Desiree Sterling, ‘22

‘It’s About Damn Time’: Lizzo and the Rhetoric of Body Positivity”

Director: Earl Brooks

Committee Members: Lucille McCarthy and Drew Holladay


Through rhetorical analysis, I argue that popular culture sensation Lizzo emulates restorative literacy practices for fat, Black women to navigate harmful cultural norms manifested as anti-blackness, misogynoir, and fatphobia on and offline. This analysis explores how the public sphere often weaponizes contrived notions of desirability, health, and authentic happiness to read marginalization. Lizzo’s public and highly active social media presence exposes these assumptions through her polarized reception by users across platforms, shedding light on 1) eugenics-inspired logic that informs social biases and 2) subversive counternarratives engaged in through her content creation. I explore seven case studies by which Lizzo maximizes her exposure online to not only increase the visibility of celebrity but also curate multi-media cultural work remedying limiting representations of fat, Black women by rejecting dehumanizing imagery and reductive social expectations. Lizzo replaces tropes projecting unattraction, disease, and solemnity with anecdotal accounts that exude self-confidence, vitality, and Black joy.