Lizzo's Stylist Talks Singer's "Confident" Fashion, Becoming This Generation's Madonna

Lizzo - Getty - H 2019

"I knew she was a star. In the context of how Madonna was very influential, I always thought of her as our generation's [equivalent]," says Marko Monroe.

When Lizzo stepped on the red carpet of the 2019 American Music Awards on Nov. 24, clad in a ruffled orange Valentino dress paired with a miniature white Valentino purse, she set the internet aflame. Memes flooded social media and her look — deemed instantly iconic — stole the show.

This wasn't the first time a Lizzo outfit generated mass headlines. From her "That B—ch" pants inspired by her No. 1 song "Truth Hurts" to her sequined "Siren" Moschino dress worn to the 2019 Video Music Awards, her red carpet and stage looks have become synonymous with her superstar identity. She's earned praise for not only thinking outside of the box when it comes to music, but also fashion, shaping pop culture through every hit and outfit.

But she hasn't done this alone. Enter costume designer and stylist Marko Monroe, who has worked with Lizzo for almost two years. The Arkansas native, 30, grew up crafting clothing for his friends. Shortly after moving to Los Angeles, with only designs for friends and a few items sent to Miley Cyrus under his belt, he was asked by Brooke Candy's costume designer Seth Pratt — also from Arkansas — to create a last-minute white two-piece for Lizzo's "Water Me" video.

Monroe was then enlisted by Lizzo and then-stylist Candy to craft a DragCon look for the singer-flutist, and then an all-leopard outfit for her guest slot on Haim's spring 2018 tour. The success of those three outfits was all it took for Monroe to earn his first official styling gig: working full-time with who was soon to become one of the biggest pop stars of 2019.

"She's made a splash," he says. "I keep thinking, 'Okay, people are watching [her outfits] now.'"

Ahead of the 2020 Grammys — where Lizzo is the top nominee with eight nods, including album (Cuz I Love You), record and song of the year (both "Truth Hurts") — Billboard chatted with Monroe about the star's tiny AMAs bag, his favorite outfits of hers, and what to expect from her debut Grammys look.

When you first started working with Lizzo, did you ever think she was going to become as famous as she is now?

I knew she was a star. In the context of how Madonna was very influential, I always thought of her as our generation's [equivalent]. She has that shift on pop culture. I just didn't know it was going to escalate as quickly as it did. Especially with [hits like "Truth Hurts' and "Good as Hell"] that were old. it just took the world a little bit of time to catch up to her.

Has her fast rise to fame put any pressure on you?

A little bit, but I try not to take it too seriously. I have to keep reminding myself that we're just kids getting to play. I'm only a year into the industry, so I'm learning, too, as things escalate that sometimes I have to ask for help. I'm not like, "I'm the only one that can style her." I give creative input on everything, but there's times when I just can't do everything by myself.

Why do you think her outfits have made such an impact on pop culture?

One, her message is so strong. Two, we're not used to seeing someone her body shape carry clothes with such confidence. She's confident, and style is about confidence. It doesn't really matter what you wear as long as you have confidence in it. A lot of times we have a certain idea of what her body shape should fit into, but styling doesn't have to be so by the rules. At the end of the day, she just wants to feel good and sexy. I try to deliver that as best as I can.

What have been your favorite outfits of hers?

The all-leopard look with Haim. I love Shania Twain, and her all-leopard look when she was in the desert is literally stamped in my head. I thought for Lizzo, "Bell-bottoms and animal print always look good on her." So, it was a twist on something that I love. When that look came out, many other artists copied it. Even Beyoncé copied almost exactly the same look with the chaps, the two-piece and the hat.

For the red carpet, I would have to say the Moschino dress. I sent sketches to Jeremy [Scott, Moschino creative director] of what I was thinking and inspiration images. It was cool to be able to have those conversations with someone I used to look up to. I never thought I'd be in that position. And I loved the nod that we did to Old Hollywood. I think that resonated well with people who love pop culture. That was the most successful red carpet she's had besides the tiny bag.

How did you two decide on the tiny bag as her AMAs accessory?

I actually saw the artist who made the purse in collaboration with Valentino early on, and I screenshotted it. I sent it to friends and we were all gagging about it. Lizzo and I have had a joke about tiny bags ever since I first started working with her. We're always sending images to each other. When I saw the bag I reached out to Valentino and I was like, "Is this real? How can I get this?" I just wanted to purchase it as a gift at first, but then I was like, "Oh, while we're at it, do you want to do the AMAs with me?" We built the look around the purse.

As soon as we got back to the trailer [after the AMAs], the memes had flooded in. We knew we did our job. Everything else was high-glam, like she's in Valentino. She's wearing half-million dollar earrings. Everything's perfect, but there's one little reminder of who she is with that bag.

What's the greatest feedback you've received from fans about Lizzo's outfits?

Any praise about the looks from fans is rewarding to me. It's also really rewarding to see when people recreate looks themselves. Like for Halloween, people wearing the "That B—h" pants. That was really cool because it was just an idea drawn into paper that I had. Seeing that has been really beneficial to my overall happiness.

Can you tease anything about her Grammys look?

If fans are aware of pop culture history, then they'll be in for a surprise.

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