Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls Made Me Reckon With My Body Insecurity

Photo: Courtesy of Amazon Studios.
When the trailer for Lizzo’s Amazon Prime dance competition show Watch Out for the Big Grrrls first dropped, I was pumped. The 8-episode series follows aspiring dancers as they compete to be one of Lizzo’s “Big Grrrls,” her tour backup dancers. As a plus-sized Black woman, it felt so good seeing the fellow plush babes of the series getting their flowers and being showcased on center stage. I thoroughly enjoyed the show, the cast, and overall storyline, but certain elements — particularly the show’s theme song — left me triggered as hell. 
As someone who has spent 95% of her life occupying a plus body, I’ve dealt with uninspired fat jokes and childish put-downs from folks who couldn’t say I was unintelligent or unattractive (read: fat is not synonymous with ugly *hair flip*). Sometimes, a simple song can spark viceral memories of my past insecurities. Whenever I hear Jimmy Jones aka DJ Booman’s iconic Baltimore club mix “Watch Out For The Big Girl” (which Lizzo samples in the show’s theme song), I’m instantly transported back to 2009 and my first club experience. 
I’d never been to a club, I’d never had to show my ID, and I’d never seen or heard of Travis Porter until that night. I didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was it was my 18th birthday, my girls were taking me out, and Travie was going to be in the building. I was feeling myself and the air was thick because the building was packed. My girls and I were on the dance floor and the DJ was playing hit after hit to warm up the club. I still remember how amazing the mix was and how amazing I felt. 
That’s when the famous beat dropped and the speakers started blaring, “Watch out for the big girls! Watch out for the big girls!” The DJ came onto the mic wanting to know where the big girls were and encouraging the men in the club to point them out. All of a sudden a few other ladies and I were the center of attention — and it wasn’t because it was my birthday. From that moment on, I began to notice a pattern. No matter what club I visited, when the  “Watch Out For The Big Girl” beat would drop, guys would scurry to the dancefloor in search of a big girl to grind on or to point out. Some men would go so far  as to lay “big girls” on the ground in the middle of the club to hump them.  

Watch Out for the Big Grrrls made me question why I was so bothered by seeing unbothered big girls celebrating themselves freely and without shame... Each of these beautiful women represented how much more work I still needed to do on myself.

So I developed a strategy. As soon as I caught a whiff of the beat, I’d scatter. But it seemed like I couldn’t escape the song or the unwanted attention. I know what you’re thinking: “The song is an anthem. It’s meant to encourage big girls.” Sure, but again, as someone who has been plus all my life, I quickly picked up on the difference between someone laughing with you versus when they are laughing at you. 
After that night, I decided that I would forever hate the “Watch Out For The Big Girl” song. And I still do. 
Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Lizzo’s new show premiered and there I was, facing the song again. But this time, I was also forced to face some of the hard truths of my journey of self acceptance and body positivity. As much as I rally behind my fellow plus Black women, I realized I was also still harboring quite a few hang ups about my own self image and the respectability politics I’d adopted early on as a means to survive my childhood (breaking news: kids are assholes). And although I have since grown up and flourished in my body, I recognize that there was still more deprogramming to be done when it comes to self acceptance. 
When I was watching Watch Out For the Big Grrrls I constantly had to stop myself from making comments like, “Did they have to shoot her from that angle?” or “Eeeehhhh, I wouldn’t have worn that if I knew I was going to be on camera.” One of the contestants, Asia  — who probably closest represents my body type — challenged me the most. Sis was killing the looks. Every episode, she owned her style, her body, and her sensuality. Yet, I found myself commenting on what I would and wouldn’t wear if I was her. But that’s the point: I’m not her. And if I’m being honest with myself, I yearned to be where she is. I’ve only begun to tap into my sensuality and identify what sexy looks like for me and her confidence made me feel threatened.
It was as if the more comfortable these women were on screen, the more uncomfortable I became with my own issues. I felt exposed, and even went as far as to question how much of my own self confidence was a complete farce. I needed to take some time after watching the show in its entirety to question why I was so bothered by seeing unbothered big girls celebrating themselves and each other freely and without shame. The truth is that each of these beautiful women represented how much more work I still needed to do on myself and I wasn’t ready to face that. Watch Out For the Big Grrrls shows women who are shedding light on so many important issues like body dysmorphia and eating disorders — conversations we are usually erased from  — and there I was having  second hand embarrassment over a camera angle I deemed unflattering. Seriously?

Big girls are sexy. We are soft and we are strong, but we are also vulnerable. And above all, we deserve some grace.

I had to call bullshit on myself and acknowledge how much of my feelings were still so deeply rooted in past trauma and exacerbated by the toxic parts of the body positivity community. The movement still has so much more work to do to celebrate other body types outside of the “curvy” hourglass shape. I had to recognize that in spite of how free I thought I was, I was still painfully aware of how much space I took up in the world. The feelings took me back to high school. I’ve never been ashamed of being a thicker girl, just hyper aware of my size and the optics that come with it because I grew up around thin white girls. I tried to make myself look smaller, I wore body skimming, more “flattering” clothes, and scrunched into small spaces. I can only recall feeling "shame" when someone else would become aware of my size, like when a guy would get pissed because I didn't respond to his advances. Then he’d be yelling, "Whatever, fat b*tch!" in the cafeteria. I think Kat from Euphoria of all places said it best: "I spent my whole life afraid people were going to find out I was fat." Watch Out For the Big Grrrls made me reckon with these feelings all over again. 
After watching the show, I even took some time to examine my previous style choices. I found myself questioning whether I’d spent the earlier years of my life wearing girdles at ages 11 and 12, ruffled tops, and pearls to present as ultra feminine because I wanted to or if it was a means of defending myself against harmful fatphobic stereotypes — like being labeled as sloppy or dirty.
The fact is I am still processing. And my hope is that anyone who watches this show will take a moment to reflect and check their biases. When you strip away the glam, the eight counts, and the hype, at its core Watch Out for the Big Grrrls is a beautiful display of the duality of womanhood. It is our prerogative to show up in this world as our true authentic selves because that representation is so much bigger than us. Or as my insightful colleague once put it, “How does someone know what they can be if they don’t see it first?” Big girls are sexy. We are soft and we are strong, but we are also vulnerable. And above all, we deserve some grace.

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