Note: I know. I said I was taking a break. I still plan on taking one for at least the first few months of 2013, but I realized I do have a post or two that I want to share with you before the year comes to a close. Today’s post is one of them, and I’m going to discuss what I think are the many contradictions that embody Beyonce Knowles….or at least the image she’s building an empire off of. I said I would talk more about the social issues that bother me and this is definitely one of them. To the throngs of “BaddieBey’s” fans, read this next sentence carefully. This is going to involve some critical thinking, so do me a favor and chew on this brain food for a minute before you respond in the comment section. Grab a snack and settle in, because this one is going to take some time to read. I also HIGHLY suggest taking the time to read the articles I’ve linked to in this post. They are worth reading, I promise you.
Before I jump on my socially conscious soap box, let me make a few things clear so you Beyonce
trolls fanatics don’t accuse me of “hatin” on your icon who identifies herself as “King B.”
1) I have no problems with Beyonce the actual person. I don’t know her personally, so I can’t speak about how or who she is behind closed doors. I’ve read and heard that she’s a down to earth, charming, and sweet country girl from Houston, TX, and she very well could be. I hope she is. I don’t see why she wouldn’t be.
2) While I think how amazing her vocal skills are is debatable, I definitely agree and acknowledge that the woman is an amazing entertainer. Her songs are catchy no matter how mindless & materialistic the lyrics are. She is, in this day and age, the Queen of Pop; her 16 Grammy awards and earnings of $40-90 million a year can attest to this. She’s mesmerizing to a degree to watch. She has the art of entertainment down to a science. She’s practically flawless on stage and in appearance as she goes about her daily life in the public eye….and when she isn’t she’s still great at making you feel as though she’s “just like you.” She and her team have very carefully, brilliantly, and strategically controlled her brand and her image & protected her private life. What she lacks in formal education (she didn’t graduate from high school) she definitely makes up for in business savvy and her shrewd mastering of being a celebrity and “artist.”
3) I used to be a HUGE Destiny’s Child and Beyonce fan. Ask my parents-they’ll confirm this. Then something happened to change that: I grew up, became an adult and outgrew the messages in her music, realizing there was nothing about them I could identify with. My desire for substance and less fluff in the music I listened to, became stronger than my desire to just shake my ass & bob my head to a sick beat.
Now that we’ve established all of this, let’s get right to it. While Beyonce may be a talented performer, savvy business woman, and “good” person, the image she chooses to present to the public is full of contradictions and is just damn confusing. She claims she believes in empowering young girls and women to be strong, independent individuals who think for themselves, and urges us to be divas because as she so eloquently states, they are the “female version(s) of a hustla.” (Say what?)
The problem? The majority of her lyrics are full of materialism and hypersexuality. (Or just don’t make any damn sense) Sure she has a few songs that could pass as “girl power” anthems, but let’s be honest. She’s married to a man who 1) has lyrics that drip with elements of misogyny, 2) is best friends with a man who thinks videos depicting violence against women are “art” and calls the woman he loves a “bitch.” (Kanye West, for those of who aren’t aware) and 3) denied reports that having a daughter made him reconsider his use of the term “bitch” in his verses, and wait-who ALSO calls his OWN WIFE “King B”, a bitch in a song on his latest album (with who else, Kanye West), Watch the Throne. (Whose lead single, by the way was titled “N—as in Paris. Yes. This is what we as a culture just can’t get enough of, and apparently, Gwyneth Paltrow can’t either. Ahem.) Did you catch all of that. It’s a lot to take in, I know.
So let’s go ahead and couple these facts with the fact that she sings “Who Runs the World (Girls)” while gyrating in a leotard and lingerie, and just safely assume it’s highly probable her messages of “WOMEN RULE” are rather conflicting. At least to me they are. Every time Beyonce is touting her “empowering” messages, it’s usually presented in the standard, hypersexualized packaging the music & entertainment industry sells us and we buy into by the truckloads. Apparently, if you’re a woman in this country, no one takes you or what you have to say seriously unless you’re selling us your “goods.” Is it possible to own your sexuality, and the fabulous-ness of womanhood without shaking your ass and being a “Naughty Girl”? Unfortunately considering the current climate of our culture it isn’t. (Has it ever been?) If it was, female artists wouldn’t feel the need to thrust their crotches in our faces in their videos and appear naked on the cover of magazines to sell their “artistry.” (I’m talking about YOU, and your “Unapologetic” GQ cover Rihanna. AHEM.)
Maybe you think differently, but before you tighten your grip on your perspective, consider this: Beyonce’s last “girl power”anthem said that girls run the world. Is that really true? Young women and girls around the world continue to be victims of violence and are still treated like property or second class citizens. Women in this country are still paid less than their male counterparts. Strong women are still perceived as “bitches,” and ambitious ones are constantly having their credibility and ability to manage motherhood and career called into question. (think Yahoo’s Marissa Mayer , Hillary Clinton, and even though I can’t stand her political views, Sarah Palin.) Sure, it’s just a song, right? Or does the message of the song that millions of girls and women nod their head and raise their fists to really convey the truth? I could say more on this, but I think Ms. Nineteen Percent sums this issue up quite nicely:
“Don’t call me a bitch. I don’t find that empowering.”
All of the above concerning Beyonce and her image has irritated the hell out of me for a few years now, but it’s her latest business move that made my face grow hot with anger this morning.
Beyonce just signed a $50 million dollar deal with Pepsi. This deal doesn’t just involve her drinking a can of Pepsi in hot pants in a television commercial. It involves Pepsi sponsoring the half-time show she’s performing in, promoting her upcoming album and “documentary,” and her world tour that will be heavily littered with Pepsi advertisements at each venue. Not only will cardboard cut outs of Beyonce pushing a cart loaded with Pepsi greet you at your local grocery store, her face will stare at you while you enjoy an ice-cold can of carbonation & sugar. You know, the standard celebrity endorsement stuff, we’re all used to right? But that’s not what infuriates and confuses me.
Pepsi is giving her $50 million dollars (FIFTY MILLION!) to do more than just “sell” their brand to consumers. In return for those cardboard grocery store cut outs, Beyonce has negotiated a deal that ensures Pepsi funds her “creative projects”…projects that don’t have to have ANYTHING to do with a Pepsi product. Now, follow me here. Beyonce, who combined with her husband Shawn Carter earned over a $100 million dollars last year alone, is getting another $50 million to fund her “creative projects.” Not a charity or foundation she has chosen. Not a cause. Not to any kind of medical research. Not to FEEDING the millions of people in this country who depend on food stamps to help feed their families…OR to the public schools who due to budget constraints and lack of funding have to buy cheap, over processed, less than healthy & tasteless food to feed their students. To fund some damn “creative whims.” As Bey so succinctly puts it: “Pepsi embraces creativity and understands that artists evolve. As a businesswoman, this allows me to work with a lifestyle brand with no compromise and without sacrificing my creativity.”
So let me get this straight. The woman who danced in tube socks and heels to encourage America’s youth to be healthy and active via Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move!” initiative:
is now hawking junk food products…sugary laden products that have shown to have less than healthy benefits-especially among children and youth….for $50 million dollars. To fund “creative projects.” Let me stop right here and say this: As rich as her and her husband are, WHY can’t she fund her “creative projects” herself? If she can reportedly buy her husband a $4.8 million dollar watch, and a $2 million dollar Buggati, for his birthday as well as a $50 million private jet for Father’s Day, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say she can afford to fund her creative endeavors herself and then some. I’m not saying she can’t spend her hard-earned cash however she chooses, but shouldn’t she also use some of that to fund what she feels she “needs” as an artist to “evolve?” No? Am I missing something crucial here?
So what’s the big deal? Who cares? Why be angry about this? Because Beyonce, like tons of other celebrities, has (again) decided to put money over values. She’s decided that when it comes right down to it, people’s health be damned, she’s gotta get hers while the gettin is good. Social conscious and advocacy doesn’t pay the bills, does it? After all it’s not like she doesn’t use her celebrity and influence for good and social awareness at all, right? She just helped the United Nations promote “World Humanitarian Day.” But she didn’t earn any money from that. With this Pepsi deal she does, and maybe she thinks her work with the UN makes up for her endorsement of a product that contributes to obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. News flash, Beyonce, IT DOESN’T. Sorry honey. You can’t have your cake and eat it too. Either you’re for kids being healthy and eating nutritious foods and you support initiatives like FLOTUS’ or you don’t. You can support whatever you want and make your money however you see fit, but at least be consistent. Stop sending mixed messages to people you influence, whether you believe your image contributes to the decisions they make or not.
I find it really disturbing that the icing on her $50 million dollar cake is that she’s a black woman endorsing a product that contributes to diseases that black women suffer the most from compared to women of other races. Need I say any more?
Something else I find disturbing and contradictory: Over the last year, Michelle Obama and Beyonce have gushed to the press how much they love and admire each other, with the First Lady even going as far as to say that if she could trade places with anyone , she’d be Beyonce. Michelle Obama, a strong, successful, highly educated black woman with two daughters would choose to be a “great singer” like Beyonce if she had the option…because Beyonce is “a role model who kids everywhere can look up to.”
A role model who places money & materialism over value; a woman who puts very little stock into substance in regards to her “brand,” and the image she portrays to the millions who adore her persona and music. I love you Michelle, but Beyonce is far from the kind of black woman, let alone role model I would want my daughter or even my sons to be. I’d rather adopt Jada Pinkett Smith’s parental philosophy that teaches her daughter Willow she has a right to own her body….or have my daughter look up to a talented “great singer” like Janelle Monae who values substance, and doesn’t equate selling records with selling her body, all while recognizing that her influence and what she endorses has an impact on others.
“When I started my music career, I was a maid. I used to clean houses. My mother was a proud janitor. My stepfather, who raised me like his very own, worked at the post office and my father was a trashman. They all wore uniforms and that’s why I stand here today, in my black and white, and I wear my uniform to honor them.
I know I said a lot here. Hopefully it was cohesive and made sense. So….your thoughts?
*More articles worth reading regarding these issues….
- Beyoncé, Why Do You Hate My Children? (an open letter) (weightymatters.ca)