Lizzo Is Finally Setting Boundaries: ‘There Is Power In The Word No When You Are Saying Yes To Yourself’
Leon Bennett/Getty Images for BET

Lizzo is known almost as much for her confidence as she is for her chart-topping, Grammy-winning music. The star is an advocate for body confidence and has waxed poetically about the importance of self-love. But when it comes to her hair, she, like many of us, is still learning to embrace it. The journey is ongoing. That’s why her partnership with Dove’s Self-Esteem Project to launch their “My Hair, My CROWN” toolkit is so close to her heart.

It’s a new, free educational tool for group and classrooms settings that puts the spotlight on the distinctive experiences of the Black community in regards to hair. The “My Hair, My CROWN” toolkit aims to boost the self-esteem of confidence of Black boys and girls with “coils, curls, waves and protective styles.” Dove co-founded the CROWN Coalition (Create a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair) and this latest effort in their Self-Esteem Project is another opportunity to combat race-based hair discrimination.

“I felt like this was just perfect. It was very auspicious that they reached out while I was on my hair love journey,” Lizzo says of her partnership with the beauty brand. “And this tool is not just helping others, but it’s [also] helping me.”

We talked with the superstar about how hair and beauty ties into confidence and self-care for her, dealing with “positive pressure” from the public, and the ways she, and many more notable Black women, are choosing to put themselves first — publicly and privately.

ESSENCE: Something I love about you is that in any given week, we can see you on Instagram with a whole new fun look: pixie wig, green locs, your own natural hair out. What’s behind this chameleon way that you go about hair and beauty? It’s so refreshing.

Lizzo: Thank you. Well, I think it was just that I looked up and found that I was doing the same thing. It was like, okay, brown hair, long, wavy, beat face, nice glam, a lash. And I was like, I’m on TikTok, and I’m on social media, and I look at all of these young kids who are doing all of these cool looks and colors and styles, and it just looks so fun.

I just started sending it to my glam team being like, “I want to do this. I want to do that. I want to do this. And I want to have fun.” And I think there is a fear in being like, “Oh, is that going to look right on me?” There’s only one way to find out. You got to try it. So it’s been really, really fun. There are some looks that haven’t always hit. Y’all just ain’t seen them [laughs].

What has been the journey for you to be able to embrace your own hair?

It’s been complicated, and it’s been hard, to be honest with you. In my family, I have the kinkier texture and I have the shortest length, and looking around at your family, you’re like, “Okay, well, the standard is that my hair should look like theirs. Why doesn’t mine look like theirs?” And I think that that really affected me mentally and my confidence for a long time. When Dove reached out to partner, and they wanted to introduce me to this tool, My Hair, My Crown, I was like, “This might be the perfect time.” Because only in the last couple of years, I started to embrace my natural hair. Look at my social media. You won’t see my real hair until a couple years ago.

I know you once shared on your Instagram that playing with your makeup and even dyeing your hair was something that you found to be a form of self-care. How has playing with the versatility of your strands helped you to feel like your best self when you’re not feeling so great?

You know, I don’t know if anyone else is like this, but maybe it’s because I’m a Leo rising, but I will be so depressed, and I don’t know why, and I realize, “I need a new weave,” or, “I need to change my hair. I need to get some braids. I need to get some bundles.” And I will call my girl, Shelby [Swain], and be like, “Hey, girl. I need to get in and get my hair done.” She comes over, and I feel like a brand new person. That has really, really helped with my self-care and self-love journey. Because when I see myself like that, for some odd reason, it just can brighten my mood and make me like everything. I’m like, “Okay, body’s snatched! Okay!”

Loading the player...

Yes! [laughs]

I don’t know what it is about a new hairdo that really does that for me. Changing my hair has definitely helped when I’m feeling low.

It ties everything together. You feel more confident in your skin because from the top, you look good.

Right. I might not text back [laughs] with a new hairdo. I might not [laughs].

I love it! I love it. Speaking of confidence, you’re such a great example to Black women whether it’s in regards to hair confidence, body confidence, or empowering women in general. But I wonder, because I know with the pedestal that people can put you on, they can also put a lot of expectations on you too. How do you balance that pressure with embracing your reality, living your life the way you want to? Because it’s a positive pressure. People aren’t trying to necessarily tear you down. But I’m sure it can be a lot. So how do you balance that?

Yeah. I normally would be like, “No, there’s no pressure.” I’m just trying to be a good person. I’m just trying to have a good life. So where’s the pressure in that? But the way that you just said, that positive pressure is so real. It doesn’t happen a lot, but I’ve had it happen in moments where I thought that I was genuinely doing the right thing. I went on a smoothie detox. It’s a thin line, no pun intended, between being healthy and being fat and representing body positivity and a fat body.

And I think a lot of times when you see somebody, especially a public figure or a celebrity, start a new workout plan, or start a new “diet change” or lifestyle change, you think that they’re trying to come back with some dramatic weight loss to be finally accepted and seen as beautiful. But that’s never, ever… My intention is to never be harmful to younger people. I always make sure I preface things, “Make sure you talk to a nutritionist before you engage in anything like this.” I suffer from a lot of stomach issues. I always preface it and make sure that people understand my intention and that you should not just do what I do because of your intention that might not be the most healthy. So I do kind of have to straddle that line a lot of times, and it can be difficult. But then I realize not everything I need to share with everyone. If it can be perceived as harmful, then maybe people don’t need to know. If it’s going to do more harm than help, then I’ll just keep it to myself.

I hear you. I think we’re at a time, with the Simone Biles and Naomi Osakas of the world, many notable women who are publicly making these decisions of putting themselves first when it comes to dealing with things that they’re not comfortable with, whether it’s the press or expectations, things like that. I wanted to ask you if you’ve ever had a moment where you needed to shut down an opportunity to prioritize your peace, or you’ve had to walk away from something? Or is there a time that you wish that you had made a yes a no?

Well, yeah. I was just talking about these women, these Olympians. They’re so exceptional and so incredible, and I just think it’s such an amazing time. This is different. I ain’t never seen anything like this before because society puts so much pressure on Black women, to always save the day and always “yes,” and always carry everything on our shoulders. And the fact that these young Black women are standing up for themselves and putting boundaries out there is, when I say inspiration with a capital I? My therapist just talked to me, I’m talking two weeks ago, about putting boundaries down. And I used to be very resentful of people who would make boundaries with me because, turns out, I didn’t know how to make boundaries. I was, “Yes, yes. I’ll do it. Yes, I’ll do it.” Because as a Black woman, it’s always like, “I got to save the day. I got to take care of everyone.”


I’m just learning how to say no. Luckily, I have people around me who say no for me. When I didn’t have these people around me, when I didn’t have such an amazing team of people going, “We don’t think this is a good idea,” or “You should say no,” I was, “Yes, yes. Okay, sure.” There is power in the word no when you are saying yes to yourself. And I think that that’s a lesson that everyone either is going to learn or is learning right now. And we’re so grateful to have women like Naomi and Simone lead the way.