“It’s about damn time.”
That’s the first thought that came to mind after I watched the first episode of Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls on Amazon Prime. This binge-worthy reality series—which has been nominated for numerous Emmy nominations including in the Outstanding Competition Show category—follows a group of 13 aspiring plus-size dancers. All 13 are vying for the chance to back up pop superstar Lizzo onstage at the 2022 Bonnaroo music festival and join her elite crew on tour.
Guest Post by Reanne Rodrigues
Lizzo, the triple Grammy-winner whose acclaimed 2019 album Cuz I Love You features mega hits like “Juice” and has reignited the love for 2017 hit single “Truth Hurts,” centers the show’s narrative around self-love, body positivity, and not letting anyone dim your light. While the empowerment talk can feel a tad excessive at times, the warmth of Lizzo’s friendly and supportive personality—showcasing her own vulnerability—is heartening and comforting. She uses examples from her own life experiences to inspire the “Big Grrls,” and, of course, those of us who are watching. It’s clear that she really wants to imbue her dancers with confidence both on and off stage—regardless of their shape, size or inhibitions—so that their star power will shine through and brighten her own.
Coming off as a cross between America’s Next Top Model and So You Think You Can Dance, the diverse group of “Big Grrrl” hopefuls range from 20 to 30 somethings. They include classically trained dancers like Asia Banks, social media stars like Sydney Bell, K-Pop wannabe Isabel Jones, and Jayla Sullivan (a trans woman who thrills with her jaw-dropping splits and back flips). None of the cast members have the traditionally lean dancer bodies that you see largely in mainstream media—and that’s refreshing!
Instead of being hyper-focused on the weight theme, the show highlights the uniqueness and talent of each woman.
In fact, the close-up camera angles that are normally deemed unflattering show big bellies, back fat, stomach rolls and thick thighs that somehow feel not just non-judgmental, but fully relatable. The editing doesn’t shy away from highlighting dancers’ injuries and insecurities either. Instead of being hyper-focused on the weight theme, the show zeroes in on the uniqueness and talent of each woman. Most have backstories that include struggles with poverty and mental health issues, but one thing they all have in common is a huge love and admiration for Lizzo (whose own struggles with body image and acceptance have been equally, if not more, challenging). Because Lizzo acts as the host, narrator, judge, mentor, and cheerleader of the series, we’re able to get insights into these vulnerable and personal insights into her own life throughout.
Each 50-minute episode—there are eight in total—centers around a theme of self-expression ranging from sexuality (via a tasteful nude photo shoot) to individual artistry (via the creation of a group music video). The pressure to be the next big thing and “work your asses on” seems like a sizeable feat. Coached by Lizzo’s leading ladies—including Shirlene Quigley, Tanisha Scott, and Chawnta’ Marie Van—the dancers are expected to step up to quickly learn new choreography and build on their stamina. Regularly clad in bright, neon-colored Spandex, they stomp, strut and slide across the studio and stage, sometimes freestyling to Cardi B, and sometimes performing choreographed hip-hop routines to music from artists like SZA and Missy Elliott.
“It’s not just about dance around here. It is about your heart.”
With Lizzo as the star, there is no brutal boot camp mentality here. On the contrary, it’s welcoming to see these women finally find solidarity together after being treated as outsiders in the dance world for so long. In fact, when drama begins to surface among the contestants in episode 5, Lizzo eliminates the source of the problem and shakes up the contestants. “It’s really important to me that there’s a camaraderie and a sisterhood of authenticity that happens,” Lizzo says. “It’s not just about dance around here. It is about your heart. And it is about your ability to relate to each other. And a huge house rule is no toxicity.”
But beyond this, there are other important messages conveyed in Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls. “Girls who look like me just don’t get enough representation,” Lizzo says in the very first episode. But by shedding light on the entertainment industry’s failure to be size inclusive, Lizzo confronts viewers with even bigger questions about how race, representation, fat phobia and body acceptance are still dealt with in the real world.
For me, the show deserves that “100% that Bad Bitch” award (you’ll hear this term pretty often in the series). It’s liberating to see how one group of women—who once thought they took up too much space in the world—have no more qualms about it now. And that’s a big deal for the “Big Grrrls!”
© Reanne Rodrigues (9/2/2022) – Special for FF2 Media ®
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CREDITS & PERMISSIONS
Featured Photo: Lizzo on set. Photo Credit: JC Olivera/Getty Images for Amazon Studios.
Bottom Photo: Contestants posing from the show. Photo Credit: James Clark/Amazon Prime Video.
Images used with written permission from Amazon. All Rights Reserved!
Reanne is an arts and culture writer based in Manhattan, New York City. She loves telling impactful stories about artists and the value they bring to the world. Reach out to her if you’d like to collaborate on any projects or indulge in a lively discussion over chai at www.reannewrites.com.