Lizzo Previews ‘Love, Lizzo’ HBOMax Doc and New Year’s Concert Special

After her No. 1 single “About Damn Time” was touted as one of the songs of the summer, Lizzo is now making her claim to the holiday season. The Grammy- and Emmy-winning star will debut her intimate documentary “Love, Lizzo” on HBO Max for Thanksgiving, with a “Live in Concert” special following New Year’s Eve.

When Variety I caught up with the entertainer on Thanksgiving night — just a few hours before the documentary’s midnight debut — Lizzo’s recently acquired Emmy trophy was placed just outside the Zoom frame.

“Normally he’s next to my bed,” she explains. “I won the Emmy and went on tour right away, so I was never able to put it on my shelf. Then I did the “Today” show this morning, and they called my Emmy, so I brought him in front of their cameras, so that’s funny that she’s right there.

The award, which she won in September for her Amazon Prime Video reality competition series “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls,” is just one of many accolades Lizzo has garnered lately, including Variety Hitmakers Record of the Year award for the disco-tinged track “About Damn Time” from her six-time Grammy-nominated album “Special.” And now there’s her HBO Max documentary “Love, Lizzo,” an intimate portrait of the making of the record and all the life and career moments leading up to it.

“There’s never a good time to start documenting and telling your story,” says Lizzo. “And if I waited to shoot this, I wouldn’t have caught Coachella and the VMAs, and ‘Truth Hurts’ at number one, my life during the pandemic and the Grammys, and my arena tour now. I wouldn’t have gotten all this footage that I think is so important to my career.

Cameras started following the singer/songwriter, rapper and flautist in 2019, recording everything that has happened over the past three years as she skyrocketed to superstardom. But there’s also never-before-seen footage from Lizzo’s childhood, even videos she didn’t know about it.

“It was all new to me. I don’t have baby images or childhood images of myself,” she explains. “Then the other day my cousin said, ‘We have all these images of you,’ so we have a bunch of them for this doc. Just being able to see myself as a kid, outside of pictures, like actually moving and hearing my dad’s voice, which I haven’t heard since he passed away [Lizzo’s father Michael Jefferson died in 2009]. There are just a lot of incredible images that I didn’t have to share with the world, but I will.”

Directed by Doug Pray, the documentary aims to capture all facets of the entertainer’s identity, delving into her family life (Lizzo was born Melissa Viviane Jefferson); her upbringing in Detroit and then Houston, before pursuing her music dream to Minneapolis; how she started playing the flute; her journey to body positivity; the ups and downs in her romantic relationships; and her activism, championing women, black people and other people of color and the LGBTQ+ communities.

It’s a raw take on Lizzo’s reality, and she admits she had some hesitation because of the misogynistic, racist, fat-phobic, and otherwise negative comments she’s received over the course of her career.

“There are a lot of polarizing views about me,” says Lizzo knowingly. “When people have a hard opinion about something, they open themselves up to criticism and backlash because everyone is in the middle of the road.”

She continues: “I’m saying things that I’ve already gotten reactions to and that I’m repeating in this movie — about twerking and my experience as a black artist. I’m nervous because people have already said negative things about that, so I’m really opening myself up to more. But I don’t care anymore, you know? It’s just who I am, and I’m not going to argue with anyone about who I am.”

When Lizzo first saw the finished documentary, she realized how little she had changed over the years.

‘I have a friend, Alexia, who you see a lot in the doctor. I’ve known her since third grade, and she always says, ‘The only thing that’s changed about you is that you stand up for us a little more, you have more confidence, but you’re the same,'” says Lizzo. . “I’ve always said it’s really nice to have her in my life, a reminder that I am who I am. And now that I see those images, I think it goes even further.

Essentially, Lizzo is still the same girl who is sometimes shy and sometimes smart, but always follows her love for music. “I haven’t really changed that much, and it’s nice to have a visual representation of that,” she concludes. “But I’m cuter now.”

However, the timing of the documentary’s release is tough. In the film, Lizzo talks about one of the most difficult times in her life: 13 years ago, shortly after her father’s sudden death, she lost her job, apartment and drive in music. It was Thanksgiving and she was crying in the 1998 Subaru she’d been sleeping in. What would she tell that girl today?

“This was a trauma that I wish we could have avoided because I am still working through that trauma. For example, that has come up in many places in my life,” Lizzo begins, admitting that she still gets anxious around the holidays.

“I was like ‘damn’, that was 2009 [and I’m] still anxious. I still feel like something is being taken from me. I’m still scared and I’m sorry,” she explains. “But I am grateful to have a house all these years later. I have family, friends, people who love me, and now I have control over that situation. Which I had no control over, while I had a lot of fear [before]I have a lot of rest now.”

With that peace has also come great success. On Wednesday afternoon, HBO Max announced its ‘Live in Concert’ special. It serves as a sort of coda for the revealing documentary filmed during the most recent stops on her “Special” arena tour at the Kia Forum in Inglewood, California.

HBO’s cameras rolled during the sold-out Friday and Saturday night sets as Lizzo, her band the Lizzbians and the Little Bigs and her dancers the Big Grrrls were joined onstage by her collaborators Cardi B (“Rumors”), SZA ( “Special”) and Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott (who shocked Lizzo by jumping onstage while performing their banger “Tempo”). The cameos set social media ablaze, and Lizzo shared her thanks to the special guests online .

“I’m a fan of Cardi B… but as much as I’m a fan of her as an artist, who she is as a person is second to none,” Lizzo tweeted after the showcaption another picture showing her hugging Elliott with “Being on stage with you is a dream, but knowing you is unfathomable! My absolute icon!” Lizzo called the duet with SZA as “Sizzo Supremacy”, teasing that the duo “something special is coming your way soon”.

In addition to the love and mutual adoration, the messages were a preview of what fans can expect when they tune in.

“I’m excited because I don’t play when it comes to performing live,” Lizzo says of the concert special. “I think when people realize the mic is on, the choreo was choreographing, the looks are watching, the Big Grrls is good, the band is good, Sophia Eris [Lizzo’s longtime friend and DJ] and I got it right, people will really realize, ‘Oh, this is serious!’”

It’s not that she feels the need to prove herself right now — she sold out an arena tour, after all — but she prides herself on “showing people the level I operate at.”

“Let me stop talking about myself for a second,” Lizzo chuckles, before turning her attention to the fans who couldn’t get tickets or were unable to come to the show due to an emergency.

“I think people will really like the concert,” she adds. “A lot of people have nothing to do on New Year’s Eve, so now they can pop open a bottle of champagne or apple juice and watch the Lizzo show and it’s a big shows.”

Billed as a “spectacular show filled with lots of love, positivity and incredible music,” Lizzo opens her concert by asking the audience an important question: “When was the last time you said something nice about yourself?”

It’s a question she hopes raises something in the audience that goes beyond her set list.

“There is a part of them that feels joy, that feels confident, that feels love. That part comes out at my shows,” Lizzo explains. “And just like how the excitement of a show is fleeting, that feeling can be fleeting too. This feeling that they have, I want them to take this home, and I want them to protect it, because it’s important. You need it there [in the world].”

By focusing on that simple question and her own mantra, “I love you.” You are beautiful. And you can do anything” — Lizzo hopes fans can “compensate for the amount of negativity we ingest on a daily basis — a lot of negative news, a lot of negative comments, a lot of negative thoughts we already had, a lot of negative programming where we didn’t appreciate ourselves or be beautiful find in the media.”

It is a pity that we are the ones who have to do that work, but it is important. “I really want to create a space where people feel safe, and I really want to protect people. I believe everyone deserves to be protected at all costs.”

That’s part of why she goes to such lengths to make sure her fans feel seen at her shows, calling for the house lights to be up so she can call them out into the crowd.

“I can see everyone in there, and I think if people knew that, they would feel more connected to me,” she explains. “The people who got pit tickets and got squashed against the fence, they can look at me and say, ‘Ah, she looked at me.’ I want to give the same feeling to the people who think they have nosebleeds, who are at the very top of the arena, I see you too!”

Essentially, she wants her to experience what she felt during the Mrs. Carter tour, when she knows that Beyoncé saw her in the crowd doing the “Single Ladies” choreography. (Lizzo has seen Beyoncé 10 or 11 times in concert, but this one was unforgettable).

And with “Live in Concert” everyone at home can have that feeling. Directed by Sam Wrench and produced by Kevin Beisler, the special is produced by Lizzo (through her production company Lizzobangers) and Ian Stewart, Leah Lane and Hamish Hamilton of Done+Dusted. What will Lizzobangers do next after producing an Emmy award-winning reality series, documentary and concert special?

“Damn…I don’t even think about it that way to be honest,” Lizzo replies, pondering the question for a moment before coming to an answer.

“Lizzobangers Productions is me taking a stand and taking responsibility in my career, so everything I do because of that production company, I’m an owner,” she teasingly concludes, “Who knows where it’s going? Like the production of Lizzobangers on a day could make diapers, you never know, and I think that’s the beauty of what we’re doing here.

If the successes of recent years (including the launch of Yitty Lizzo’s shapewear collaboration with Fabletics) have been any proof, the sky is the limit.

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