Lizzo is a classically trained flautist, chart-topping hitmaker, and every brand’s dream. In other words, the 33-year-old multi-hyphenate star was built to pull double duty on Saturday Night Live.
The first time Lizzo performed as a musical guest on Saturday Night Live was December 2019, and the episode endures as Eddie Murphy’s vaunted return to Studio 8H.
Murphy’s return was 35 years in the making. He last appeared on SNL as a host in December 1984 — around Beverly Hills Cop‘s theatrical release. He had quit SNL, where he debuted at 19 years old, after the 1983-84 season to capitalize on his breakout success on the big screen.
Lizzo hasn’t been gone from SNL for quite that long, but there’s no doubt her star has grown exponentially since then — and its rise is a lifetime in the making.
Born Melissa Jefferson, she first started playing the flute as a child and became “obsessed with being good” by middle school. Her flute, Sasha Flute, now has its own Instagram account with over 300,000 followers, but it wasn’t linear.
Lizzo initially had dreams of playing in the symphony. When success didn’t immediately come — paired with strife in her familial life — she quit the flute. She dropped out of the University of Houston, where she was studying classical flute, and lived out of her car for six months. It was then that she found her voice.
“I feel like I took a few months to go inside of myself and figure out what I was gonna do with my life, who I wanted to be,” she told “CBS Sunday Morning” in October 2019. “And for some really weird reason, I wanted to be a singer. And I hadn’t sang any time before that. I rapped, played the flute, written songs, but never sang.”
Lizzo toiled in the Minneapolis music scene beginning in 2011. Her 2013, according to this oral history, was doubly defined by her work with GRRRL PRTY and jumpstarting her solo career. Lizzo started the process of becoming Lizzo — the mononymous force — with her 2013 debut album Lizzobangers.
Lizzo earned the ultimate co-sign: Prince made her and her best friend and DJ Sophia Eris featured vocalists on “BOYTROUBLE,” a track from his and 3rdEyeGirl’s PLECTRUMELECTRUM project in 2014. Anybody, including the Purple One, who experienced Lizzo’s presence first-hand knew she was the real deal. Still, it wasn’t untilCuz I Love You arrived in April 2019 that the mainstream realized Lizzo is good as hell.
Saturday, Lizzo makes her SNL hosting debut and is pulling double duty as the episode’s musical guest, too. There will be no Eddie Murphy this time, but if there were, at this point, nobody can steal Lizzo’s shine.
Lizzo revealed her fourth studio album Special is coming July 15 on Thursday, simultaneously dropping the disco-adjacent pop bop “About Damn Time.” The shimmery single is the latest Lizzo single primed to rule radio play and Instagram captions everywhere this summer.
She sings it herself, “It’s bad bitch o’clock, yeah, it’s thick-thirty.”
Authenticity has been central to Lizzo’s music before and after it became a chart staple, but one thing is distinctive about this album cycle: This Lizzo era includes dominant rollouts beyond the actual album.
Lizzo launched her “revolutionary shapewear brand” YITTY earlier this week. The sizes range from XS to 6X, giving her more autonomy over her message of body positivity and self-love. YITTY is “a dream five years in the making,” but the brand name dates back further: It’s her childhood nickname.
She told People about her inspiration for YITTY :
“I felt that I was constantly being told through TV and magazines that my body wasn’t good enough. And, in order to be considered ‘acceptable’ I had to inflict some sort of pain upon it to fit into an archetype of beauty. Because of this, I’ve been wearing shapewear for a long time, maybe since I was in fifth or sixth grade.”
YITTY President Kristen Dykstra added that Lizzo is “the quintessential business partner” because “she is famous for her music, but beloved for her commitment to driving important social change.”
- Spent seven weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with “Truth Hurts,” charting for 42 weeks overall
- Clocked two more top-5 hits on the Hot 100 with “Good As Hell” (No. 3) and “Rumors” featuring Cardi B (No. 4)
- Peaked at No. 2 on Billboard’s Artist 100 in May 2019
- Hit No. 2 on Top Album Sales and No. 4 on the Billboard 200 — both with Cuz I Love You — in May 2019
- Won 3 Grammys (8-time nominee): best pop solo performance (“Truth Hurts”), best traditional R&B performance (“Jerome”), and best urban contemporary album (Cuz I Love You [Deluxe])
- Sold out her 22-date Cuz I Love You Tour — an average of 1,962 tickets and $54,000 per night gross, according to Billboard Boxscore —returning as a headliner to venues where she’d previously opened for the likes of HAIM and Florence + The Machine
- Racked up 57 soundtrack credits dating back to 2014 — including Broad City (2014), Girls Trip (’17), Euphoria (’19), and Ted Lasso (’20)
- Named TIME Entertainer of the Year for 2019
- Launched all-inclusive shapewear brand YITTY, with sizes ranging from XS to 6X, on April 12
- Premiered her reality television series Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls on Amazon Prime Video in late March, after signing a first-look deal with Amazon Studios in August 2020
- Partnered with Absolut to create Absolut Juice in August 2019, a deal that Lizzo told The Hollywood Reporter “aligns with her true self and her brand, which encapsulates self-love, self-empowerment, freedom, beauty, and celebrating all body sizes and diversity”
- Other brand deals: Dove, Logitech, Quay, Urban Decay
- Instagram followers: 12.1 million
- Spotify monthly listeners: 11.4 million
- YouTube subscribers: 2.5 million
- Twitter followers: 1.8 million
Singing for Social Good
- Used 2021 Global Citizen performance to say “I decided I want to be a philanthropist” and call out “institutionalized racism” — specifically, mistreatment of African-American, Indigenous, and First Nation communities
- Introduced new Real Tone technology to “show all of the skin tones that make every single one of us beautiful” in Google Pixel 6 commercial during Super Bowl LVI — featuring new song “If You Love Me”
- Volunteered at Foodbank Victoria amidst the deadly Australian wildfires and visited Real Youth Music Studios while performing FOMO Festival in January 2020
- Encouraged her fan base to vote and engage in the fight for racial and social justice following the murders of Breonna Taylor and George Floyd
The iconic SNL franchise doesn’t even headline what Lizzo has going on when it comes to television. The multi-Platinum rapper and singer-songwriter’s new reality series Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls is an extension of her vision for YITTY.
Eight episodes chronicle Lizzo’s search for more dancers to join her upcoming 2022 world tour. “Girls that look like me don’t get representation,” she says in the trailer. “Time to pull up my sleeves and find them myself.”
The show’s title also harkens back to her December 201 5 sophomore album, Big Grrrl Small World. Six-plus years later, Lizzo’s personal brand is global, and only growing stronger.
“I think my story has been more about refining who I am versus creating it,” Lizzo told Billboard in September 2019.
The pre-chorus of “About Damn Time” perfectly sums up where she finds herself in 2022: “I’m not the girl I was or used to be / Bitch, I might be better.”
There’s no “might” about it, though. Lizzo is at her best.