It’s Liza with a “Z” not Lisa with an “S” ‘cause Lisa with an “S” goes “sss” not “zzz,” it’s “Z” instead of “S,” “lye” instead of “lee,” simple as can be say “LIZA!”
And so begins my daily affirmation.
Happy Friday, femmes! I am Samara, your guide through the warm, welcoming waters of Liza love. Before we begin on this journey together, I would like to thank the extremely welcoming Meg and Melina for letting me proselytize the feminine glory of my personal femmespiration, Liza Minnelli.
It happened, as these things do, that Liza entered my life at exactly the right time. It was 2006, my sophomore year of high school. I stood at a modest 5’1/2”, with a breast size that, as this is polite company, I will refer to only as expansive. I was bursting with eagerness and energy, but I was stubbornly mousy and shy. And, of course, I carried with me always the requisite teenage insecurity, which I fed with dog-eared copies of Teen Vogue.
As much as I liked fashion, I feared it. I had no idea how to dress my body. I felt that any piece of clothing I truly enjoyed would look wrong on me, and because of this I was somehow excluded from the enjoyment of dressing myself. Primarily, I chose clothes for function. On the off chance I purchased something I genuinely liked, I would stash it away. I liked fancy clothes. I liked them on other people.
Then, one arbitrary afternoon, I was flipping through the viewing options on Showtime on demand, considering rewatching a classic episode of “The L Word," when I spotted “Liza with a Z” on the menu. On a whim, I pressed select.
Infatuation is dangerous, femmes. Love so suddenly tender, so quick to bloom, is usually the first cloud of a biblical tempest. It burns bright like supernova and then it’s out like a match. It’s like when you microwave popcorn and the settings are way too high and you ruin your snack. Surely, this is not love meant to last. But Liza and me? We’ve never fizzled. We’ve been strong since that first belt (“Yes,” she sang, “Say yes.”) and our connection is like a never-ending series of encores.
My first viewing of “Liza with a Z,” Liza Minnelli’s seminal 1972 televised concert, was huge. Every wiggle, every head-bob, every little dress or pair of prop glasses, every toe-curling belt out of Liza was a revelation. Simply put, I loved everything about her. I loved her striking features, her loping awkwardness, that bright giggle that erupted in between her super-stylized Fosse numbers. And she was talented. God, was she talented.
Moreover, in her eagerness, her awkwardness, and in her unbridled joy, I related to her. I even convinced myself we looked alike; her with her prominent nose and oversized eyes, me with my similarly prominent nose and oversized eyes. We even had matching goofy, gummy smiles. Suddenly, keeping my day-to-day joy inside made much less sense.
I followed up “Liza with a Z” with Liza’s Oscar-winning performance of (the shockingly sex positive, tragically human, passionately deluded) Sally Bowles in “Cabaret.” Readers, I wept from start to finish. Instead of taking you through my emotional journey, I invite you to embark on one of your own. This is Liza, singing “Maybe This Time,” from 1972’s “Cabaret.” I dare you not to cry.
Even if you aren’t a fan of Liza, you have to admit the woman knows her way around a garment. Whether it’s the halter leotard, thigh-highs, and bowler hat she dons for her “Mein Herr” number in “Cabaret,” or any one of the outfits her bff Halston gave her in the 70’s, Liza has been keeping it real ever since her mother, the incomparable Judy Garland, gave her a jaunty little outfit and told her to sing on television. Remarkably, she is just as comfortable, just as Liza, in foppish menswear as she is completely coated in sequins.
Some may argue that Liza is more of a tragic figure. A four-time divorcee with a storied history of addiction, Liza may not be the first person to come to mind when musing on joy. I say, Liza has had her ups and downs, like any big-living femme, and I choose to focus on the positive. Sue me.
I have learned a lot from Liza over these past seven years. I learned that you can be a non-normatively-proportioned goofball sequin-bedecked androgyne with bug eyes and own it like a diva of stage and screen every single day of your life. Chiefly, I learned that belting onstage in an outfit that makes you feel bangin’ is one of the greatest thrills that can be afforded a human. Oh, and also, I learned that being mousy and withdrawn is kind of a waste of my one wild and precious life.