Listen to Austin 360 Radio

Lizzo talks 'regressive' Texas laws and the healing power of twerking at SXSW

Lizzo’s new reality TV show, “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” is a passion project years in the making. The Grammy-winning singer and rapper said she was fighting back tears as she watched the show's trailer before her keynote address at South by Southwest on Sunday. 

“This is like a dream come true. God is good,” she said. 

The capacity crowd — which included a rambunctious section front and center reserved for the cast members of the show — roared in response.

The series, set to premiere on March 25 on Amazon Prime Video, centers on the plus-sized superstar’s search for dancers to join her Big Grrrls stage team. 

More:Are you a Lizzo or a Starlight? Find out at Amazon's Superheroes and Superstars activation

“Ever since 2014, I have had open casting calls for dancers that look like me,” she said. The deeper she got into the entertainment industry, the more she failed to see “me reflected in the dancers” who came to her auditions, she said. Realizing that plus-sized ladies were not getting the representation they deserved, she developed the show to bring awareness to the issue.

Also, to help her find some dancers. 

In a lively 45-minute conversation with "The Breakfast Club’s" Angela Yee, Lizzo broke down her feelings about everything from Texas politics to the healing power of twerking. Here are five things we learned from the session. 

1. 'Watch Our For the Big Grrrls' is a kinder, gentler reality competition show.

The 33-year-old artist, who serves as executive producer, director and star of the show, said it was important to “change the narrative” of what a reality TV show looks like.

“We don't always have to be cruel. We can be kind. And we don't have to pit people against each other,” she said. “It’s so hard 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?”

Through the process of filming, she realized she had created a safe space for herself as much as for the women competing. In one scene, the cameras caught her breaking down after dealing with cyberbullying, fatphobia and racism. When she joined her cast, she was overcome with emotion. 

“I get to share this moment and put these women on a pedestal in our platform. We're going to eventually show the world that you cannot treat people who look like me like this,” she said.  

Lizzo wipes away a tear as she speaks about her new series "Watch Out for the Big Grrrls" at South by Southwest on Sunday, March 13, 2022.

2. She’s proud to rep Houston, but she’s not proud to rep Texas politics right now. 

“There are some very regressive laws being passed,” she said. Shouting out Jayla Sullivan, a transgender woman on the show who “lives authentically as herself,” Lizzo said moves by Texas policy-makers to restrict rights for transgender youth and their families“are taking away the right for young children to have a chance to live authentically themselves.”

“It's a violation of human rights,” she said. “Trans rights are human rights.”

She called Texas’ near total ban on abortion “atrocious.” 

More:SXSW condemns Gov. Greg Abbott order to treat transgender care as child abuse

“Mind your business. Stay out of my body,” she said. 

As an artist, she hopes to represent for the people, to keep pushing. 

“I am changing things on a cultural level, because I'm a part of the culture. I'm a musician, I'm an actress,” she said. “But you know, there are people in charge who can change things on a systemic level, and they're letting us down.

Lizzo speaks about her new series "Watch Out for the Big Grrrls" at South by Southwest on Sunday, March 13, 2022.

3. A new Lizzo album is coming soon.

“Literally, I'm flying home today to master my album, so it's coming very, very soon,” she said.

The best way to preview the new album is by watching the show, the savvy businesswoman said. She was cagey about collaborations, especially when Lee pressed about the fact that both Sza and Missy Elliott make guest appearances on the show. 

4. Lizzo discovered self-love through twerking.

“We hold so much tension in our hips,” she said, joking that “as you start doing Shakira, you can just burst into tears.”

Last year, Lizzo gave a TED Talk on self-love and twerking.

“It led me to find self-love in a physical way,” she said. Over the past several years, the idea of self-care has become commercialized, but the real work of self-love is learning to strip away the layers and be at peace with yourself, she said. 

“Twerking led me to falling in love with my ass, led me to looking in the mirror, led me to discovering myself and kind of excavating who I am, and falling in love with that person,” she said.  

5. The other F word.

Lizzo would love to destigmatize the word "fat." 

She said: “I used to get called 'fat-ass' every single day on the bus in the fifth grade, and by the 500th 'fat-ass,' I started to just say, ‘Who (expletive) cares? It means nothing to me.’ The word lost its meaning, it lost its sting.”

She started to put a positive spin on it, claiming it as part of her identity. 

“I have a different relationship with the word 'fat,' I can freely call myself fat,” she said. 

But she understands that being called fat is still a hurtful experience for many people. 

“What I really want to do is take away that steam from that word for everybody, because I've done it for myself. And it's really liberating,” she said.