Superbowl 50, she made the biggest move any entertainer of her caliber has made since Nina Simone’s “Mississippi Goddamn”. Before the media could begin roasting her or setting her on a pedestal, we began our usually routine of tearing her down or exalting her. This last move was clearly praise worthy. She put a long, illustrious career on the line as she stood with Black Lives Matter and proclaimed her blackness. While no one in my family keeps hot sauce in their bag, (we’re from California) she represented us well and all of our sub communities should’ve rose to clap.
But we didn’t. We began the most revealing and “your slip is showing” debate of Beyonce history. Can she do anything right? Of course the Beystans stood to worship and war. They are legitimate thugs, Michael Jackson’s fans were’t nearly as mean. The Hoteps began their assault because she’s a winner and black folks can’t win in America without the illuminati, or because she wore clothes revealing her face or her thighs or whatever. Then there were the moderate folk like me who found ourselves caught in the middle. We weren’t sure what to think. There was joy and disbelief… And so began the slip showing of the new millennium. Lets walk a bit through her career to find the root of our need to love or hate Beyonce.
She’s been on the radar since I was 15. When my biggest problem was how to clear acne from my skin, Beyonce was at the top of the Billboard charts. We had just watched Lauryn Hill blow up the Grammy’s. She was our beloved, an underdog and she sang for the underdogs and she won for the underdogs but then here comes Destiny and her children. As Beyonce’s [Destiny’s] celebrity skyrocketed and eclipsed that of Lauryn Hill (commercially) she made us look at the system wondering why she was so successful? She was the antithesis of Lauryn Hill. She won playing by mainstream rules. She was already using her sexuality to sell records and her mama couldn’t make her anything decent to wear. She wasn’t the neo soul type we’d grown to love and she was beating Pop artists at the charts, making her beyond R&B and unknowingly, aligning Bey with the powers that be, polarizing the African American audience into two camps.
Now reason with me, I think we can all agree that Beyonce is a good artist. She’s an interesting mix of Vanity, Janet Jackson, Tina Turner and Rupaul. I’m not a fan but I have a few songs that I can lift my hand to and shout. No one can tell me, “Me, Myself and I” was not an anthem for us fed up women, nor can they tell me “Mine” with Drake wasn’t the shit. She’s got some hits and some misses. I remember thinking she must be hooked up to some powerful people cause, “Irreplacable” was a crappy song that was shoved down my throat in English and Spanish. And let’s not address “Creole” I think even she knew that song was crap and insensitive to Black (Negro) women everywhere. Either way, what she always manages to do is win. We love and hate Beyonce for one reason and one reason only,
She’s a bonafide winner.
The question becomes are you a winner or are you an underdog? It seems most who feel the world is theres for the taking or who simply want to believe it is, are card carrying Beystans. They love to see her succeed, they don’t care how or why, they simply love a winner. Some sincerely love her music and her dance skills, how she commands the stage and commits to excellence from all around her. The back story is irrelevant, she’s winning and that’s all that matters. She’s likable, and seems to really care for those in need. Underdogs (I am a recovering underdog) think, How can she win everything? I mean, she married Jay- Z when most other ambitious women of her age couldn’t find a man whose knees didn’t buckle at their sight. We’ve seen her fall heels over head down a flight of stairs and get up like nothing happened. Even in the face of great controversy, her silence allows her machine to work out the kinks. Whether her father is kicking sick kids off a tour bus, her clothing company is being accused of racketeering, she’s stealing Ledisi’s song on the Grammy’s, she wins.
There’s a slight sting that comes along with how she wins. There is definitely a slap in the face for all of us who think there is a power out there bigger than our determination. “The Man” is an all encompassing powerful being that can truly stomp out black liberation .. but Beyonce. Men stop us women from achieving our goals… but Beyonce. Be a modest woman so you can be respected and successful… but Beyonce.
Then she brags about it…She’s like Muhammad Ali, constantly telling us she’s “the greatest”… I think once she actually said, “Bow Down, Bitches!” as she showed us how she has always been the winner.
She sells out venues like the American Airlines Center with nose bleed tickets costing $300. Her business judo is on fire and has no comparison. Whether releasing an album in the middle of the night or a single on a Saturday afternoon while everyone is buying wings for the Superbowl. The woman’s marketing team is on fire. If you can step out of your worship, hateration or obliviousness and look at her objectively, she’s a great example of the perfect symmetry. She has the right look, the right family dynamic, the right approach to work, the right record label, the right clothes etc. Not to mention, she has us, her true Marketing Team.
An all out war follows every Beyonce release, show or performance. Thousands of memes about haters and thousands essays from the Black Intelligencia show up after every performance. Those of us who worshipped Lauryn Hill (such as myself… I used to at least, now I’m just a fan) usually want her to go deeper, show some substance. Beystans begin their all out war against anyone who utters a mumbling word. If she were Shakira doing the exact same thing, no one would care but she’s Beyonce and Black America either wants her to slay or “sah down”.
The true phenomenon that is Beyonce is in how her success agitates Black America so personally. She passionately shakes up our collective issues, those who feel they are free from them and those who feel they still struggle with them.
Colorism: Every time she performs a dark skinned girls says, “she couldn’t do that if she was chocolate.” Classism and privilege: She was raised upper middle class with maids. Her father was as tough a Businessman as any Rockefeller a. Her mother is the epitome of the slavery laden beauty preferences of most of Black and White america when it comes to African American women, not to mention, she specialized in hair and fashion and was a great business woman in her own right. Influence and education: The Ph.Ds and Ed.Ds, JDs, black sorority and fraternity folk sit around dissecting her every move and how she has the power to directly affect culture even though she doesn’t have a High School diploma. Black Women’s Sexuality: We were all raised to keep it covered and concealed, to save ourselves for marriage just for basic respect from a man and he she is popping her cootie at the camera every chance she can get. Black excellence: How can she possibly be better than the white man at the white man’s game of business? Illuminati? Expect debates on her and these issues to ensue for days on end.
After all these years of watching her career, not always understanding why she can while others can’t and never being in full agreement with her hows and whys, I must say that it’s refreshing to see a black woman winning. And I’m glad “formation” allowed her to show her alignment with her home-base and her work for Black American justice no matter how long it took her to “get woke”. I look forward to the day when we can all praise our success and be critical of the hows without our slip showing. Whether the figure head is Beyonce, Oprah, Will Smith or Barack Obama I look forward to the day when we can all see triumph without being intimidated by it’s process. I look forward to the day when overcoming isms no longer seems suspect or unlikely. Beyonce is not the perfectly crafted version of each of our sub-communities of Blackness. she is a domination oriented, embodiment of us, all of us, together. All of our splendor and all of our shit, working itself out on the largest stage in the world. She is a mix of it all. And all I can say is, with our good, our bad and our ugly, just as we always have in the past, WE continue to SLAY.
Happy Black History Month.