It's her birthday. Of course we're gonna talk about.
I am twelve-something years old and the sole male in a car full of black women, patting their wet, curling hair with towels while singing along to "Dangerously in Love" on the radio as we drive away from the pool.
Antagonistic like most children, I mutter "Rihanna's better" under my breath, just to test the waters. The car erupts immediately. I am almost thrown out. Leave the vehicle, shaking the way one does after jumping headfirst into a maelstrom, I am acutely aware of the force commonly referred to as Beyonce Knowles.
But who, rather "what", is Beyonce? The breathtaking, almost mythic fashion icon? The fiery amalgam of alluring femininity and inhuman stamina (yo, she really be ouchea doing 3+ hour concerts in heels bruh)? The famed spouse of Hip Hop legend, Shawn 'Jay-Z' Carter?
How do we, or, more so, how should we, seek to understand this very real, very human individual while taking into account the sheer motive power of her brand and virtual deification in the eyes of (black) women?
This article is not an answer, opinion, or critique; merely a set of questions and concerns which occur when contemplating Beyonce as an idea. Because she is, you know? Yes, Beyonce Knowles is a solo entertainment artist but she is by no means an island.
There is, and has to be, a team behind (check out Merima's article for further reading) such a powerful figure. And if I can do anything in this brief letter, it is to urge our readers to pay attention to the Machine behind the God; to respect and keep into account the hundreds (perhaps thousands) of individuals, creatives and entrepreneurs and innovators, who have pooled their energies into CREATING an icon.
Yes, icons are not born but branded. When the Beyhive worships at the alter of Mrs. Carter, they are truly reveling, conscious or not, at the idea/image of a powerful (black) woman, who time and again commands the attentions, hearts, and libidos of billions of people on our tiny, blue spaceship.
But effective marketing is it's own disadvantage. When a brand so flawlessly ascribes an abstract idea as the bootylicious black bosslady archetype to one mere mortal, it is easy to raise the standards by which we judge the individual's actions.
We have to learn to separate Beyonce the entertainer and Beyonce the person. This is the only way we can avoid policing her sexuality, her marriage, and the clothes of her child, when we take that extra effort to appreciate her duality as mother and lover; capable and deserving of pleasure, power, and respect.
Many people, my mother included, critique Beyonce on the basis of originality. They believe, as Beyonce openly admits to having multiple creators involved with the composition of her songs and the choreographing and artistic direction of her videos, she is merely a puppet, shaking her ass for the system.
Arguable, I'm sure. But one man's puppet is another woman's voice. One woman's voice is another man's wallpaper. One man's wallpaper is another person's misogynoir. Ask a thousand people about Beyonce and you will hear one thousand Beyonce's. And, though I am not a super fan of her music (my favorite Bey track is "Mine", in case you were wondering), that's cool as hell.
She's a gorgeous and powerful vessel; an orchestra of individual entertainment genius' marching to the beat of an all-girl band. Happy Birthday to that.