Lizzo, Lana Del Rey, and the Artists Siccing Their Angry Fan Armies on Ordinary Folks
With great power comes great responsibility.
Last week, Lizzo, whose hit “Truth Hurts” has been sitting pretty at the top of the pop charts for three weeks running, decided to issue a Postmates customer service complaint via Twitter after the food she ordered to her Boston hotel failed to arrive. Seemingly without evidence, she accused the food delivery app’s driver of stealing her order.
Beyond simply putting the driver on blast to her one million followers, the singer tagged Postmates, identified the driver by her first name, and shared a photo of the driver. The since-deleted tweet read, “Hey @Postmates this girl Tiffany W. stole my food she lucky I don’t fight no more.”
On Monday, Tiffany told TMZ her side of the story, saying she is humiliated and scared to leave her home out of worry that obsessed Lizzo fans will try to harm her. TMZ also reports that the failed delivery was a miscommunication; Tiffany insists she did not steal Lizzo’s food (she does not even like seafood). According to the report, there was no hotel room number listed on the order. After waiting for 10 minutes, Tiffany was not able to reach the number associated with the Postmates account and left. A spokesperson for Postmates told TMZ, “As soon as Lizzo reached out, we looked into the matter and quickly resolved the issue. We apologize to Lizzo for any inconvenience.”
Lizzo deleted the original tweet promptly after posting it on Sept. 16 and apologized for her lack of consideration. “I apologize for putting that girl on blast,” she tweeted the next day. “I understand I have a large following and that there were so many variables that could’ve put her in danger. Imma really be more responsible with my use of social media and check my petty and my pride at the door.”
For Tiffany W., however, the performer’s gesture might be too little, too late. Some of the replies to the apology tweet shed light on her safety concerns. “Apologize my ass. She gets what she gets,” wrote one user. Another (falsely) stated, “She stole your food. Stole food. Someone gets a fork in the eye if they steal my food.” At the very least, the emotional trauma of being harassed by anonymous strangers online should not be taken lightly. And though one could argue that few know that feeling better than celebrities themselves, it is important to understand the power dynamics at play.
Lizzo clearly did not have malicious intentions, but this situation—which could and should have been handled privately—is about the inherent power imbalance when celebrities decide to publicly air their grievances with non-celebrities; and, in this particular case, the power imbalance between a chart-topping star with a million followers and the low-wage worker delivering her food is staggering enough to transcend mere carelessness.
Not to mention that it’s not the first time Lizzo has blasted someone she disagreed with online. Earlier this year, in spite of receiving generally positive critical feedback, she took issue with one mixed Pitchfork review of her album Cuz I Love You. The reviewer, Rawiya Kameir (who has contributed to The Daily Beast in the past), rated the album a 6.5 out of 10. Lizzo hammered out a scathing, all-caps response on Twitter: “PEOPLE WHO ‘REVIEW’ ALBUMS AND DON’T MAKE MUSIC THEMSELVES SHOULD BE UNEMPLOYED.” As with PostmatesGate, she deleted the original tweet and walked back her comment, following up to say that she intended it as an invitation to “all music journalists” to spend time in the studio with her so she can “understand your world as much as you can understand mine.”
While this scenario too seems to be the result of thoughtless, emotional tweeting, the trend of uber-famous musicians directing petty clapbacks at their critics is starting to get out of control. In April, Ariana Grande took aim at the entire entertainment journalism industry with one patronizing tweet after an E! host made a joke about her Coachella duet with Justin Bieber. “People are so lost,” she said. “One day everybody who works at all them blogs will realize how unfulfilled they are and purposeless what they’re doing is and hopefully shift their focus elsewhere. That’s gonna be a beautiful ass day for them! I can’t wait for them to feel lit inside.”
When a Chicago-based freelance writer responded with criticism of Grande, Arianators flooded her DMs with threats and insults, some even making horrifying references to the writer’s sexual assault. Grande directly reached out to the writer but did not take responsibility for her fans’ words or actions, instead dismissing them as “upset and passionate” while conceding, “I don’t love that type of behavior.”
Nicki Minaj is also guilty of siccing her fans on critics, encouraging hostile and racist language, and in one case indirectly causing a cultural commentator to be doxxed. Most recently, Lana Del Rey got defensive when a respected NPR critic, Ann Powers, wrote that the musician formerly known as Lizzy Grant—with her stage name, Priscilla Presley cat eye, and affinity for pairing flower crowns with floor-sweeping lacy gowns—has a persona.
“Here’s a little sidenote on your piece,” Del Rey wrote on Twitter. “I don’t even relate to one observation you made about the music. There’s nothing uncooked about me. To write about me is nothing like it is to be with me. Never had a persona. Never needed one. Never will.” In another tweet, she added, “so don’t call yourself a fan like you did in the article and don’t count your editor one either.” The petty response was decidedly not a good look for the “Young and Beautiful” singer, who has been receiving career-best reviews for her latest album, Norman Fucking Rockwell.
The power of platforms like Twitter and Instagram to directly connect megawatt celebrities with the lowly ordinary masses is one of the most valuable ways that social media has shaped how we experience music. But since the days of Beatlemania and the Rolling Stones at Altamont, the line between fandom and mob has been a fine one. With great power comes great responsibility, and it is the responsibility of celebrities like Lizzo and Lana to be conscious of the way a few hasty tweets can set off a chain reaction. In 2019, 280 characters is enough to constitute a call to arms.