The stunning transformation of Lizzo

It is Lizzo's moment, and we're just lucky to be living in it. The singing, dancing, flute-playing triple threat is all over magazine covers, gleefully spreading her message of self-love, radical self-expression, and rock star confidence. If you haven't cried tears of joy listening to one of her songs yet, what are you even doing with your life?

But Lizzo has not been shy about the fact that her long journey to the top of everyone's playlist has not been an easy one, as it took a lot of blood, sweat, and tears to get where she is today. But our girl has been the very definition of perseverance, spending years cultivating not just her music, but also her core messages to the world and her incredibly fashionable sense of style.

So what was Lizzo like before she had crowds of adoring fans singing her own songs back to her? And has she always been as comfortable in her own skin as she is today? Read on to learn every detail about Lizzo's stunning transformation.

Lizzo's life started in Detroit

On April 27, 1988, Melissa Viviane Jefferson made her grand entrance into this world, according to a post on her Facebook page. A Detroit native, her birth name was given to her by someone extremely special to her. "When I was born, my father named me Melissa," she shared in an interview with Interview magazine. So even though she's known as Lizzo now, she's never forgotten her birth name, and it remains near and dear to her.

During her years in the Motor City, Lizzo envisioned a trajectory for herself that's quite different from how things turned out. "I lived in Detroit for about 10 years and I was mostly trying to be a writer or a scientist," she continued. "I was all about the smartness in my scholastic career." While she certainly is endowed in the brains department, Ms. Jefferson didn't end up in a lab and a white coat — though she could have if she wanted to. But for sure, she's a writer, as is evidenced by her super smart lyrics.

At 9, Lizzo moved to Houston

After nearly a decade in Detroit, Lizzo and her family moved down to Houston, Texas when she was 9 years old. At the time, her parents were both very busy working to build up their businesses, and her older siblings were making their own mark out in the world, according to an interview in The Cut. That left Lizzo to her own devices, which more often than not led her to the radio.

That's when Lizzo's music education really began to take off. "I will say I absorbed a lot of music in Houston," she revealed in an interview with Jezebel. "Not being a professional musician and living in Houston, being a teenager and listening to the radio, was definitely the age of my peak musical absorption." Who doesn't remember the songs that scored their formative years?

Nothing was off limits, either, as Lizzo listened to everything. "I enjoyed all of the Houston rappers to the indie-rock bands to NSYNC and Backstreet Boys," she continued. "Things like that I absorbed heavily and use now." That explains why her music is so unique.

From Melissa to Lizzo

So just how did Lizzo wind up with her unique name, given that her birth name is Melissa?  As it turns out, it was bestowed on her when she was 14, after she established her first rap group. "I got the nickname Lizzo around the time I was in the Cornrow Clique," she told Interview magazine. "I'm from Houston, so naturally, everyone dropped the second syllable of your name and just put an 'O' there." So it's a regional thing, apparently.

For a while, her friends were calling her Mio, which she said she didn't like as it just didn't feel like the right fit. "Then they started calling me Lisso for a while but that just eventually turned into Lizzo, when you say it more swaggy, and it just kind of stuck with me," she continued. Thus, her legendary moniker was born.

According to The Cut, her name was also influenced by the Jay-Z song "Izzo," which was a hit song at the time. Mystery solved, you guys!

Lizzo's mom and dad nurtured her creativity

Even though Lizzo's parents were both hardworking, they made sure to instill a love of creativity in a young Lizzo's heart, especially in the service of religion. "My mother and father were heavily involved in gospel music when I was a kid, and they encouraged me to be as creative as possible," she explained in an interview with The 405. Heaven knows we're grateful for that early guidance!

But it wasn't just in church where Lizzo found herself desirous of a career in the entertainment business. "Beyoncé is a constant inspiration too," she continued. "And when I saw Destiny's Child in the 5th grade it made me want to become a performing artist." Who doesn't have that feeling after a Beyoncé concert?

Additionally, Lizzo learned a lot from the rhythm section during her formative development. "I'm also a fan of drummers," she added. "I think that to be an advanced technical rapper you should an understanding of drum cadence." That would explain why her raps are so on point.

The flute "chose" Lizzo

Lizzo just wouldn't be Lizzo if she didn't have Sasha with her everywhere she goes. And by Sasha, we mean her flute, who probably has more followers than you do on Instagram. Let the record show that Sasha, who was named in homage to Queen Bey's album Sasha Fierce, doesn't have time to follow anyone back.

As Lizzo told The Cut, "the flute chose her" in the sixth grade, when her band teacher asked if she was interested in learning how to play the instrument. After that, she joined her school's marching band, where her love of music developed. "I saw a life of concert black and Boston Pops and traveling the world," she recalled in an interview with NPR. "When that didn't pan out for me, I was very depressed." It all worked out for the best anyway, Lizzo!

After that, Lizzo headed to college in 2005, where she burned the candle at both ends with late-night rap sessions, early morning music classes, and the HBCU party life for several years. Eventually she dropped out of school in search of a life where she didn't feel so trapped.

Lizzo's long road to Minneapolis

After dropping out of college, Lizzo entered a somewhat dark period of her life, according to The Cut. Without the dorms, she was homeless, so she slept in her aging Subaru at first and later on the floor of her band's rehearsal space. And while her band, Ellypseas, experienced some modest success, they hung up their hats in 2010.

That same year, Lizzo was met with tragedy when her father passed away, which absolutely devastated her. She was the smallest she had ever been in her life, but absolutely miserable. "I was addicted to the gym, I didn't eat, and I was sleeping in a dusty car, all for music," she confessed in an interview with Teen Vogue. "I thought my life was over." Those do not sound like good years at all.

Exhausted, Lizzo finally left Houston and joined her mother in Denver, where she now lived. But after just ten months, she headed to Minneapolis, where a friend told her the music scene had grown. That's where Lizzo finally found a foothold, and she started bands like The Chalice and GRRRL PRTY. Things were starting to look up!

The beginning of Lizzo's body positivity

Even though hitting rock-bottom is nothing anyone wants to experience, Lizzo managed to take something away from the time: body positivity. And while she wishes that neither she nor anyone else should have to go through that in order to cultivate self-love, she acknowledges the reality of the situation. "That's just the society we're all unfortunately born in — the one where you have to hit your worst and hate yourself in order to love yourself," she explained in an interview with Teen Vogue. "Those laws only exist because self-hate is so prevalent. Body positivity only exists because body negativity is the norm." In any case, we're grateful for her transformation into a body positivity icon.

Although many call Lizzo a trailblazer for the movement, she takes that with a grain of salt. "It's bizarre to me that what I'm saying and doing is revolutionary, because it should be so innate and first-nature," she continued, adding, "We should love ourselves first." Louder again for the people in the back!

Everything started falling into place for Lizzo

After Lizzo's 2011 move to Minnesota, things finally began falling into place for her. She was active with several bands, and she began establishing herself in the local hip-hop scene. Then on one fateful night in 2012, she posted a tweet, expressing her intense desire to work with Lazerbeak, a well-known Minneapolis producer. To her surprise, he responded, and he said he'd accept some Mike's Hard Lemonade as payment instead of cash. Ryan Olson, another Minneapolis producer, also got in on the exchange and messaged Lizzo, inviting her to a freestyle party. Crazy!

Even though Lizzo was tired from a show and had been drinking, Olson still sent a car over to pick her up. "I went to this crazy loft apartment downtown with all these people there drinking and we freestyled in the kitchen, back and forth all night," she gushed in an interview with Interview magazine. "From then on, I guess he wanted to work with me, and Twitter made it happen. So thanks, Twitter!"

Lizzo then signed to Olson's label, Totally Gross National Product. Finally, it was all happening!

Breaking out with Lizzobangers

In 2013, just two years after her relocation to Minneapolis, Lizzo released her first studio album, Lizzobangers, on the Totally Gross National Product label. As Lizzo herself tells it, her debut album was developed and recorded "in Ryan Olson's studio, with [Lazerbeak], and a lot of beer," according to an interview in The 405. Sounds like a blast!

Lizzo also opened up about her writing process for the album, which sounds like it was pretty intense. "When I'm hit with a good streak of inspiration, I write as fast as a freestyle," she continued. "Then, when I'm done I go back over the lyrics and tweak here and there. I just listen to the beats until I feel a rhythm and rhyme." Thus, her songs for the album were brought into the world.

Our girl received significant critical acclaim for Lizzobangers, which lauded her for her feminist-forward message, her technical abilities, and her endearing "screwball moments." Sounds about right!

A big grrrl in a small world

Lizzobangers definitely landed with a bang, as, after the album was released, Lizzo really began to get noticed. Specifically, she caught the attention of the most famous musician in all of Minneapolis: Prince. She was featured on "BoyTrouble" on his 2014 album Plectrumelectrum, according to NPR. That's when you know you've made it.

Lizzo then embarked on a tour opening for Sleater-Kinney in 2015, according to Billboard, which put her in front of an entirely new audience. That same year, she dropped her second album, Big Grrrl Small World, which Lizzo admits is a happier, gentler, less angry record. "I think that I developed as a songwriter," she revealed in an interview with The Guardian. "I did less sitting down and writing in a journal and more freestyling in the studio, which made a huge difference." Clearly Lizzo contains multitudes.

Big Grrrl Small World was met with critical acclaim, and was described as "an album that is ready to take on the world" by The Guardian.

Lizzo made her debut on a major label

As if 2015 wasn't a big enough year for Lizzo, 2016 proved to be just as exciting for her. For one, she landed a gig as one of the hosts of MTV's Wonderland, a show featuring live and unique performances, as reported by MTV News. "Television was a surprise," she shared in an interview with Rolling Stone. And while it was definitely an enviable gig to land, Lizzo had other things she was working on that took priority over pursuing a TV career.

To that end, Lizzo released her EP Coconut Oil in October of 2016 with Atlantic Records, named after the titular song that Lizzo wrote for black women. "A lot of my fans are backpackers and white kids, but as much as I love that, when I got to tour with SZA I saw black women in the audience, and the way they connected with my music was different than I had experienced," she continued. "I wanted to do a song that celebrated that and also celebrated myself." That's just beautiful.

To top it all off, Lizzo also moved to Los Angeles that year. Talk about one busy woman!

Lizzo embraced her body

Anyone who's been following Lizzo from the outset surely has noticed how much her fashion sense has evolved, something she too is keenly aware of. "My style went from 'mommy, let me dress myself' to 'damn, that b***h is fine!" she exclaimed in an interview with Vogue. Yas, queen! Keep the new looks coming!

The change in Lizzo's style marked a general shift in culture as well. "I feel like I've always dressed for my shape and made sure that I looked comfortable, but now there's an edge to what I'm doing," she continued. "It pushes fashion boundaries and I think that that's really special because you don't really see a lot of big girls doing that. The visibility isn't granted to us." Well, thanks to her, it's becoming more and more common.

You can continue to expect her to wear lots of bold, eye-catching outfits, especially on stage. "It's really important for me and the Big Girls to be able to feel comfortable, but to [also] be able to show off our bodies and celebrate our curves on stage," she added. And at home? She's likely to be lounging around in "T-shirts worn as dresses."

Cuz I Love You was deeply personal for Lizzo

In the true spirit of self-care, Lizzo decided to start going to therapy in 2018, which was not an easy decision for her to make. "That was really scary," she admitted in an interview with Rolling Stone. "But going on that journey of being vulnerable with someone who I didn't know, and then learning how to be vulnerable with people that I do know, gave me the courage to be vulnerable as a vocalist."

In April of 2019, Lizzo finally released her first full-length album, Cuz I Love You, with Atlantic Records, and pretty much everyone fell in love with it, according to Consequences of Sound. The 11-track record is an exceptionally intimate offering from Lizzo, who says that much of the lyrical content was pulled directly from her personal experiences. "There's literal specifics here," she continued. "You're in the scene of a movie: my movie, my life." It makes you wonder just who Jerome really is, doesn't it?

Cuz I Love You made it clear that Lizzo shows no signs of slowing down, and her music is only getting better and better.

Lizzo wears black hair only

For as much as Lizzo embraces diversity in all things, there's one specific thing she does to honor her heritage. "I wear black hair," she proclaimed in a 2019 interview with Allure. She explained, "I think it's really important as a black woman to do that because black women representing black things makes a bigger mark. We're going to represent for us, by us." That's an incredible statement, Lizzo, and we hear you loud and clear.

In addition, Lizzo uses social media to broadcast images of her body out into the world, often no holds-barred. "I love creating shapes with my body, and I love normalizing the dimples in my butt or the lumps in my thighs or my back fat or my stretch marks," she shared in an interview with Essence. "I love normalizing my Black-ass elbows. I think it's beautiful." In essence, Lizzo is letting her own unique light shine and is freeing us to do the same with ourselves if we only have the courage.

Lizzo's movement is all her own

After Lizzo enjoyed both a stellar Coachella performance and a monumental set across the pond at the Glastonbury Festival in 2019, all signs point to the world being her oyster. But at her core, Lizzo continues to remain true to her authentic self, regardless of the current cultural zeitgeist. "The body-positive movement is the body-positive movement, and we high five. We're parallel. But my movement is my movement," she declared in an interview with Allure. "When all the dust has settled on the groundbreaking-ness, I'm going to still be doing this." We suspect that the dust won't be settling anytime soon though, as our girl is red hot.

Fortunately for her fans, Lizzo doesn't plan on marching to the beat of anyone's drum but her own. "I'm not going to suddenly change. I'm going to still be telling my life story through music," she continued. "And if that's body positive to you, amen. That's feminist to you, amen. If that's pro-black to you, amen. Because ma'am, I'm all of those things." Preach!