Exclusive: Lizzo Gives a TED Talk on History of Twerking: 'Being Fat and Black Is a Beautiful Thing'

The rapper and singer shared that she "used to hate" her butt until she learned about twerking and its part in Black culture

As anyone who follows Lizzo on Instagram or TikTok knows, she's all about her butt. But for years, it was her least favorite body part.

In a new TED Talk, exclusively shared with PEOPLE, Lizzo, 33, opens up about how twerking helped her appreciate her butt and delves into the history behind the dance move.

"I used to hate my ass, believe it or not," the rapper and singer says to kick off her talk. "I have my father's shape and my mother's thighs, so it's big, and long. I used to think that only asses like J.Lo's or Beyoncé's could be famous. I never thought that could happen to me."

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"I always felt like my body type wasn't the right one, or the desirable one growing up," she continues. "Because I grew up in an era where having a big ass wasn't mainstream."

That's all changed now, Lizzo says.

"My ass has been the topic of conversations, my ass has been in magazines, Rihanna gave my ass a standing ovation. Yes, my booty! My least favorite part of my body," she says. "How did this happen? Twerking. Through the movement of twerking, I realized that my ass is my greatest asset. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to my TED Twerk."

In Lizzo's case, she learned to twerk at a teen club in Houston, she says. At the time, the dance move was new to her, but she's since researched its origins in Black culture.

"Modern-day twerking derived from Black people and Black culture. It has a direct parallel to West African dances like Mapouka," she explains. "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 became today."

Bret Hartman/TED

Lizzo says, though, that twerking's roots in Black culture are often forgotten. She says twerking went mainstream when Miley Cyrus did it at the 2013 VMAs, and it "was misunderstood and taken out of context," and that Black people were "erased" from its history.

"Everything that Black people create, from fashion to music to the way we talk, is co-opted and appropriated by pop culture," Lizzo says.

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Her intention with this TED Talk is to share the history and "prevent the erasure of Blackness from twerking."

"For me, twerking ain't a trend. My body ain't a trend," she says. "… I twerk because of my ancestors, for sexual liberation, for my bitches, hey girls. 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."

Bret Hartman/TED

"I twerk because I'm talented. Because I'm sexual, but not to be sexualized. I twerk to own my power, to reclaim my Blackness, my culture. I twerk for fat, Black women because being fat and Black is a beautiful thing."

Before helping the audience twerk to her song "Tempo," Lizzo says that the dance move is here to stay.

"Black women invented twerking and twerking is part of the revolution," she says. "We been doing it, we going to keep doing it, because we have and always will be the blueprint."

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