Some people look as if they were born ready to make an entrance — with hair and makeup locked in a state of unabashed, turned-up glam; strutting out with sequins aglow and bravado to spare. Singer and performer Lizzo, who just dropped her body-positive, self-care anthem “Water Me”, is one of those people. Like other magnetic stars — Tina Turner, Dolly Parton, Beyoncé — Lizzo performs in bodysuits, fringe, and lashes out to there. And she knows how to command an audience. At an NPR show at SXSW earlier this year, she told the crowd, “Whether you came to see me or not, you’re going to leave having had a good night.” And they did.
For women like Lizzo, unabashed confidence seems to be a birthright, no alter-ego required. But the powerhouse performer we see strutting on stage, whipping her hair and belting out lines like, “I don’t need a crown to know I’m a queen” has been years in the making. And it started in the most unsuspecting of ways: with the wrong shade of concealer.
“Back when I was in my band in 2007, I rarely wore makeup. I wore a classic red lip and some drugstore mascara. I think even back then, I was doing my own thing, but I was also really broke and couldn’t afford makeup,” she says to us in a loft in downtown Los Angeles. “I had this glitter in a pot and concealer. I still have the concealer — it’s not even my color. It’s a little lighter than me, a little more ashy. I would cake it on my eyelids and then put gold glitter on [top]. It was really concentrated. That was my onstage look.”
Though Lizzo says she was more scrappy about her look in these early years, she did note the impact that a little glitter or red lipstick has on her aura. And that’s something she’s amplified in her stage production ever since. “What I was doing back then wasn't glam, but I still celebrated my womanhood up there. I think as I grow into becoming a woman, I [find] bigger ways to do that.”
We’d expect no less from a woman who named her last album “Coconut Oil” and sings lines like, “I do my hair toss, Check my nails, Baby how you feelin’, Feeling good as hell.” But playing up her femininity onstage didn’t start with contracting a thousands-of-dollars-a-day celebrity makeup artist. Instead, it began with something as simple as faux lashes.
“Lashes made me feel like I got a whole lighting rig,” she marvels. “They upped the production of my whole show for me. I feel so much more confident when I’m singing songs like “Excuse Me” and “Good as Hell” when I have these fluttering lashes on, so much larger than life.” The wispy strips were a revelation. “All of my expression is in my eyes on stage, so I think adding to that really did give me way more confidence to be as expressive as I want to be,” she says.
Those layers of lashes not only ushered in a greater sense of self, but a blown-out approach to her entire stage presence. Inspiration by icons like Diana Ross and, of course, Beyoncé, Lizzo pushed her onstage look to flashier heights, and moved the needle on her performance as a whole. “I was looking at the things that make them more than just a musical act, but world class performers. It was the highlight on Beyoncé’s cheek, the lip on Diana Ross, the lashes,” she says.
Along with makeup artist Quinn Wilson, Lizzo started plotting a way to boost her shine, both aesthetically and internally. “We wanted to seal the whole package. So we looked at some of the greats and kind of applied that to our growing style, which was like, winged eyes and a lip. But then we started adding drama, which comes with the lashes and the crazy lip colors, the metallics...”
And with that, the girl who used to do her own haphazard makeup just to sweat it off onstage morphed into the queen of experimenting with high-wattage looks, each more daring than the last. Right now, she’s excited to play with the kind of textured lips we see on Vlada Haggerty’s Instagram page. “We’re talking creating a lip with texture, like having an ombré lip one night or using glitter with pigment or [making] my lips look super glossy — almost dripping on stage,” she says. “ We haven't done that yet because I always eat the mic for real, so we’re trying to find a way.”
Along the way, Lizzo has adopted a few must-haves that serve as a serious step up from mismatched concealer. Among her favorite new discoveries: the Anastasia Glow Kit. “ We actually got that from a girl who was touring with us. She bought it and it was so poppin’ that we started using it. Eventually, I loved it so much I got it for myself,” she says. Another keeper? Touch in Sol Metallist Liquid Foil Lipstick Duo “It’s a really cool metallic lip duo; one side’s a matte bronze and the other side’s a gloss.” Finally, the singer shares her go-to, no-budge liner: Make Up For Ever Aqua XL Eye Pencil. “It’s so dope,” she raves. “Anthony H. Nguyen did my makeup and it’s the blackest eyeliner I’ve ever seen and I was like ‘WHAT IS THIS?’ so I went and got it. It’s so heavily pigmented and rolls on so well.”
But leaning into her glam means more than playing dress up. It’s about recharging her inner femininity — and connecting with her fans. “I feel sexy when I’m up the crowd’s face, like I do for a lot of the songs, and they’re looking at me in my eyes. They see the person they see in the album cover and the music videos and in the press photos. I feel like I’m bringing her live to everyone in every city; I’m giving them the full experience,” she says.
Beauty allows her to relate to fans on a deeper level, too. “They’ll be like, ‘Oh, what kind of foundation you use?’ It is nice to bond with the crowd after the show and the people who have been admiring the details,” says Lizzo. “We do it for the people who are more detail-oriented, like we are. It is the details that make for the grand picture.”
As excited as the Scuse Me singer is about dialing up the drama with her stage looks, Lizzo says she keeps her beauty look pretty mellow when just kicking it with her friends. Sure, the digits stay decked (“I don’t let my nails breathe— my nails have always got to be done,” she admits), but the artist, who is known for her long, natural hair, is more likely to be chilling in a t-shirt and no makeup when off duty. “I have to remember to love my face without makeup, so I go on little breaks,” she explains.
These little breaks only last as long as Lizzo is off the clock. Because when it’s time to write fresh lyrics or get juiced in the studio, the singer calls on makeup to help get her head in the game. “Honestly, I have to put on makeup before I write or go into the studio,” she says. “I like the way I feel after spending time on myself. I feel myself before I go in there, to get that confidence and [be] ready to create. It’s part of the whole thing.”