the dance world already for girls who look like me, so why would I create that environment in my space? If I have the power to change that, why not change that?”
The show, which The Hollywood Reporter described as “‘America’s Next Top Model’ meets ‘So You Think You Can Dance,’” features choreographers Tanisha Scott and O.G. Big Grrrls Chawnta’ Marie Van, Shirlene Quigley and Grace Holden. There are also special guest stars, including Missy Elliott and SZA.
Each of the dancers — Jayla Sullivan, Isabel Jones, Sydney Bell, Asia Banks, Kiara Mooring, Ashley Williams, Moesha Perez, Arianna Davis and Charity Holloway — are of different sizes and backgrounds. While the eight-episode series is first and foremost a competition, many of the show’s contestants emphasized that the experience was also about empowerment.
“I feel like a lot of us didn't come on the show 100 percent ourselves, and within that process, I feel like each of us found exactly who we are,” Banks said.
"I feel like I really feel most like myself when I'm with my sisters from the show [and] in Lizzo's environment," Davis added. "I think the energy we give off for each other, and for ourselves, is going to leak into society. I think everyone is going to learn how to emulate that off of us."
Throughout the show, the contestants juggle their journey to finding self-love with trying to master a 90-minute Bonnaroo set. If it sounds like a lot, that's because it is.
"I learned a lot about boundaries, honestly," Williams said.
Others echoed Williams, noting that throughout the experience they realized it's OK to not be perfect.
"Don’t be afraid to be an individual," Holloway said of what she took away from the show. "It’s OK that you’re not like them. That’s what makes you special, what makes your story special."
Going big at SXSW
Amazon Prime Video went big with the new series at SXSW, where an activation both honored Lizzo and highlighted the series.
The contestants performed onstage as large crowds, who were given Big Grrrls merch (including "Juice" pins), cheered them on.
Being there was surreal, the contestants said.
"It's something I don't think any of us could have ever really imagined for ourselves," Bell said. "Especially with Lizzo allowing us to have this world to really allow us to be seen and to be heard. This is surreal, by far an amazing opportunity."
"Now we're finally here," Mooring added. "And the show is finally coming out. ... The love and support we received at the festival was just everything. It's just been very life-changing."
It was especially exciting for the contestants to feel they were impacting people so greatly "just by authentically being ourselves," Jones said.
Thousands also gathered at the festival to see Lizzo speak at a keynote in a packed Austin Convention Center auditorium. There, Lizzo highlighted exactly why she felt it was important to do a show like this.
‘“Body positivity,’ ‘self-love’ and ‘Love yourself,’ are very common terms now being used in media, and that was not the case over five years ago,” Lizzo said. “As far as body representation, we got a long way to go, but I’m seeing the change. Big girls have always had value, but I don’t think society has seen the value in bigger bodies.”