Missy Elliott and Lizzo: ‘We Run It’ at the 2019 VMAs
Why these two powerhouse black women were so significant for the awards ceremony
When Missy Elliott and Lizzo collaborated for the 2019 hit “Tempo,” it just made sense. If you were around in the late ’90s, you had a Missy Elliott CD. You understood the significance of the garbage bag. Having a Tribute to the Vanguard award for Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott seemed like it was a long time coming. But doing it on the same night that Lizzo flocked the stage with afro-wearing, cornrow-posing chocolate women and a bouncing, brown, ginormous butt made it that much better. (Sir Mix a Lot and Missy walked so Lizzo could run, you understand?)
While I’m still perplexed by the six odd times the camera person zoomed in on Gigi Hadid, Taylor Swift and Bebe Rexha — who knew none of the words to the songs — the 11 zoom-ins of the rest of the crowd were absolutely gratifying. There were two brothas with glasses on that were living their best lives, dancing and clearly familiar with the songs. Now that’s how you do it.
But what’s more important is the site of these two black female entertainers challenging the stereotypes of how black women should look in the entertainment industry. (Most recent example: If you cringed through stylists asking Tia P. to wear a bob on “The Next Big Thing” instead of her natural hair, then you already know how quickly the industry will try to make women a carbon copy of each other — unnecessary weave and questionable outfits included.)
Meanwhile Lizzo and Missy are a breath of fresh air. They’re rocking their own body parts without the diaper booties. Their entire bodies are proportionate to their faces and waists. And they’re having a good time dancing, singing and beat-faced in the process. (Hell, Lizzo takes it one step further and will randomly play a flute if you give her enough time onstage.)
While the camera person may have not fully understood the weight of why a Missy Elliott moment was worth just staying on her and the flock of dancers onstage — including the adult version of Alyson Stoner — this was a pretty big deal. It gave black women the opportunity to see someone outside of the usual carbon copy succeed in an industry determined to make them look like someone else. These are women who look like us in real life — our aunts, our moms, our sisters, our cousins and the rest of the folks invited to the family reunion and cookout.
But at least viewers got to see another legend, Queen Latifah, standing and clapping to enjoy Lizzo’s performance. While Lizzo’s dancers shook a tail feather in their Prince-style, ass-out pants, the Queen showed off a two-step of her own.
Whew, child, I’ll never be tired of this queen s**t.