Lizzo's Life From Childhood To Stardom

Lizzo, born Melissa Viviane Jefferson, is known for more than just her impressive singing skills. She also advocates for body inclusivity and is even the face of the inclusive shapewear line, Yitty. In 2020, Lizzo spoke to Vogue about why she is so passionate about the cause and why she takes a different approach to body positivity. "What I don't like is how the people that this term was created for are not benefiting from it," Lizzo said of the body positivity movement. "Girls with back fat, girls with bellies that hang, girls with thighs that aren't separated, that overlap. Girls with stretch marks. You know, girls who are in the 18-plus club."

While Lizzo is all about embracing her individuality and encouraging her fans to do the same, let's not overlook her career accomplishments. The "Truth Hurt" singer has won three Grammy Awards as of this writing, including Best Urban Contemporary Album for her album, "Cuz I Love You." She is also a classically trained flutist, which is a talent many singers can't say they have. 

As if these accomplishments aren't impressive enough, Lizzo got involved with TV production with her talent search reality show, "Watch Out for the Big Grrrls." The show was so well-received that it snagged three Emmys. So, how did Lizzo become one of the world's most beloved musicians? Her life story reveals it all.

Lizzo spent her early childhood years in Detroit

Lizzo was born in Detroit, Michigan, where she lived with her mother, father, and two siblings, per The Cut. She spent her early childhood years there, but later relocated to Houston, Texas, with her family at nine years old. In 2014, the "Truth Hurts" singer told Interview magazine that she had dreams of becoming a writer or a scientist while growing up in Detroit. It seems that Lizzo hadn't yet discovered her musical talents during her early years in Michigan.

Although the star didn't begin her music career until after she left Detroit, it appears that she still holds the city close to her heart. Lizzo revisited her hometown on October 6, 2022, to perform a concert as part of The Special Tour, and she shared a heartwarming speech (via Detroit Free Press) with the crowd about her passion for the city. "It's emotional, being in the place you were born, being in the place where your roots began, being in the place of some of my loved ones who I wish were here," she said. She then became emotional when speaking about her father, Michael Jefferson, a Detroit native who died in 2009. "The feeling that I have is indescribable, [coming] back to Detroit," Lizzo later shared during the concert. "You can take the girl out Detroit. But you can't take the Detroit out the girl."

She developed a passion for music after moving to Houston

According to The Cut, Lizzo's life changed when she moved from Detroit, Michigan, to Houston, Texas, at nine years old. While there, the star began exploring her potential as a musician after her parents' busy careers left her with tons of time alone to delve into this new passion. If you're a Lizzo fan, you probably know that she's quite the flute player. She was even invited to play former U.S. President James Madison's historical crystal flute at the Library of Congress. "The Good as Hell" singer has clearly spent years mastering the flute, so you might not be surprised to hear that she was first introduced to the instrument in middle school.

The Cut revealed that Lizzo's former band director first got her interested in the instrument back in Houston. Lizzo spoke to "CBS Sunday Morning" about her experience playing the flute after joining band at Houston's Youngblood Intermediate school. "We had a really cool band at Youngblood Intermediate," she revealed. "My band director, he would make us play all the songs on the radio, and we would dance. So, when we had concerts in the gym, the parents would come. And they would just, like, get lit and be dancin' in the stands. And it was like a concert. So, everybody wanted to be in band." The musician went on to share that she continued playing the flute in high school, but at that point, her classmates no longer thought it was cool.

Lizzo was part of a rap group in middle school

Lizzo continued to explore music in middle school when she formed rap group the Cornrow Clique, per The Cut. The teen group consisted of Lizzo and two other classmates. It was during this time that the "Rumors" singer was given her iconic stage name which, of course, followed her throughout her career. The musician recalled the story behind her moniker during an interview with Radio Milwaukee in 2016. "Lizzo is my nickname. It came from Houston, in middle school," she shared. "I was in my first rap crew, Cornrow Clique. Everybody in my crew would take their name, shorten it, and put an 'o' at the end. Mine was 'Lizzo' and it kind of stuck with me and I brought it with me. It made me feel way more comfortable." Lizzo's 2019 interview with The Cut revealed that the name was also inspired by Jay-Z's song "Izzo."

Lizzo's school years were interesting because she wasn't an outcast, but she wasn't exactly popular either. Her style and music taste didn't fit her classmates' expectations of her, so she was labeled as "too white," according to The Cut. In a Vanity Fair interview in October 2022, Lizzo shared that she even had to keep her love for Radiohead a secret because she feared she'd be bullied by her peers.

Lizzo dropped out of college

In 2005, Lizzo headed off to college, per The Cut. She attended the University of Houston where she continued to pursue music while also managing her classes. The musician also joined the school's marching band. While college is a period of self-discovery for some, this may not have been the case for Lizzo because, as she told "CBS Morning," she struggled with her identity during these years. "I think with high school identity and who you are in the world is a little bit more narrow," the singer said. "And I think that you're at the mercy of your peers more so in high school and what they think of you. Versus, like, when you're dumped into a university or you're dumped into this place with all these people from all over the world, your identity becomes a little bit more broad. And it gets a little harder to find your footing and find yourself." Lizzo went on to share that she also became insecure about her role in the university's marching band.

The Cut revealed that all of these stressors eventually led Lizzo to drop out of college. The aspiring musician could no longer live in student housing and her parents had relocated to Denver, so she had to sleep in her car. In 2005, she joined a prog-rock band called Ellypseas and slept on the floor of their rehearsal studio. Lizzo played the flute for the moderately-successful group and joined them at South by Southwest shows.

Tragedy struck Lizzo's family in 2010

According to The Cut, Lizzo's father died in 2010. Shortly after, she and Ellypseas parted ways. Of course, the loss took a toll on Lizzo's mental health. "When my father passed away, I didn't want to work anymore," she told The Hollywood Reporter's "Awards Chatter" podcast. "I was, like, so catatonic, and I didn't want to do anything. I was, like, really over life as it was. I was like, 'I know this isn't what life is supposed to be like. Maybe life shouldn't be.' Those kinds of thoughts. I had been brought down to the bare minimum of existence."

During this time, Lizzo briefly moved back in with her mother in Denver, Colorado, before later relocating to Minneapolis, Minnesota, with a friend, per The Cut. According to Rolling Stone, the star joined two musical groups there, including Chalice and GRRRL PRTY, which later caught the attention of Prince. The late musician asked Lizzo to sing on his and his backing band's song, "Boytrouble." He also invited the "Cuz I Love You" singer to perform at Paisley Park in Minnesota. 

Lizzo explained the significance of Prince's support to Rolling Stone. "I used to be so upset that I never had co-signs," she revealed. "I was like, 'I'm too weird for the rappers and too black for the indies.' I was just sitting in this league of my own. To be embraced by Prince and co-signed, I am eternally grateful for that."

Lizzo's solo career was unplanned

At this point, you may be wondering how Lizzo eventually became a solo artist. It turns out that the star never set out to make music on her own, and things actually fell into place unexpectedly. During an interview with Radio Milwaukee, Lizzo revealed, "I told the universe I was never going to be a solo artist unless it was easy, because I had tried and it didn't work. If I do this, it's because it comes to me, not because I forced it."

The "About Damn Time" singer went on to share the story of how producer Lazerbeak helped her release her first solo album. "Years and years later, I discovered 'Lava Bangers' which is Lazerbeak's solo beat tape," she said. "I started writing to it. One thing led to another and Lazerbeak allowed me to make a mix tape using his beats, Ryan Olson facilitated the recording and Executive Producing and put it out on Totally Gross National Product – and I became a solo artist."

During an interview with The Current, Lazerbeak spoke about the challenging journey of making Lizzo's first solo album, "Lizzobangers." He revealed that they had no money to put into the project. "Lizzobangers" was an unexpected success. "People gravitated toward it," Lazerbeak said. The album even caught the attention of major label Virgin Records, who helped get the project in front of a bigger audience.

Her second album caught the attention of a major record label

Lizzo released her second album as a solo artist, "Big GRRRL Small World," in 2015. Many of the songs on the record focused on themes of self-love and self-acceptance. Lizzo spoke about the themes behind the album during an interview with Jezebel the same year of its release. When asked how she came up with the title, "Big GRRRL Small World," the singer shared, "If you listen to the new record, there's a whole song called 'BGSW.' It's cool because I had my first solo rap song in Minneapolis and the first line is 'Big girl, small world.'" Lizzo went on to reveal why she was hesitant to use the title at first. "I wrote it down to be cheeky or bold, but I was afraid to actually say it because I was like, 'Am I setting myself up? Are people gonna be like, like 'Okay fatso'? Are people gonna start calling me names because of it?," she continued.

It seems that the star's courage paid off because the album's success led Atlantic Records to sign her in 2016. While speaking with Radio Milwaukee, Lizzo revealed that her sophomore album benefitted from the experience she gained while recording "Lizzobangers." "'BIG GRRRL SMALL WORLD' is definitely what I've learned on the road," she explained. "I feel very much like in those last few years between '[Lizzo]bangers' and 'BGSW' I figured out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it."

Lizzo's career gained momentum after the release of her EP

In 2016, Rolling Stone reported that Lizzo and Atlantic Records decided that she should release an EP before her next album. The EP, titled "Coconut Oil," was named after a song on her album that aimed to connect with Black Women. Lizzo spoke to Rolling Stone about why this was important to her. "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 shared. "I wanted to do a song that celebrated that and also celebrated myself." The musician went on to explain that the "Coconut Oil" EP was inspired by her own self-care journey.

At this point in the star's career, she was also hosting the MTV show "Wonderland." The musician shared the details of this new gig while speaking with LadyGunn. "It's a live music show, but it's different than 'TRL,'" Lizzo said of the show. "It's like watching a live stream of a festival with hosts. Every week we do research about our guests and we sit with writers and walk through what the best and worst thing that could happen is, and we facilitate the party each week." The exposure Lizzo gained from hosting "Wonderland" may have helped introduce her first EP to a larger audience.

Truth Hurts propelled Lizzo to stardom

"Truth Hurts" was the breakout hit that helped Lizzo achieve mainstream success. The song was released in 2017 but didn't climb to the top of the charts until 2019 after a few factors caused the song to go viral. According to Entertainment Weekly, the song blew up in part because of the Netflix movie "Someone Great." "Truth Hurts" plays in the trailer for the film, which now has over eight million views on YouTube. The song is also featured in a scene where the characters sing and dance along to its lyrics. This clip has almost five million views on YouTube. This exposure likely helped garner Lizzo quite a few new fans. Another major factor in the success of "Truth Hurts" was a viral TikTok trend. The song was part of the #DNAtest challenge, per Entertainment Weekly.

Although "Truth Hurts" did amazing things for Lizzo's career, the star wrote the song during a difficult time in her life. "The day I released 'Truth Hurts' was probably one of the darkest days I've had ever in my career," she told People in 2019. "I remember thinking, 'If I quit music now, nobody would notice. This is my best song ever, and nobody cares. I was like, 'F**k it, I'm done.' And a lot of people rallied; my producer, my publicist and my family, they were like, 'Just keep going because this is the darkest before the dawn.'"

Lizzo released her third studio album in 2019

By the time Lizzo released her third studio album, "Cuz I Love You," in 2019, she had become a full-fledged superstar. The album debuted at No. 6 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and later climbed to No. 4. Lizzo announced a tour that would accompany "Cuz I Love You" shortly after the album was released. It appears that fans who bought tickets to this tour were able to see the star perform some of her most vulnerable songs because Lizzo revealed to Rolling Stone that she was very transparent when writing "Cuz I Love You."

The musician explained that the songs detail real-life scenarios that she documented through lyrics — and often while things were still unfolding. "I'm jumping straight into a scenario [now] on certain songs where I'm literally sitting in a car with someone crying and I'm like, 'Pull this car over, I need to get this off my chest,'" she told Rolling Stone. "Or when I'm literally sending a text to a f**kboy [saying] 'Take yo' a** home. Stop texting me.' There's literal specifics here. You're in the scene of a movie: my movie, my life." Lizzo also shared that became more open to the idea of singing about her emotions after meeting with a therapist.

She realized that fame didn't solve her problems

Lizzo's years of hard work paid off to secure her a level of fame that is likely just as uncomfortable as it is rewarding. The musician opened up about her newfound fame during an interview with Variety in 2022. "Fame happens to you, and it's more of an observation of you," Lizzo shared. "People become famous, and it's like — my DNA didn't change. Nothing changed about me. My anxiety didn't go away. My depression didn't go away. The things that I love didn't go away. I'm still myself. But the way y'all look at me and perceive me has changed. It's a very weird, kind of formless thing." The singer went on to detail an experience that many of her peers can relate to. She explained that she had to adjust to being accompanied by security during outings and maintaining a favorable public image.

This wasn't the first time Lizzo spoke about the dark side of fame. In 2020, the star shared a TikTok with fans about the reality of her new lifestyle. "Hey, I'm just logging on to say you can be like, the coolest, most richest person ever and it doesn't buy you f**king happiness," she said in the video "Money doesn't buy you happiness." The star went on the reveal that she feels fame often amplifies preexisting issues.

The musician found love with boyfriend Myke Wright

If you've been a Lizzo fan from the beginning, you might have noticed that has been spotted out and about with a mystery man for quite some time. Lizzo finally confirmed that she was in a relationship with her rumored boyfriend during an interview on "The Breakfast Club" in 2022. According to Today, Lizzo's boyfriend is Myke Wright, and he has actually known the star for quite a long time.

Wright and Lizzo both co-hosted MTV's "Wonderland," a live music show that helped the musician gain recognition. Since announcing her relationship, Lizzo had opened up about her non-traditional approach to love. She spoke about her unique relationship dynamic with Wright during an interview with Vanity Fair. "I'm not thinking about sex when I think about monogamy and rules," Lizzo explained. "I'm thinking about the autonomy and independence of him and me. How wonderful would it be to be this complete independent person and to come together to make two complete independent people? Not that whole 'You complete me, you're my other half.' No. I'm whole, and you're incredible too. We're like the mirror image of each other."