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Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls Is Pure TV Serotonin

Lizzo’s Watch Out For The Big Grrrls Is Pure TV Serotonin

'Lizzo's Watch Out For The Big Grrrls'
James Clark/Amazon Prime Video

The dance competition series featuring plus-size dancers, is big, queer, and glorious.

Picture a group of professional dancers lined up in your mind. Depending on the genre of dance, you'll conjure different visions -- variations in backgrounds, fashions, ethnicity, and even age -- but all those pictures have one thing in common: thinness.

But that's all about to change.

The new dance competition series Lizzo's Watch Out For The Big Grrrls, which had its debut at SXSW, is here (queer) and ready to disrupt that paradigm -- and, in the process, make the lifelong dreams of a group of plus-size dancers come true.

Spearheaded by the Grammy award-winning singer and body positivity activist Lizzo, the series is essentially a season-long audition to join the "Truth Hurts" singer on stage at Bonnaroo in Australia as one of her "big girl" backup dancers. Here's the catch though: There are technically spots available for every one of them, so they're only competing to be their very best, rather than against one another. This fosters a kind of sisterhood and connection, that differentiates it from similar far more cynical competition series. It's also in keeping with Lizzo's ethos of inclusivity and self-love. It's inspiring, uplifting stuff, and makes for compelling watching. And while Lizzo gives tough love when it's required, she's also their ultimate hype woman who wants nothing more than to see them succeed -- and you will too.

But the series is not only inclusive in terms of body type, but it's queer as well, featuring Jayla Sullivan a trans woman from Portland, Oregon, and out lesbian Moesha Perez from New York City, both of whom have been craving this kind of opportunity to be seen as the artists they truly are.

Jayla SullivanSullivan felt a series of mixed emotions when she first applied for the series. "I didn't necessarily think that it would be something for me, to be honest with you. We live in a society that, you know, doesn't necessarily have the best representation of LGBTQ people," she confesses to The Advocate. However, at the urging of her friends, she took a second look at the casting call. "I started diving deep into things and I saw that in the initial posts, it mentioned cis, women, and trans women. I was like, 'OK, well, maybe, maybe I do deserve to go out for this,'" so she sent in her application and self-tape and left it in the hands of fate.

Perez had her reasons to be nervous about going out for the show after she spotted a casting call on TikTok. An injury the previous year had put a pause on -- if not put an end to -- her dancing career and she was worried, she still wasn't ready. "I was still struggling with my ankle. I had broken my ankle, and I was doing the healing process," she tells The Advocate. "So I was like, 'Am I ready for this? But I'm glad I did apply because I am ready. And I didn't let me get in the way of it."

Moesha Perez

Not only would Perez and Sullivan have the opportunity to show off their skills on the dance floor, but both were excited to also represent their communities. Sullivan in particular hopes that her story will touch the lives of those who share a similar one and who, like her, started her transition later in life and so never saw herself represented on screen. "There were shows like, I Am Jazz, for instance, [about a trans girl who knew she was trans] at a very young age, and began her process, but I still couldn't relate to it, because I was later on in my life when I was going through all of those experiences," says Sullivan. "You look at different TV shows, and, you know, you see trans women being represented as like a sex worker, and there's nothing wrong with that, but there's so much more to that community that I feel needs to be represented, that doesn't necessarily get that platform." For Sullivan, this show was that opportunity to add to the trans narratives and depiction in pop culture, something she craved when she was growing up.

For Perez, it was essential to be her truest self on TV. "I'm a lesbian, everybody gonna know regardless because I live my truth," she says. She hopes audiences will respond to her authenticity and humanity. "We're gonna express ourselves in a way that we want to because we're human still, we matter."

The Cast

While being a voice for their communities was exciting, anytime you put yourself out there for the world to judge it can be intimidating, but Sullivan put her trust in Lizzo that the show would be respectful. "I was extremely hesitant about it," she recalls. "I love reality TV. But especially in a competition setting like it's pitting one person against another but ... what I think sold me was the fact that I saw somebody like Lizzo, who has spoken up for people that don't necessarily get that platform or that voice to speak up because of society kind of trying to dim that shine."

Perez agrees. "I already felt in my heart that it was going to be an uplifting spirit. That's why I joined, because I'm very, very protective of my energy," she explains. "Lizzo is supportive. She's a great person. She keeps it real, yes, but she's gonna still love you regardless. And we needed that, we need a support system, because ... we're going to be trying to grow, we're not trying to stay the same."

The show also emphasizes loving the body you're in, which is a message Perez embraces fully. "Every body-type needs to be shown off. Every body-type needs... recognition. Everybody's different. Literally, every body is different. So, I feel like people need to see that, no matter what, we're still human regardless of how our body looks." And, she adds, every body type is worthy of being seen as a valid type for dance. "Either we're being overlooked or ... people say that we can't dance because we're big. But I'm glad that this show's going to show everyone that we can still do it, and we are doing it, and we're going to do it."

'Lizzo's Watch Out For The Big Grrrls'

The experience of being on the show was life-changing for both women. For Sullivan, it reignited her passion for dance, which had steadily been dimming. As a kid dance had been a refuge for when she struggled with gender dysphoria, never feeling masc enough as a boy or femme enough as a woman, and soon her safe place -- dance -- felt like another place where she wasn't "enough," but dancing with the girls and Lizzo changed that for Sullivan. "Being able to experience this and dance freely and have absolutely no shackles binding me to the ground where I can soar, I can jump, I can kick... and it gets responded to and respected. That reignited my passion for dance. And I'm forever going to be grateful for that," she confesses.

Similarly, Perez felt her love of dance returning through the process of being on the show, but it went even deeper as it helped her open up in new ways. "What I learned the most is that it's OK to feel, it's OK to be vulnerable in front of people that you don't know," she said of breaking down the walls that were holding her back. "It's OK to put yourself out there. And I'm glad that I did, because look at me now."

Lizzo's Watch Out For The Big Grrrls made its world premiere at SXSW. This review is part of our coverage of the SXSW 2022 Film Festival. The series arrives exclusively on Prime Video on March 25. Watch the trailer below.

Advocate Magazine - KehlaniAdvocate Magazine - Gus Kenworthy

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