After her No. 1 single “About Damn Time” was touted among the songs of the summer, Lizzo is now claiming her claim to the holiday season. The Grammy and Emmy-winning star is set to debut her intimate documentary “Love, Lizzo” on HBO Max this Thanksgiving, with a “Live in Concert” special to follow on New Year’s Eve.
When Variety caught up with the entertainer the day before Thanksgiving — just hours before the documentary’s midnight debut — Lizzo’s recently acquired Emmy trophy was positioned just outside the Zoom frame.
“It’s near my bed normally,” she said, explaining. “I won the Emmy and went straight on tour, so I never got to put it on my shelf. Then this morning I did the ‘Today’ show, and they mentioned my Emmy, so I brought her in for their cameras, so it’s funny that she’s right there.
The award, won in September for her Amazon Prime Video reality competition series “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” is just one of many accolades Lizzo has racked up lately, including Variety Hitmakers Record of the Year honored for disco-tinged track “About Damn Time,” from his six-time Grammy-nominated album “Special.” And now there’s his HBO Max documentary, “Love, Lizzo,” an intimate portrait of the making of the record and all the life and career moments leading up to it.
“There’s never a good time to start documenting and telling your story,” says Lizzo. “And if I had waited to film that, then I wouldn’t have filmed Coachella and the VMAs, and ‘Truth Hurts’ being number one, my life during the pandemic and the Grammys, and my arena tour now. I wouldn’t have had all those images that I think are so important to my career.
Cameras began following the singer/songwriter, rapper and flautist in 2019 and chronicled everything that happened over the past three years as she skyrocketed to superstardom. But there’s also never-before-seen footage from Lizzo’s childhood, including videos even she did not know.
“This was all new to me. I don’t have any baby or kid images of myself,” she explains. “Then my cousin recently said, ‘We have all these images of you,’ so we got a bunch for this doc. Just being able to see myself as a child, outside of the photos, like moving and hearing my dad’s voice, which I haven’t heard since he died [Lizzo’s father Michael Jefferson died in 2009]. There’s just a lot of amazing footage that I didn’t have to share with the world, but I am.
Directed by Doug Pray, the documentary aims to capture all facets of the artist’s identity, delving into his family life (Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson); his education in Detroit and then Houston, before pursuing his musical dream in Minneapolis; how she started playing the flute; her journey to body positivity; the ups and downs of his romantic relationships; and her activism, speaking out for women, black and other people of color, and LGBTQ+ communities.
It’s a raw look at Lizzo’s reality, and she admits she’s had some hesitation, due to the misogynistic, racist, fatphobic, and otherwise negative comments she’s faced over the course of her career.
“There are a lot of polarized opinions about me,” Lizzo says knowingly. “When people take a tough stance on something, they open themselves up to criticism and backlash because everyone is in the middle of the road.”
She continues, “I say things I’ve had negative reactions to before that I repeat in this movie — talking about twerking and my experience as a black performer. I’m nervous because people have already had negative things to say about it, so I’m really opening myself up to more. But I don’t care anymore, you know? It’s just who I am, and I’m not going to argue with anyone about who I am.
Watching the completed documentary for the first time, Lizzo realized how little she had changed over the years.
“I have a friend, Alexia, whom you see a lot in the doc. I’ve known her since third grade, and she always tells me, “The only thing that’s changed about you is that you stand up for us a little more, you’re more confident, but you’re the same,” Lizzo says. . “I’ve always said it was really nice to have him in my life, a reminder that I am who I am. And now, seeing these images, I think it goes even further.
Essentially, Lizzo is still the same girl who is sometimes shy and sometimes smart, but still follows her love of music. “I really haven’t changed much, and it’s nice to have a visual representation of that,” she concludes. “But I’m cuter now.”
The timing of the documentary’s release is heavy, however. In the film, Lizzo reminisces about one of the most difficult periods of her life: 13 years ago, shortly after her father’s sudden death, she lost her job, her apartment and her passion for music. It was around Thanksgiving and she was crying in the 1998 Subaru she was sleeping in. What would she say to that girl today?
“It was a trauma that I wish I could have avoided because I’m still working on that trauma. Like, it showed up in so many places in my life,” Lizzo begins, admitting that she always gets anxious on the holidays.
“I was like, ‘Damn, that was 2009 [and I’m] always anxious. I always feel like something is going to be taken away from me. I’m still scared and I think it’s unfortunate,” she explains. “But I’m grateful that all these years later I have a home. I have family, friends, people who love me, and now I have control of this situation. Where I had no control, when I had a lot of fear [before]I have a lot of peace now.
With this peace also came great success. On Wednesday afternoon, HBO Max announced its “Live in Concert” special. It serves as a sort of coda to the tell-all documentary, filmed during the final stops of its “special” arena tour at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California.
HBO cameras rolled during the sold-out Friday and Saturday night sets, as Lizzo, her band the Lizzbians and the Little Bigs and her dancers the Big Grrrls were joined on stage by collaborators Cardi B (“Rumors ”), SZA (“Special”) and Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott (who shocked Lizzo by popping up on stage while she was playing their “Tempo” banger). The cameos set social media on fire, with Lizzo sharing her thanks to special guests online.
“I’m a fan of Cardi B…but as much as I admire her as an artist, she’s unparalleled as a person,” Lizzo said.
I am a Fan of Cardi B! I been following her since before love&hiphop… But as much as I fan over her as an artist, who she is as a PERSON is UNMATCHED. @iamcardib thank U for always coming thru for me, for standing up for us when you don’t have to. U the peoples champ! I LOVE U pic.twitter.com/2yq2xV7IGr— FOLLOW @YITTY (@lizzo) November 19, 2022
Beyond love and mutual adoration, the posts were a preview of what fans can expect when they tune in.
“I’m excited because I don’t perform when it comes to being a live performer,” Lizzo says of the special gig. “I think when people realize the mic is on, the choreography was choreographing, the look is looking, the Big Grrls are on point, the band is on point, Sophia Eris [Lizzo’s longtime friend and DJ] and I are about to, people are really going to realize, ‘Oh this is serious!’
It’s not that she feels the need to prove herself at this point — she sold an arena tour, after all — but she prides herself on “showing people the level at which I operate.”
“Let me stop talking about myself for a minute,” laughs Lizzo, before focusing on the fans who couldn’t get tickets or an emergency prevented them from attending the show.
“I think people are going to really enjoy seeing the concert,” she adds. “A lot of people have nothing to do on New Years Eve so now they can pop a bottle of champagne or apple juice and they can watch Lizzo’s show and it’s a great To display.”
Billed as a “spectacular show filled with love, positivity and amazing music”, Lizzo opens her concert by asking the audience an important question: “When was the last time you said something nice about yourself? time ?”
It’s a question she hopes will trigger something in the audience that lasts longer than her set list.
“There’s a part of them that feels joy, that feels confident, that feels love. That part comes out of them during my shows,” says Lizzo. “And then, just as the excitement of a show is fleeting, that feeling can be fleeting. This feeling that they have, I want them to carry with you, and I want them to protect it, because it is important. You need it there [in the world].”
Focusing on that simple question and its own mantra – “I love you. You are beautiful. And you can do anything” – Lizzo hopes fans can “offset the amount of negativity we ingest daily – lots of negative news, lots of negative comments, lots of negative thoughts we already had, lots of negative programming where we don’t we see not valued or as beautiful in the media.
It’s unfortunate that we have to do this work, but it’s important. “I really want to create a space where people feel safe and I really want to protect people. I think everyone deserves to be protected at all costs.
That’s part of why she goes to such lengths to make sure her fans feel seen at her shows, calling for the house lights to come on so she can call them into the crowd.
“I can see everyone in there, and I think if people knew that, they would feel more connected with me,” she explains. “People who have tickets to the pits and are crushed against the fence, they can look at me and be like, ‘Ah, she looked at me.’ I want to give the same feeling to people who think their nose is bleeding, who are at the very top of the arena, I see you too!
Essentially, she wants them to experience what she felt on Ms. Carter’s tour when she knows Beyoncé spotted her in the crowd choreographing “Single Ladies.” (Lizzo has seen Beyoncé 10 or 11 times in concert, but this one was memorable).
And with “Live in Concert”, everyone at home can feel that. Directed by Sam Wrench and produced by Kevin Beisler, the special is produced by Lizzo (via her production company Lizzobangers) and Done + Dusted’s Ian Stewart, Leah Lane and Hamish Hamilton. After producing an Emmy-winning reality series, a documentary, and a concert special, what will the Lizzobangers do next?
“Damn…I don’t even think about it like that to be honest,” Lizzo replies, pondering the question for a minute before settling on an answer.
“Lizzobangers Productions is me taking a stand and owning my career so everything I do because of this production company I own,” she concludes, teasing, “Who knows where this is going to go. ? How Lizzobangers production might make diapers one day, you never know, and I think that’s the beauty of what we’re doing here.
If the successes of the last few years (which also include the launch of Yitty Lizzo’s shapewear collaboration with Fabletics) are any proof, the sky’s the limit.
. Lizzo presents Love Lizzo HBOMax Doc concert special New