The dancer also talks about her journey on the reality competition series, what people would be surprised to know about Lizzo and more.
“Lizzo’s Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” star Jayla Sullivan has the “Juice” — and she’s leaving her mark on the dance world.
Sullivan, a transgender dancer from Portland, Oregon, stars in Lizzo’s new Amazon Prime Video series, “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls.” Per Amazon Studios, the eight-episode dance competition series sees Lizzo on the “hunt for dynamic, personality-packed women to join the elite ranks of the Big Grrrls and join his world tour.”
The unscripted series follows 10 women, who “must prove they have what it takes to make it to the end and join Lizzo in front of a global audience on center stage.”
In an interview with TooFab, Sullivan, 33, opened up about her journey on “Beware the Fat Grrrls,” overcoming challenges as a trans and full-figured dancer, and — spoiler alert! – become one of Lizzo’s Big Grrrl dancers.
Sullivan also shared what it means to her that Lizzo is an advocate for the LGBTQ community and women of all shapes and sizes, what people would be surprised to know about the singer and more.
Check out the full Q&A with Sullivan below!
First of all, what was/is it like working with Lizzo? What, if anything, would people be surprised to know about him?
It’s very surreal to work with someone that you’ve seen and watched and enjoyed from a fan perspective, I guess, and appreciate the music, the artist behind it all. And it’s so surreal to see how powerful she is and her work ethic. I think one thing that would surprise people is that what you see is really what you get. Like, there’s no fake, it’s a 100% raw and unfiltered. And we live in a society where it’s all about editing, it’s about, you know, deleting a post and changing things or putting a filter on something. And with her, there is only her. And that’s something that I really didn’t realize, it was so raw and so beautiful.
She is 100% that bitch! …and she’s even more beautiful in person. Like, I feel like, you know, people say it like, “Oh, you know, you look like your pictures” or “You’re really pretty.” Like, she’s breathtaking. And like, his heart is even purer. Like, I love it.
During one episode, Lizzo said, “It’s hard to love yourself in a world that doesn’t love you back.” Have you felt this in your career? If so, how?
100%. Before the transition, I was either too fat or too feminine, then I started transitioning and my body was still fat, so I was still too fat, but then I was too masculine. So I dealt with both ends of that spectrum where it’s just like, “Okay, well, my body isn’t good enough. My gender expression isn’t good enough. I had to talent, but people aren’t looking at it, they’re looking at me as a physical thing.” And it turned into this kind of vicious circle where, you know, something that you love turned into something that you kind of felt because you felt like you’d never be good enough to that.
You said dancing was your refuge. Could you clarify this?
Growing up, I was bullied relentlessly. I went through a lot of tough times in middle school and high school in particular.
They are so mean! It’s horrible. And no i guess i didn’t necessarily fully understand myself at the time and i was trying to figure that out and navigate life, dancing was always this escape for me where it didn’t matter what was happening at home, at school. I knew I had friends there who understood me, even though I didn’t understand myself. And when that music is played, you can simply let yourself be enveloped by it and live freely.
You seemed to have a roller coaster ride during the competition. You fell during a challenge, injuring yourself after having already suffered injuries. You also had to dance for your life after the next challenge. What do you think was the toughest or biggest challenge you had to overcome during your time on the show?
My biggest obstacle was myself and I was trying to get out of my head because there’s always that negative voice that’s in the back of your mind telling you that you’re not good enough not to deserve something or whatever. And it didn’t matter, you know, the choreographers said, it didn’t matter what the girl said. It didn’t matter what Lizzo said. Like, I didn’t believe it until I had an “Aha” kind of moment. And I realized, like, looking back, there was a lot of the experience that I helped my back myself because I just wasn’t as there for myself that I should have been.
Do you think being able to watch the show, are you almost like, “Oh, I’d like to do this or would like to do that,” or is it like, “no regrets?”
So I hadn’t even planned on watching the show to be 100% honest. …I’m so weird sometimes. For example, I don’t even like watching videos of myself dancing, and dancing is what I love. Like, if somebody shares something or tags me something, like, I’ll just, like, click tag or share or whatever and be done with it. And obviously going through the roller coaster of emotions and experiences and all like that…I was like, “I don’t know how things would be painted, and I know it would be painted in the most powerful light and the most positive, but also I am also sometimes my worst critic.” So I think I’m intrigued to see what everything looks like in my eyes from what I’ve been through before, because obviously we’re walking this path together. Yeah, I think – I’ll watch it.
You endured, you killed it, and you made it to Lizzo’s show in Minneapolis (and were ultimately chosen to be a Big Grrrl). What was it like performing with Lizzo on stage for the first time? Take us back to this moment. Do you remember?
It was a moment that I think I will never be able to forget. The power you feel on that stage dancing with the other girls and with her… you can’t even express it in words. Like that just – it just exudes warmth and energy and passion and because we’re all doing what we love. You get a bunch of all these women who, again, have heard no over and over again, and we all get a yes. And we all do that [it’s] surprising. The only moment is – it was one of her slow songs – and she was singing “Jerome”, and I just looked at the audience and it’s all lighters and iPhone camera lights and everything like that. And I started to cry because I think there is [were], like, 16,000 people there. And I never thought this would be my reality and [to] to actually be there and have that experience was so surreal.
What was your reaction when you learned that you were chosen as Big Grrrl?
Shock. I think there was a lot of beep, beep, beep, beep, like all the swearing was coming out because, like, I was like, “Oh my god, like, this is real!” Like, I thought I was punk for a second. Like, I was just like, “Are you sure?” Like, it was more than I could have ever dreamed of.
What comes next? Going on tour? Do you still know something? Can you tell us something?
I have no idea. I know it [there are] some rumbles from some talks but as far as i know once i hear something then i will be excited about it. But from now on, I’ll just see what happens.
Last question, y’all went to SXSW with Lizzo. How was it? Lizzo tore up Texas’ anti-trans laws and their abortion ban, how does it feel to be a dancer to an artist who is an advocate and ally of the LGBTQ community as well as women of all shapes and sizes?
It means everything to me because we are all voices not necessarily heard. Our voices are often suppressed in the LGBTQ+ community, women of color, women with larger bodies. We are not seen as being as valuable or valued as other women. And being able to dance and work side by side with an artist who appreciates – and not only appreciates but defends and speaks up and speaks up for what she disagrees with – is something that I never think I would get used to it because you don’t necessarily expect everyone to rally behind you but someone like her to rally behind who you are and what you stand for and what she stands for is the power behind the message is the fact that she is ready to defend someone like me.
Season 1 of “Watch Out for the Big Grrrls” is available to stream now on Amazon Prime Video.