Photo Credit: @thebiggrrrls on Instagram
These days, Lizzo is one of the most sought-after performers in the music industry. Besides her infectious energy and incredible musical talent, people have rallied around her music because of its body positive messages. To accompany her music's messages, Lizzo created the hashtag #EffYourBodyStandards to communicate to the masses that talent overrides preconceived notions attached to someone’s size. Through her continuous efforts, she’s successfully formed a group of diversely beautiful people she can call fans. In addition, she’s extended her message to the dance community by assembling her troupe 'The Big Grrrls,' who are all curvy professional dancers that accompany her to her many live performances throughout the year.
'The Big Grrrls' are named after Lizzo’s second album 'Big Grrrl Small World' and are dancers of varying sizes whose moves deserve to be showcased on a big-time stage. The group originated in 2015 when Lizzo did an open call on her social media seeking dancers to add to her act. The post read: “Looking for girls of all shapes and sizes, curvy girls a plus!”
Dancer Grace Holden noticed Lizzo’s post and drove to Minneapolis for the audition. She ended up securing one of the five spots in Lizzo’s troupe, but Lizzo uses up to 10 dancers in her act, depending on the performance, which gives more full-figured dancers a chance to be in the spotlight. Along with Holden, members of 'The Big Grrrls' include Dominique Loude, Chawnta’ Marie, Courtney Hollingquest, and Shirlene Quigley.
Photo Credit: Burak Cigni/Redferns
“I like the name 'Big Grrrls' because they’re not just talking about bigger, full-figured curvy women. They’re talking about being grown, living our lives, and just being independent. We’re all very close. We pretty much live together over a huge chunk of the year,” Holden told inforum.com on the way to rehearse for Lizzo’s Saturday Night Live performance last December.
In a recent interview with Dance Magazine, Lizzo’s choreographer Jemel McWilliams said that Lizzo wants to highlight curvy girls in her performances because they are deserving. McWilliams also revealed that originally, he didn’t have luck finding additional curvy dancers for Lizzo’s performances by doing agency open casting calls, so the team took to Instagram for an open call and they were pleasantly surprised. The Instagram casting call produced a ton of dancers who never thought of walking into an agency because of their body type.
This out-of-the-box thinking by McWilliams didn’t go unnoticed and soon he saw more L.A. agencies representing curvy girls. Although, when the team arrived in New York to cast for Lizzo’s VMAs performance last summer, the agency casting calls again produced no curvy dancers. So, back to Instagram they went, and McWilliams ended up with a cast of curvy dancers for the performance- some of which had never done an awards show. As we now know, Lizzo’s performance at last year’s VMAs was one of the most talked about numbers in the show, and she was surrounded by beautiful, talented dancers.
We need to applaud Lizzo not only for her musical talent, but for extending her body positive message into the dance community. “I want another artist to see the big girls on stage doing splits and entertaining the crowd at size 16, 18 and I want to say ‘Who cares about their size? They’re great dancers,'” said Lizzo in an interview with Vogue.com.
Artists like Lizzo give the dance community hope that one day true inclusive dance will be a reality. To learn more about 'The Big Grrrls,' follow their journey with Lizzo on Instagram @thebiggrrrls.