“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to TED Twerk.” In a newly-shared TED talk, Lizzo has delivered a comprehensive history of the dance, its rise to viral fame, and how it helped her to love her own body.
“I used to hate my ass,” the singer says, opening the 13-minute talk recorded in August 2021. “I always felt like my body type wasn’t the right one, or the desirable one growing up.” As we all know, however, Lizzo has since gained worldwide recognition, and her ass has gone along for the ride. “My ass has been the topic of conversations, my ass has been in magazines,” she adds. “Rihanna gave my ass a standing ovation.”
“How did this happen? Twerking. Through the movement of twerking, I realized that my ass is my greatest asset.”
Of course, twerking didn’t start with Lizzo, and she goes on to give a potted history fo the dance. “Modern day twerking derived from Black people and Black culture,” she explains, before diving deeper into its parallels with traditional West African dances. She then takes us, via Beyoncé and Miley Cyrus, all the way up to today’s pop culture, where it’s been “co-opted and appropriated” alongside other dances choreographed by Black creators.
“Black people carried the origins of this dance through our DNA, through our blood, through our bones,” Lizzo says. “We made twerking the global cultural phenomenon it has become today.”
However, she continues: “Everything that Black people create, from fashion to music, to the way we talk, is co-opted, appropriated, and taken by pop culture… I’m not trying to gatekeep, but I’m definitely trying to let you know who made the damn gate.”
“For me, twerking ain’t a trend. My body ain’t a trend. I twerk because of my ancestors, for sexual liberation… Because I can. Because I know I look good. I twerk because it’s unique to the Black experience, it’s unique to my culture, and it means something real to me.”