When the writer Aurielle Marie found out that they were included in the Out 100 list, they were thrilled. As part of the honor, Marie, whose pronouns are they/she, was invited to attend Out Magazine’s gala in New York.
The problem? They couldn’t find anything to wear to the event. Although the majority of American women wear sizes 14 or above, Marie said, many stores stock only sizes 12 and under.
They said the gowns they did find in their size were either matronly or tacky. Despite suggestions from their friends, their mother and their wife, Marie “just didn’t like anything.”
“I was like, what do I want to look like? How do I want to feel? And I ended up on this photo of Lizzo. She wore this dress as she accepted her first Emmy,” said Marie, who wrote the critically acclaimed poetry collection “Gumbo Ya Ya” in 2020 and has been widely recognized for writing about fatphobia, Blackness and queer identity. “The dress was voluminous. It took up space. It was sexy, but it wasn’t overtly sexy, ... I was like, I want to feel like this.”
Marie doesn’t consider themself “one of those people who have a weird parasocial attachment to celebrities.” But they admire Lizzo, they said, not only for her music but also for continuing to exude confidence despite the immense backlash she gets.
So, after having struggled to find a red carpet outfit, they turned to TikTok — where they had only a couple of hundred followers — to ask Lizzo whether they could borrow one of her outfits.
“I know you know how it feels to be the biggest ... in a room and all the scrutiny and hyper-visibility that comes with that,” Marie said in the TikTok video. “Because I’ve watched you talk about it and the audacity that you’ve marked in your career has helped me step out and be audacious myself. ... I gotta ask. Can I please, please, please wear your dress from the 2022 Emmys?”
Marie was referring to the red tulle gown by designer Giambattista Valli, which Lizzo wore when she accepted the award for outstanding competition program for her show “Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.”
With the gala quickly approaching, Marie — who got married last month — said they were ready to re-wear their wedding dress to the gala. They didn't expect Lizzo to respond.
But their plea went viral. Not long after the video was posted, someone from Lizzo’s management team reached out. Marie said they initially thought the DM was a prank. The person wrote that Lizzo had seen Marie’s video and passed it along to her managers, instructing them to send Marie one of her gowns.
“Apparently the dress that I love from the Emmys this year was in shambles because everyone kept stepping on Lizzo’s train,” Marie said. “So she [the manager] said, ‘But we found one that’s really similar.’"
Marie said Lizzo's manager offered them the magenta tulle gown that was custom-made for Lizzo’s 2019 American Music Awards performance.
It was “very similar in the best ways,” Marie said, and it arrived just in time — the gown was delivered 20 minutes before they had to leave for their flight from Atlanta to New York.
When the zipper malfunctioned, Marie said, Lizzo’s team even sent a seamstress to their New York hotel to fix the dress in time for the gala.
“You can send me a paper bag and say Lizzo wore this at a photo shoot and I would have worn it on the red carpet at that point,” Marie said. “But when she [Lizzo’s manager] said, ‘I think we can get a seamstress to your hotel,’ and I was like, ‘I’m sorry, what?’ I didn’t even know there was a VIP seamstress market.”
Marie said that, aside from Lizzo’s generosity, they have a deep appreciation for her because she “navigates audaciously in a body that so many people have anger for.”
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They described Lizzo as one of the first celebrities to unapologetically exist in a fat body.
Marie believes their experience, while “wholesome,” highlights the fatphobia ingrained in society, from medical discrimination to the limited options for size-inclusive clothing. They said they don't see many people "being kind to fat people who aren't famous."
“This is a heartwarming story, and I love that for me. But I’d love it even more if people took something like this and were able to see the humanity in people with bodies that are different,” Marie said. “I shouldn’t have to ask Lizzo for a cute dress."