Melissa Viviane Jefferson (born April 27, 1988), known professionally as Lizzo, is an American singer-songwriter, rapper, and flautist. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she moved to Houston, Texas where she began performing, before moving to Minneapolis, where she began her recording career. Before signing with Nice Life and Atlantic Records, Lizzo released two studio albums—Lizzobangers (2013), and Big Grrrl Small World (2015). In 2014, Time named her one of fourteen music artists to watch. Lizzo's first major-label EP, Coconut Oil, was released in 2016.
In 2019, she attained mainstream success with the release of her third studio album, Cuz I Love You, which peaked inside the top five of the Billboard 200. The album spawned two singles: "Juice" and "Tempo". The deluxe version of the album included Lizzo's 2017 single "Truth Hurts", which became a viral sleeper hit, topping the Billboard Hot 100 two years after its initial release. Around this time, her 2016 single "Good as Hell" also climbed the charts, reaching the top ten of the UK Singles Chart and the Billboard Hot 100. Lizzo has been nominated for Best New Artist and received eight nominations at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, including Album of the Year for the deluxe version of Cuz I Love You and Song of the Year and Record of the Year for "Truth Hurts".
Aside from singing and rapping, Lizzo is also an actress; she served as a voice performer in the animated film UglyDolls (2019) and appeared in the crime comedy-drama film Hustlers (2019). In 2019, Time named Lizzo as "Entertainer of the Year" for her meteoric rise and contribution to music.
Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson in Detroit, Michigan. When she was ten, her family relocated to Houston, Texas. Lizzo started rapping as a teenager in a southwest part of Houston known as Alief. At the age of 14, she formed a musical group called Cornrow Clique with her friends. At this time she acquired the nickname "Lizzo", a variant of "Lissa" inspired by Jay-Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)". After graduating from Alief Elsik High School, she studied classical music focusing on flute at the University of Houston. At 21, after the death of her father, she lived out of her car for a year as she tried to break into the music industry. She moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2011.
2011–2015: Early work
While living in Minneapolis, Lizzo performed with indie groups including the electro soul-pop duo, Lizzo & the Larva Ink. During this time she helped form a three-piece all-female rap/R&B group: the Chalice. In 2012, the Chalice released their first album, We Are the Chalice, which was locally successful.
Lizzo's hip-hop-focused debut album, Lizzobangers, produced by Lazerbeak and Ryan Olson, was released on October 15, 2013. Killian Fox of The Guardian gave the album 4 stars out of 5, saying: "At times joyfully nonsensical, Lizzo's stream-of-consciousness rhymes can also be lethally pointed." The album topped Star Tribune's "Twin Cities Critics Tally 2013" list. Music videos were created for the songs "Batches & Cookies", "Faded", "Bus Passes and Happy Meals", and "Paris".
Lizzo toured the US and UK in the fall of 2013 opening for Har Mar Superstar, and additionally sang with his band. In October 2013, Lizzo won City Pages' "Picked to Click" award for best new Twin Cities artist. The following month Time named her one of 14 music artists to watch in 2014. The album was subsequently re-released through Virgin Records. Later that year, Lizzo shared the stage with St. Paul and the Broken Bones, performing "A Change Is Gonna Come" together.
Following the release of her first album, Lizzo immediately began working on new music. In 2014, she participated in StyleLikeU's What's Underneath project, where she removed her clothes as she talked about her relationships with her body. Inspired by the experience, she wrote "My Skin", which she described as "the thesis statement" of her forthcoming second album. In an interview with Vice, regarding body image, she said:
You can wake up and change many things about your appearance, but the inevitability of waking up in your skin is what unifies us.
In September 2014, Lizzo was featured alongside her Chalice bandmates Sophia Eris and Claire de Lune on the song "BoyTrouble" on Prince's and 3rdEyeGirl's album Plectrumelectrum. On working with Prince, Lizzo says the experience was "surreal... almost like a fairytale" and that it was "something I will never actually get over." On October 7, 2014, Lizzo appeared as the musical guest on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Lizzo's second studio album, Big Grrrl Small World, was released on December 11, 2015. Spin placed the album at number 17 on the "50 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2015" list. Hilary Saunders of Paste praised Lizzo's "ability to rap and sing with equal tenacity." Her collaboration with Your Smith (then Caroline Smith), "Let 'Em Say", was featured in the season three premiere of Broad City.
2016–present: Commercial breakthrough
Lizzo was one of the hosts of MTV's short-lived 2016 live music performance series Wonderland. After signing with Atlantic Records that same year, Lizzo released her first major-label extended play, Coconut Oil, on October 7, 2016. "Good As Hell" was released as the lead single from the Coconut Oil on March 8, 2016 as part of the soundtrack for the 2016 film Barbershop: The Next Cut. Lizzo co-wrote each song on the album, while enlisting Ricky Reed, Christian Rich, Dubbel Dutch, and Jesse Shatkin for the album's production. The result was a departure from Lizzo's previous alternative hip hop releases. Lyrically, the extended play explores themes of body positivity, self-love, and the journey to those ideals.
Coconut Oil received positive reviews from music critics. Syra Aburto, writing for Nylon, wrote that "like the product it's named after, [Lizzo's] latest project, Coconut Oil, is essential for healthy living." Rolling Stone placed it at #14 on its list of the "20 Best Pop Albums of 2016". Commercially, Coconut Oil peaked at number 44 on US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, making it Lizzo's first release to chart. To promote the extended play, Lizzo embarked on the Good as Hell Tour in 2017. That year, Lizzo also appeared as a guest judge on the tenth season of RuPaul's Drag Race. In early 2018, Lizzo toured both with Haim and Florence and the Machine.
After struggling with body issues at an early age, Lizzo became an advocate for body positivity and self-love as she attracted more mainstream attention, while making diversity the focus of her music, in regards to one's body, sexuality, race, and more. Her group of back-up dancers, the Big Grrrls, consists of all plus-size dancers. Highlighting body inclusivity and celebrating individuality, Lizzo appeared in ModCloth's "Say It Louder" campaign, which launched on June 11, 2018. In the same month, she sported the first plus-size outfit made for FIT's Future of Fashion runway show by Grace Insogna at a Pride Island LGBTQ event. Lizzo was profiled in the June 2018 Teen Vogue Music Issue.
In 2019, in addition to her musical projects, Lizzo ventured into acting, with a voice performance in the animated film UglyDolls, and a supporting part in the crime comedy-drama film Hustlers.
"Juice", the lead single from her third studio album, was released on January 4, 2019, by Atlantic Records. The next month, she announced the title of the album, Cuz I Love You, which was eventually released on April 19, 2019. After the release of her album, she performed at the Coachella Music Festival for the first time.
The release of Cuz I Love You marked a turning point in Lizzo's career, as she began to attract more mainstream attention; the album debuted at number six on the Billboard 200 and eventually peaked at number four on the chart, three months after its initial release.
After inspiring an internet meme on the TikTok video sharing app and being featured in the 2019 Netflix film Someone Great, Lizzo's 2017 single, "Truth Hurts", began to gain popularity and was added to the deluxe version of Cuz I Love You. The single became a viral sleeper hit, and, in turn, increased interest for Cuz I Love You, which remained in the top 10 of the Billboard 200 for several months.
"Truth Hurts" has since become Lizzo's first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It topped the Hot 100 chart for seven weeks. She made history as the first Black solo female R&B singer to claim the top spot on the Hot 100 since Rihanna's 2012 hit "Diamonds." A week later, on September 9, 2019, Cuz I Love You became certified gold by the RIAA with over 500,000 equivalent units sold.
The music video for the song, in which Lizzo "marries herself", has amassed more than 110 million views on YouTube. In an interview, she revealed that the initial lack of success for “Truth Hurts”—what she had thought to be her best song yet at the time—caused her to seriously consider quitting the music industry altogether.
Lizzo is also well known for her ability to play the flute. She began playing as a child, and has continued to improve her flute playing skills into adulthood. She has performed with the flute, she has named Sasha Flute, in several of her musical performances, including when she performed "Truth Hurts" at the 2019 BET Awards. Her performance at the BET Awards earned her a standing ovation from the crowd, which included fellow singer Rihanna.
Throughout the summer of 2019, Lizzo frequently performed, including on the West Holts stage at the Glastonbury Festival, and as a headliner at the Indianapolis and Sacramento pride festivals.
On July 23, 2019, Lizzo was nominated for Push Artist of the Year and Best New Artist at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards. She performed a medley of "Truth Hurts" and "Good as Hell" at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards; her performance received critical praise.
Around this time, her 2016 single "Good as Hell" also climbed the Billboard charts around the world, reaching the top ten of the UK Singles Chart. The song also reached the top 10 in Australia and Belgium.
Lizzo made her Saturday Night Live debut as musical guest on the December 21, 2019 episode, which Eddie Murphy hosted. The episode was the final episode of both the year and the decade. In January 2020, Lizzo headlined FOMO Festival, performing in four Australian cities and Auckland, New Zealand. She also performed a sold-out show at the Sydney Opera House, where she had previously performed as a young flute player.
When asked about her gender and sexuality, Lizzo said, "I personally don't ascribe to just one thing.... That's why the colors for LGBTQ+ are a rainbow! Because there's a spectrum and right now we try to keep it black and white. That's just not working for me." She has a strong LGBTQ+ following and has dubbed her fans "Lizzbians".
In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event widely considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named her one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people".
Lizzo is a classically trained flautist and has performed flute solos in several performances.
Lizzo grew up attending the Church of God in Christ.
Lizzo's music primarily incorporates pop and hip hop. Her music also incorporates genres such as soul, R&B and funk-pop.
- Lizzobangers (2013)
- Big Grrrl Small World (2015)
- Cuz I Love You (2019)
|2016||Brad Neely's Harg Nallin' Sclopio Peepio||Herself||4 episodes|
|2018||Yeti! Yeti!||Magic Mushroom|
|2014||Made in Chelsea: NYC||Season 1, episode 4|
|2014||Late Show with David Letterman||Season 22, episode 29|
|2015||The Late Show with Stephen Colbert||Season 1, episode 56|
|2016||Sooo Many White Guys||1 episode; podcast|
|2016||The Real||1 episode|
|2016||Party Legends||"Make Mistakes"|
|2016||Full Frontal with Samantha Bee||"Post-Election"|
|2017, 2018||Trivial Takedown||2 episodes|
|2018||Articulate with Jim Cotter||"Caroline Shaw, Lizzo, Robert Janz"|
|2018||Hannibal Buress: Handsome Rambler||"The Lizzo Episode"|
|2018||RuPaul's Drag Race||Season 10, episode 10|
|2019||The Ellen DeGeneres Show||1 episode|
|2019||The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon||1 episode|
|2019||The Daily Show with Trevor Noah||April 18, 2019|
|2019||2 Dope Queens||1 episode; podcast|
|2019||C à vous||1 episode|
|2019||Neo Magazin Royale||1 episode|
|2019||The Jonathan Ross Show||1 episode|
|2019||Saturday Night Live||Season 45, episode 10|
- MAHA Music Festival (2019)
- Good as Hell Tour (2017)
- Cuz I Love You Tour (2019)
- Cuz I Love You Too Tour (2019)
- Haim – Sister Sister Sister Tour (2018)
- Florence and the Machine – High as Hope Tour (2018)
- Lollapalooza (2018)
- Coachella (2019)
- Indy Pride Festival (2019)
- Glastonbury (2019)
- Mo Pop Festival (2019)
Awards and nominations
|Award||Year||Recipient(s) and nominee(s)||Category||Result||Ref.|
|American Music Awards||2019||Herself||New Artist of the Year||Nominated|
|Favorite Female Artist — Soul/R&B||Nominated|
|"Juice"||Favorite Song — Soul/R&B||Nominated|
|Apple Music Awards||2019||Herself||Breakthrough Artist of the Year||Won|
|BET Awards||2019||Herself||Best Female Hip-Hop Artist||Nominated|
|BET Hip Hop Awards||2019||Cuz I Love You||Album of the Year||Nominated|
|BreakTudo Awards||2019||Herself||International New Artist||Nominated|
|Grammy Awards||2020||Herself||Best New Artist||Pending|
|Cuz I Love You||Album of the Year||Pending|
|Best Urban Contemporary Album||Won|
|"Truth Hurts"||Record of the Year||Pending|
|Song of the Year||Pending|
|Best Pop Solo Performance||Won|
|"Exactly How I Feel"||Best R&B Performance||Nominated|
|"Jerome"||Best Traditional R&B Performance||Won|
|MTV Europe Music Awards||2019||Herself||Best New Act||Nominated|
|Best Push Act||Nominated|
|Best US Act||Nominated|
|MTV Video Music Awards||2019||Herself||Best New Artist||Nominated|
|Push Artist of the Year||Nominated|
|"Tempo"||Best Power Anthem||Nominated|
|"Truth Hurts"||Song of Summer||Nominated|
|People's Choice Awards||2019||Cuz I Love You||Album of 2019||Nominated|
|Popjustice £20 Music Prize||2019||"Blame It on Your Love" (with Charli XCX)||Best British Pop Single||Nominated|
|Q Awards||2019||"Juice"||Best Track||Nominated|
|Rolling Stone's International Music Awards||2019||Herself||Style||Won|
|Soul Train Music Awards||2019||"Juice"||Song of the Year||Nominated|
|Video of the Year||Won|
|The Ashford and Simpson Songwriter's Award||Nominated|
|Best Dance Performance||Nominated|
|Cuz I Love You||Album/Mixtape of the Year||Won|
|Herself||Best R&B/Soul Female Artist||Nominated|
|Streamy Awards||2019||Herself||Breakthrough Artist||Nominated|
|Teen Choice Awards||2019||Herself||Choice Breakout Artist||Nominated|
|Choice Summer Female Artist||Nominated|
|"Truth Hurts"||Choice Summer Song||Nominated|
|UK Music Video Awards||2019||Herself||Best Artist||Nominated|