Proposal Title

They Don’t Know I Do It for the Culture: Lizzo and Lil Nas X’s Celebration of Black Sexual Subject Materiality

Start Date

June 2022

End Date

June 2022

Abstract

In 2019 singer Lizzo and rapper Lil Nas X entered mainstream media with their respective hit songs “Truth Hurts” and “Old Town Road” making them American household names. Lizzo, a fat woman, found success with celebratory hits about love, acceptance, and healing from heartbreak, while Lil Nas X, an out gay man, was celebrated for his catchy campy and meme-able songs. Two years, one presidential election, and a pandemic later, the two remain icons in contemporary Black music.

The COVID-19 Pandemic, combined with the renewed global Movement for Black Lives after the murder of George Floyd, has re-ignited conversations about the implications of how we see, and treat Black bodies. However, sexuality has taken a back seat to the discourse. Amidst the increased political awareness and criticism of structural racism, both Lizzo and Lil Nas X have turned more personal in their music and social media presences. Lizzo asserts her sexual desires and desirability as a fat woman, while Lil Nas X has depicted gay sex and sexuality between Black men on screen.

In this paper, I will explore how Lizzo and Lil Nas X have used their art and social media to embrace an embodied material sexuality outside of the dominant thin, straight, and/or sterile depictions of Black sexuality. Using Black feminist theory and critical race theory, I analyze how both artists engage in discourse that uses embodied sex and viscerality, rather than just implied or sterilized messaging regarding Black sexuality that actually centers fatness and queerness. Drawing from the artists’ content, as well as reactions to it, I argue the implications, reinventions, and shortcomings of Black sexual subjectivity that celebrates fat and queer bodies during a time of consciousness that Black bodies are in peril.

Bio

Mia Victoria Lawrie is a womanist media scholar studying at the University of Washington. She believes in the power of storytelling through media, and its ability to explain the current cultural imagination, and discover newer, better worlds.

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Jun 24th, 10:00 AM Jun 24th, 11:30 AM

They Don’t Know I Do It for the Culture: Lizzo and Lil Nas X’s Celebration of Black Sexual Subject Materiality

In 2019 singer Lizzo and rapper Lil Nas X entered mainstream media with their respective hit songs “Truth Hurts” and “Old Town Road” making them American household names. Lizzo, a fat woman, found success with celebratory hits about love, acceptance, and healing from heartbreak, while Lil Nas X, an out gay man, was celebrated for his catchy campy and meme-able songs. Two years, one presidential election, and a pandemic later, the two remain icons in contemporary Black music.

The COVID-19 Pandemic, combined with the renewed global Movement for Black Lives after the murder of George Floyd, has re-ignited conversations about the implications of how we see, and treat Black bodies. However, sexuality has taken a back seat to the discourse. Amidst the increased political awareness and criticism of structural racism, both Lizzo and Lil Nas X have turned more personal in their music and social media presences. Lizzo asserts her sexual desires and desirability as a fat woman, while Lil Nas X has depicted gay sex and sexuality between Black men on screen.

In this paper, I will explore how Lizzo and Lil Nas X have used their art and social media to embrace an embodied material sexuality outside of the dominant thin, straight, and/or sterile depictions of Black sexuality. Using Black feminist theory and critical race theory, I analyze how both artists engage in discourse that uses embodied sex and viscerality, rather than just implied or sterilized messaging regarding Black sexuality that actually centers fatness and queerness. Drawing from the artists’ content, as well as reactions to it, I argue the implications, reinventions, and shortcomings of Black sexual subjectivity that celebrates fat and queer bodies during a time of consciousness that Black bodies are in peril.