Melissa Viviane Jefferson (born April 27, 1988), known professionally as Lizzo, is an American singer, rapper, songwriter, and flutist. Born in Detroit, Michigan, she moved to Houston, Texas, where she began performing, before moving to Minneapolis, where she began her recording career. Before signing with Nice Life and Atlantic Records, Lizzo released two studio albums—Lizzobangers (2013), and Big Grrrl Small World (2015). Lizzo's first major-label EP, Coconut Oil, was released in 2016.
Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson in Detroit, Michigan. At the age of ten, her family relocated to Houston, Texas. Lizzo started rapping as a teenager in a southwest part of Houston known as Alief. At the age of 14, she formed a musical group called Cornrow Clique with her friends. At this time she acquired the nickname "Lizzo", a variant of "Lissa" inspired by Jay-Z's "Izzo (H.O.V.A.)". After graduating from Alief Elsik High School, she studied classical music focusing on flute at the University of Houston. At 21, after the death of her father, she lived out of her car for a year as she tried to break into the music industry. She moved to Minneapolis, Minnesota, in 2011.
While living in Minneapolis, Lizzo performed with indie groups including the electro soul-pop duo, Lizzo & the Larva Ink. During this time she helped form a three-piece all-female rap/R&B group: the Chalice. In 2012, the Chalice released their first album, We Are the Chalice, which was locally successful.
Lizzo toured the US and UK in the fall of 2013 opening for Har Mar Superstar, and additionally sang with his band. In October 2013, Lizzo won City Pages' "Picked to Click" award for best new Twin Cities artist. The following month Time named her one of 14 music artists to watch in 2014. The album was subsequently re-released through Virgin Records. Later that year, Lizzo shared the stage with St. Paul and the Broken Bones, performing "A Change Is Gonna Come" together.
Lizzo's hip-hop-focused debut album, Lizzobangers, produced by Lazerbeak and Ryan Olson, was released on October 15, 2013. Killian Fox of The Guardian gave the album 4 stars out of 5, saying: "At times joyfully nonsensical, Lizzo's stream-of-consciousness rhymes can also be lethally pointed." The album topped Star Tribune's "Twin Cities Critics Tally 2013" list. Music videos were created for the songs "Batches & Cookies", "Faded", "Bus Passes and Happy Meals", and "Paris".
Following the release of her first album, Lizzo immediately began working on new music. In 2014, she participated in StyleLikeU's What's Underneath project, where she removed her clothes as she talked about her relationships with her body. Inspired by the experience, she wrote "My Skin", which she described as "the thesis statement" of her forthcoming second album. In an interview with Vice, regarding body image, she said:
In September 2014, Lizzo was featured alongside her Chalice bandmates Sophia Eris and Claire de Lune on the song "BoyTrouble" on Prince's and 3rdEyeGirl's album Plectrumelectrum. On working with Prince, Lizzo says the experience was "surreal... almost like a fairytale" and that it was "something I will never actually get over." On October 7, 2014, Lizzo appeared as the musical guest on the Late Show with David Letterman.
Lizzo's second studio album, Big Grrrl Small World, was released on December 11, 2015. Spin placed the album at number 17 on the "50 Best Hip-Hop Albums of 2015" list. Hilary Saunders of Paste praised Lizzo's "ability to rap and sing with equal tenacity." Her collaboration with Your Smith (then Caroline Smith), "Let 'Em Say", was featured in the season three premiere of Broad City.
Lizzo was one of the hosts of MTV's short-lived 2016 live music performance series Wonderland. After signing with Atlantic Records that same year, Lizzo released her first major-label extended play, Coconut Oil, on October 7, 2016. "Good As Hell" was released as the lead single from the Coconut Oil on March 8, 2016 as part of the soundtrack for the 2016 film Barbershop: The Next Cut. Lizzo co-wrote each song on the album, while enlisting Ricky Reed, Christian Rich, Dubbel Dutch, and Jesse Shatkin for the album's production. The result was a departure from Lizzo's previous alternative hip hop releases. Lyrically, the extended play explores themes of body positivity, self-love, and the journey to those ideals.
Coconut Oil received positive reviews from music critics. Syra Aburto, writing for Nylon, wrote that "like the product it's named after, [Lizzo's] latest project, Coconut Oil, is essential for healthy living." Rolling Stone placed it at #14 on its list of the "20 Best Pop Albums of 2016". Commercially, Coconut Oil peaked at number 44 on US Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums, making it Lizzo's first release to chart. To promote the extended play, Lizzo embarked on the Good as Hell Tour in 2017. In May she headlined The Infatuation's annual food festival, EEEEEATSCON and also appeared as a guest judge on the tenth season of RuPaul's Drag Race. In early 2018, Lizzo toured both with Haim and Florence and the Machine.
Lizzo's music primarily incorporates hip hop. Her music also incorporates genres such as soul, R&B and funk-pop. Lizzo's influences include Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, and Diana Ross. Lizzo stated in an interview in 2018, "I was always afraid of being a singer, but then when I heard Lauryn Hill, I was like, maybe I can do both," further adding that her debut album was inspired by The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, "rapping, singing, being political."
After struggling with body issues at an early age, Lizzo became an advocate for body positivity and self-love as she attracted more mainstream attention, while making diversity the focus of her music, in regards to one's body, sexuality, race, and more. Her group of back-up dancers, the Big Grrrls, consists of all plus-size dancers. Highlighting body inclusivity and celebrating individuality, Lizzo appeared in ModCloth's "Say It Louder" campaign, which launched on June 11, 2018. In the same month, she sported the first plus-size outfit made for FIT's Future of Fashion runway show by Grace Insogna for her performance at NYC Pride's Pride Island event. Lizzo was profiled in the June 2018 Teen Vogue Music Issue.
Aside from singing and rapping, Lizzo is also an actress; she served as a voice performer in the animated film UglyDolls (2019) and appeared in the crime comedy-drama film Hustlers (2019). In 2019, Time named Lizzo as "Entertainer of the Year" for her meteoric rise and contribution to music.
In 2019, in addition to her musical projects, Lizzo ventured into acting, with a voice performance in the animated film UglyDolls, and a supporting part in the crime comedy-drama film Hustlers.
"Juice", the lead single from her third studio album, was released on January 4, 2019, by Atlantic Records. The next month, she announced the title of the album, Cuz I Love You, which was eventually released on April 19, 2019. After the release of her album, she performed at the Coachella Music Festival for the first time.
In June 2019, to mark the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, an event widely considered a watershed moment in the modern LGBTQ rights movement, Queerty named her one of the Pride50 "trailblazing individuals who actively ensure society remains moving towards equality, acceptance and dignity for all queer people".
On July 23, 2019, Lizzo was nominated for Push Artist of the Year and Best New Artist at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards. She performed a medley of "Truth Hurts" and "Good as Hell" at the 2019 MTV Video Music Awards; her performance received critical praise.
"Truth Hurts" has since become Lizzo's first number-one hit on the Billboard Hot 100. It topped the Hot 100 chart for seven weeks. She made history as the first Black solo female R&B singer to claim the top spot on the Hot 100 since Rihanna's 2012 hit "Diamonds." A week later, on September 9, 2019, Cuz I Love You became certified gold by the RIAA with over 500,000 equivalent units sold.
Lizzo made her Saturday Night Live debut as musical guest on the December 21, 2019 episode, which Eddie Murphy hosted. The episode was the final episode of both the year and the decade. In January 2020, Lizzo headlined FOMO Festival, performing in four Australian cities and Auckland, New Zealand. She also performed a sold-out show at the Sydney Opera House, where she had previously performed as a young flute player.
On January 5, 2020, Lizzo stopped using Twitter, citing "too many trolls" for her departure. She had been the target of body shaming, amongst other reasons. She said she'll "be back when I feel like it". Her Twitter account has since been updated by her management, while she remains active on her Instagram.
In June 2020, Lizzo revealed on TikTok that she is vegan.