Love Yourself

Lizzo at First Ave in Minneapolis

There’s something uniquely thrilling and empowering about female-dominated spaces. Maybe it’s their sheer rarity. Maybe it’s a feeling that men grow up taking for granted — having their perspective drive the majority of our cultural narratives: our books, films, and TV shows; their kind running the show at the country club; their kind manning the antique doorway that leads to the halls of economic and political power.

To feel yourself in the majority; to feel your pain, passion, and ambition represented with grace and power in nuanced, three-dimensional, living and breathing reality all around you, unencumbered by shame, doubt, or the marginalizing effect of someone else’s misinterpretation or disdain…ROAR. Who wouldn’t love that? Who wouldn’t blanch at being asked to relinquish it?

I’ve loved Lizzo for a while now. She’s been on the Minneapolis scene since she moved here in 2011, so I’ve had the privilege of watching her rise up from Grrrl Prty and work with other local artists like Lazerbeak and Har Mar Superstar, all of which adds to my own sense of investment in her as an artist and representative of my town, my scene, myself.

The Lizzo show at First Ave this past Saturday reminded me so much of my experience seeing Beyoncé at TCF Stadium. The venues may have been drastically different in size, but the audience at both was dominated by celebratory, powerful, brilliant, beautiful women who descended from every corner of the city determined to revel in the feminine ferocity they saw represented onstage, and the mirrored sense of power and possibility it stirred in their own hearts.

The men at both shows, while definitely in the minority, were calm, cool, and collected. I like to think they were feeling their own divine feminine sides stretching and rolling around in some much-needed sunshine.

But the women. The women were smiling at each other, dancing together, even hugging. Lizzo prides herself on being a “big girl in a small world,” and she hires dancers who represent a wide range of body types. I heard several women say with pride and power, “Look at that dancer’s body, her body looks like mine.

It’s hard to overstate the power of representation. You need to see it in the world in order to believe it possible in yourself. These performers offer more than entertainment. They offer a model of self-love, empowerment, courage, vulnerability, and success that makes a huge impact in how their fans feel about themselves, their bodies, their lives, and their potential.

“Learning to love yourself and like learning to love your body is like a whole journey that I feel like every person, but more specifically, women, have to go through so I feel like doing this is a good way to kinda break through and kinda seal the last chapter of the “learning to love” and just loving.” — Lizzo, Intro to Brown Skin

The first year we did the Hack the Gap hackathon we put together a quick video to recap the first day for the participants. We wanted a strong local woman artist to provide the musical background to the video, and Lizzo and Caroline Smith’s managers granted us permission to use Let ’Em Say (which people could purchase by following a link in the video, with the proceeds going to support young girls via the Women’s Foundation of Minnesota).

Two years later, watching Lizzo onstage, standing among so many women taking in the same experience, was incredibly powerful. From the minute Lizzo started Let ’Em Say, I couldn’t stop thinking about our upcoming Hack the Gap next month, which will be twice the size of any of our previous events.

I can feel women’s voices getting louder, bigger, more powerful.

I see it at Hack the Gap, at Lizzo and Beyoncé shows, on the internet and in numerous private Slack groups.

Here’s what I know in my bones: We are all in this together.

All the women — women openers, women dancers of different sizes on stage, women in the audience, women helping other women with their careers, their ambitions, and their potential. We’re all in this together.

Combine self-love with empowered representation and a culture of communal celebration and support, and the sky’s the limit.

Love Yourself, Take the Stage, Own It