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Lizzo Is Quitting. Is It Our Fault?




HOST: Last month, pop star Lizzo announced on Instagram that she was "quitting."  Many assumed she was referring to her music, which often self-referentially preached Black, female,  plus-sized normativity. A few days later she went back on Instagram, clarifying her original post in a video. 


LIZZO: When I say I quit, I mean I quit giving any negative energy attention. What I'm not going to quit is the joy of my life–which is making music [0:15]


But despite her fame and her reappearance, Lizzo has faced public scrutiny for her appearance for years. Uptown Radio's Iryna Humenyuk reports: have we failed Black women once again? [0:38 INTRO TOTAL]


[FADE IN: BACKGROUND STREET NOISE]


[3:06 FROM HERE ON]

HUMENYUK 1

Down the street from the Apollo Theatre, in Harlem, sits a food truck selling rice and meat platters. The sun is shining. It's a balmy Friday afternoon, and Judy Bassie and Tisha Linga are celebrating with takeout.


BASSIE 1

It's your birthday. Happy birthday. It's your birthday. Happy birthday. We want to say happy birthday to Tisha Linga from the Bronx.


HUMENYUK 2

Bassie isn't just a food truck fan. She, along with millions of fans, also loves Lizzo. Lizzo's latest album, "Special," reached number one on Billboard's Top Album Sales in 2022.


[FADE IN: “TRUTH HURTS”]  


HUMENYUK 3

And like many other fans, Bassie was disappointed when Lizzo quit.


[FADE OUT: “TRUTH HURTS”]  


BASSIE 2

She talking about–she wanted to quit. You want to quit? No F those, excuse my FRENCH. I'm African, but excuse my French. F those people who don't–who not riding with you!


HUMENYUK 4

Bassie says the public has failed Lizzo. Society is always trying to rip artists apart--Lizzo should ignore them. 


BASSIE 3

She represents the BBWs and all these things.


HUMENYUK 5

Could you quickly define what a BBW is? 


BASSIE 4

Oh, so a BBW is a black, beautiful woman. So yeah, I'm not–oh yeah! Black beautiful–I am a BBW then!


HUMENYUK 6

And she admires Lizzo, because she empowers Black women everywhere.


[FADE IN: BACKGROUND STREET NOISE]


A few blocks east of the Apollo, Asia Johnson, a recruiter, is taking a smoke break when I catch up to her. She says she doesn't listen to Lizzo's music, but she also told me that she supports her. Like Judy,  Asia agrees--society has failed Black female performers. And social media has exacerbated the problem. 


JOHNSON 1

I can only imagine what it would be like to be famous nowadays. But now at any given second, you can just look on your phone, look on your computer, and see negativity being said about you. Any human being, I don't care. how much money you have, how much celebrity you have. It would have to take a toll on you mentally.


HUMENYUK 7

Aria Halliday, of the University of Kentucky, teaches Black culture. She says it's not only Black women society has failed.


HALLIDAY 1

If women are constantly thinking about the ways that we need to change our bodies, men are also constantly thinking about their value based on the women's bodies that they're attached to, right? 


HUMENYUK 8

Halliday says we've failed men just as much as we've failed women. But Halliday also says Black women have it particularly tough. And Lizzo's celebrity makes her a target.


HALLIDAY 2

Lizzo is always at the butt of those jokes because she's a black woman, because she's fat because she is in your face about being fat. Um, and people deeply dislike that. They want her to conform, right? And she refuses. 


HUMENYUK 9

Lizzo was criticized when she quit. Her Instagram filled with comments like, quote, "Understandable ... she definitely had a LOT on her plate."


HALLIDAY 3

I think that Lizzo is a great example of how we fail, um, black girls and women especially, but girls and women generally every day. 


HUMENYUK 10

Despite the criticism, Lizzo is back. On Instagram she recently celebrated the two-year anniversary of Yitty, her shapewear brand. Iryna Humenyuk, Columbia Radio News. 


[FADE OUT: “TRUTH HURTS”] 

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