Lizzo in Concert: A Dynamic Reminder of the Power of Self-Acceptance” by Elizabeth Phelps

There is no single term that can adequately define music sensation Lizzo, but “bop” star, band-geek-turned-pop-icon, classical flutist, self-love trailblazer, and inclusivity advocate are all apt descriptors. At her Washington, D.C., concert, she took the audience to church, and center stage, from a gold pulpit lit up with her name, Lizzo preached a message of joy, self-love, and celebration. Every ounce of her performance shone with positivity. Even before she appeared, the bright podium and large flats made to look like stained glass windows gave the audience a taste of the revelry ahead.

Then, clad in a silver leotard, she appeared at the pulpit and belted out the first song of her set: “Worship,” an anthem of confidence and self-love. Coupling the song with a nod to Aretha Franklin’s “Respect,” Lizzo made it clear from the start that she would tolerate no negativity in her presence.

Her powerhouse pipes were on full display with the title track of her album, “Cuz I Love You.” She held nothing back, and her voice was just as powerful, if not more so than on her studio tracks, and while she belted perfect high notes, she danced. And it wasn’t merely a little toe tapping along to the beat; she danced. Accompanied by her crew, The Big Girls, they rocked the stage, jumping, clapping, and twerking in perfect unison. None of the women onstage that night, including Lizzo herself, were society’s picture of a dancer or performer. They were full-figured, wearing high-cut metallic leotards, with close-cropped hair or swinging dreadlocks, and almost all of them were black. Therein lies the power of Lizzo’s music; it is a place for people of all colors, creeds, and backgrounds to come together and celebrate self-acceptance and positivity.

The crowd, of all ages and races, unequivocally reflected these ideas, and their energy nearly exceeded that of the performers. The cheering was deafening — even louder than the music — yet respectful at the same time. The audience hushed immediately when The Big Girls carried several tiny puppies (with cotton-stuffed ears) onstage to promote a local animal rescue, then screamed in excitement when Lizzo whipped out her flute to play a quick interlude and lead-in to her hit “Juice.”

Although the show was sweet, it was never syrupy. The bombastic hits and slow-rolling ballads were underscored with the knowledge that what was happening onstage was truly unique. It was a celebration of empowerment and self-acceptance by often-marginalized people: the taking back of power stripped away long ago. That night, Lizzo was the preacher at a church of joy and self-love. The central commandment: “If you can love my fat black ass, you can love your goddamn self.”