Lizzo delivered a TED Talk about the black history of twerking and body positivity. “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to TED Twerk,” she quipped at the onset.
The rapper notes that the August 2021 TED Talk is the first time she’s been in front of a crowd since March 2020; she’s since performed at a handful of shows, including this past weekend’s Firefly Festival. She then opened by talking about how “through the movement of twerking, I discovered my ass is my greatest asset.”
“I used to hate my ass, believe it or not. I have my father’s shape and my mother’s side, because it’s big and long,” Lizzo said. “I used to think that only asses like J.Lo’s or Beyonce’s could be famous, I never thought that could happen to me. I always felt like my body type was never the right one or the desirable one growing up. I grew up in an era where having a big ass wasn’t mainstream.”
She continued, “I felt like the ass odds were against me, but baby, this badonkadonkdonk is going places. My ass has been the topic of conversation, my ass has been in magazines, Rihanna gave my ass a standing ovation. Yes, my booty, my least favorite part of my body.”
Lizzo then talked about her first time witnessing people twerking at a Houston club, where people were “moving their booty to New Orleans bounce and I was like, ‘How are they doing that?’ It was incredible to me.” As she practiced her craft, she discovered, “My ass could do magic.”
Over the 13-minute TED Twerk, Lizzo goes into a detailed history of the dance, tracing it back to West African culture — where it was “a celebration of joy and religious worship” — up through hip-hop music and on to social media apps like TikTok, which now threaten the “erasure of blackness” from twerking.
“Black people carried the origins of this dance through our DNA, through our blood, through our bones. We made twerking the global cultural phenomenon it has become today,” Lizzo said. “Now, as a big black woman who has ass, who can twerk, who has been doing it her whole life, I kind of think I’m an expert on the subject. I want to add to the classical etymology of this dance because it matters. Black people will not be erased from the creation, the history, and the innovation to twerking.”