The Category is...Wholesome

How Lizzo’s “Watch Out For the Big Grrrls” Revolutionizes Reality Competition TV

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It’s evident right from the start that “Watch Out For The Big Grrrls” is going to be something different. The reality competition show from pop icon and queer ally Lizzo aims to discover new dancers to join her touring crew: The Big Grrrls. But it is so much more than that: I can’t even say *Lizzo voice* we’ve been waiting for this one —because there hasn’t been something this good in the genre before. We couldn’t even anticipate the possibility. Lizzo’s show consistently surprises its audience and contestants with genuine kindness and a supremely supportive spirit. 

“Watch Out For The Big Grrrls” effortlessly avoids the parade of cringe auditions typically included for viewers to mockingly compare against the accepted contestants. With each hopeful we meet, Lizzo makes it clear that she’s going to celebrate these women every chance she gets, explaining: “I wanna treat them as good as I treat myself, because that’s what they deserve!” From the spectacular mansion —complete with a gorgeous gym, dance studio, movie-star walk-in closet, and giftbags in each bedroom— to the way each “challenge” is really a lesson in self-care and personal development, Lizzo goes above and beyond to make the competition a magical, empowering experience. 

Viewers of other competition shows will be accustomed to the eye-roll-inducing saga of blatantly asking for the person’s deepest trauma or most open wound, as if that’s the only way an audience can relate to or root for them. What’s unique about the vulnerability displayed in “Watch Out For The Big Grrrls” —whether it’s about grief, family, insecurities, or cyberbullying— is that it always comes from the contestant’s initiative to share. Director Nneka Onuorah (an award-winning filmmaker and out lesbian) allows the Big Grrrl hopefuls to share as much of themselves as they want, when and how they want, which makes for a much more soothing and authentic viewing experience. 

And that’s the vibe of the whole season! You’ll sit down expecting competitive reality show drama, but you’ll stay to watch all eight episodes in a row because you’re captivated by the thoughtfulness Lizzo has poured into her show. Lizzo makes an effort to get to know the girls, reminding us that they’ll need to get along on a tour bus —with her, and with each other. She’s judging them on dance skill and sisterhood. The category is… wholesome! There’s also a surprising delight in how well these girls are fed: The mansion is catered with hearty servings of delicious food that the girls are encouraged to enjoy, paired with getting enough rest, building their stamina, and receiving immediate medical treatment when needed. 

“Watch Out For The Big Grrrls” effortlessly avoids the parade of cringe auditions typically included for viewers to mockingly compare against the accepted contestants.

Standout moments include the contestants conceptualizing their own music videos, where the winning video stars a dark-skinned dancer with alopecia and a trans woman looking fabulous and confident as their own version of Barbie –the kind they needed as a kid. It’s particularly special to see how fiercely Lizzo goes to bat for Jayla, the trans dancer who dominates with gymnastic moves on stage but often lacks the confidence to push through criticism in rehearsal.

 
 
 
 
 
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The nude photoshoot challenge is arranged for the women to see that they’re sexy even when society doesn’t want them to feel that way. It triggers anxiety in Isabel, a Korean American dancer (and cover star of body-positive bisexual babe k-pop novel “I’ll Be the One” by Lyla Lee) whose back-up plan is to teach in conservative South Korea. For Sydney, who grew up as a Black girl in a white community, the greater vulnerability is showing her natural hair. The tension in many of the dancers’ eyes as they prepare for the shoot inspires a familiar angst in anyone who’s watched enough “America’s Next Top Model”, which conditioned us to see models pressured and forced into uncomfortable situations that achieve the photographer’s desired result. But there is none of that energy from Lizzo’s team: Photographers, assistants, and stylists alike offer gentle words of support, making it clear that they’ll follow each dancer’s direction on how revealing the shoot will be. 

 
 
 
 
 
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Above all, there’s a beautiful, vibrant shared passion for dance and being a badass in the body they have. When Lizzo plays the girls her new song “Rumors”, she gets vulnerable and honest with them in a totally spontaneous way: “They don’t want big girls to be sexy. They don’t want us to be happy. And that’s why this show is so important to me,” she shares in an emotional confession. “It’s hard to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back.” The scene ends with a tearful group hug and Lizzo stripping down to her underwear, twerking while the girls cheer her on. 

What’s unique about the vulnerability displayed in “Watch Out For The Big Grrrls” —whether it’s about grief, family, insecurities, or cyberbullying— is that it always comes from the contestant’s initiative to share.

We see Lizzo’s creative director consult Moesha, a dancer recovering from ankle surgery, and adjust the group’s choreography to accommodate for her injury without being asked to do so —a staggeringly empathetic gesture from an industry professional, offered with the comment, “let me help you find a way without hurting yourself.” The women also discuss how the dance industry doesn’t teach people with bigger bodies how to support their joints, highlighting how much they’re learning about caring for themselves in the Big Grrrl house. Later in the season, we learn that the choreography the dancers have learned in each challenge is the final tour choreo —a decision Lizzo made to best prepare the women for her tour, in hopes that as many of them make it to the end as possible. 

The only “typical” drama comes from a dancer who can’t seem to find the necessary sense of sisterhood within herself. It’s sad to watch someone who has internalized the competition we’ve come to expect from women in reality TV, but she’s given countless opportunities to progress and reflect on her actions. Even when contestants are eliminated —which doesn’t happen every round— they’re given many chances to prove themselves first. When dancers do leave, it’s with an encouraging speech about where they need to develop further, pride at how much they have flourished, and a hopeful feeling that they could reunite with the Big Grrrls crew at a later stage.

Of course, there is emotion throughout the dancers’ journeys, but it comes from the show’s emphasis on bonding, upliftment, and wellness: We want the best for these dancers, and we see them treated with the love they deserve. Lizzo says “Watch Out For The Big Grrrls” is the greatest moment in her career yet, and it’s easy to see why that is. Competition shows may never be the same if they’re gonna be compared to this one. By creating a seriously bingeable and entertaining show that is rooted in compassion and empowerment, Lizzo confirms that we truly should watch out for the Big Grrrls!♦

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