No one ever expected a plus-sized rapping, singing, and twerking flautist would be America’s next biggest pop star, least of all Lizzo, who swiftly became a household name. From overnight, the self-described “bop” star went from an unknown artist to three-time Grammy-winning powerhouse.
For anyone who’s been keeping up with Lizzo, it’s been a long time coming for the 31-year-old. After years of grinding, the Michigan-born, Houston-raised songstress blew up with “Truth Hurts” in 2019 (released in 2017). The song gave Lizzo the boost she needed to crossover to mainstream, and she’s been proving she’s that chick ever since.
Now, Lizzo is joining the 2020 BET Awards and we can’t see what she’s got in store after she delivered one of the night’s most memorable performances at the 2019 show. In addition, she is nominated for four awards, including Album of the Year, Female R&B/Pop Artist, and Female Hip Hop Artist.
Here are 7 facts you should know ahead of her performance on Sunday (June 28):
Growing up in the church, Lizzo was inspired to become a musician after seeing the way gospel music resonated with people. When her family uprooted from Detroit to Houston, Texas, Lizzo took to playing the flute after joining her junior high school’s marching band. She would receive a scholarship to the University of Houston where she studied classical music with a focus on flute before dropping out and moving to Minneapolis to pursue music.
Lizzo first started fostering her musical ambitions by forming her first girl group, Cornrow Clique, with friends when she was only 12 years old. It was here where she adopted her stage persona, Lizzo.
After finishing college, Lizzo held a brief stint as a member of the rock band Elypseas. She was briefly involved with GRRRL Party, a hip hop collective, before branching out on her own, according to the Independent.
Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson. In 2019, she revealed to The Cut that her moniker is a portmanteau of her birth name and “Izzo,” the fan-favorite lead single from Jay-Z’s acclaimed album, The Blueprint. She got the nickname for her rapping skills, and has been rocking it ever since.
Yes, indeed -- that Prince. After Elypseas broke up in 2010, Lizzo moved to Minneapolis where she quickly made a name for herself in the local music scene, eventually catching the attention of the music icon. He took her under his wing and worked with the music icon for his 2014 record, Plectrumelectrum, telling Rolling Stone, “It gave me confidence to be an artist, not just a rapper or a singer or a girl in a band.”
“Truth Hurts” was actually released in 2017 but it took two years before it gained traction after it was featured in Netflix’s film, Someone Great. It spawned the viral #DNATest TikTok challenge, and skyrocketed Lizzo to pop stardom.
Lizzo fell into a depression and was just about to give up when the breakthrough happened. She told PEOPLE, “The day I released ‘Truth Hurts’ was probably one of the darkest days I’ve had ever in my career. I remember thinking, ‘If I quit music now, nobody would notice. This is my best song ever, and nobody cares,'” Lizzo recalls.
“I was like, ‘F— it, I’m done.’”
Fortunately, her team rallied behind her and Lizzo stuck it out. “Truth Hurts” was her first single to hit No.1 and won a Grammy in 2019 for Best Pop Solo Performance.
Lizzo has been candid about not labeling her sexuality. She told Teen Vogue in 2018, “When it comes to sexuality or gender, I personally don’t ascribe to just one thing. I cannot sit here right now and tell you I’m 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.”
Her flute is so famous it has its own Instagram page (@sashaflute) with over 320,000 followers. Lizzo lovingly named the instrument Sasha Flute after Beyoncé’s alter ego, Sasha Fierce.
Be sure to tune in for the BET Awards on Sunday at 8 p.m. EST.
(Photo by Frazer Harrison/Getty Images)