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Lizzo Just Explained Twerking’s Origins in Black Culture

Along with being a three-time Grammy-winning singer and actress, Lizzo can now add TED Talk speaker to her impressive résumé. On August3, the “Truth Hurts” singer delivered a speech on the origins of twerking at TEDMonterey’s “The Case for Optimism” conference. The in-person conference took place from August 1 to August 4 in Monterey, California and also included speeches by Netflix Chief Marketing Officer Bozoma Saint John, along with comedian Pardis Parker.

In a clip shared by TED Talks on Instagram, Lizzo started off her speech candidly. ”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. How did this happen? Twerking. Through the movement of twerking I’ve discovered my ass is my greatest asset. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to TED Twerk,” she finished, while giving the audience a quick demonstration of the dance.

While twerking has been empowering for her on a personal level, Lizzo also explained that the dance move is also historically significant, with roots in Black culture that date back centuries to the Cote d’Ivoire in West Africa. Lizzo also talked about society’s role in holding onto the things that Black people create while erasing the actual creators from history books, as seen in music, science, and dance. We haven’t forgotten that for a period in 2010s, mainstream media claimed that Miley Cyrus popularized twerking. “Black people carry the origins of this dance through our DNA, through our blood, through our bones,” Lizzo said. “We made twerking the global cultural phenomenon it has become today.”

It was fitting that Lizzo mentioned TikTok trends, since her speech comes on the heels of Black TikTok creators striking in order to get recognition and compensation for the dances they create. Viral dance creators like Keara Wilson, Mya Johnson, and more are also currently in the process of copyrighting their moves.

“I want to add to the classical etymology of this dance. Because it matters,” Lizzo continued. “From TikTok trends to songs and humor, we see so much erasure of what Black people have created. I’m not trying to gatekeep, but I’m definitely trying to let you know who built the damn gate.”

Her full TED Talk is expected to be released later in the fall.\

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