The Power of the B

Beyonce and I have had a complicated relationship. It used to pain me in the early days that my girl, Kelly, was constantly upstaged by this light-skinned, thick-thighed sista. But then I decided to get over it.

It was a good decision on my part.

Like Oprah, Beyonce has become one of those black celebrities where you really just have to shake your head in resignation over some of her decisions and then give props where props are due. Whenever you want to cringe at her fashion choices over the years, the blackface incident , the whiteface incident, the fact that she stole that beat from Major Lazer…we could go on–you just have to stop.


Because she is just actually, mind-boggingly, infuriatingly talented.  At three months pregnant, she was dancing on wobbly stillettos, belting out that pseudo ’80s number during the VMAs like the natural-born performer she is. Her songs are generic, often ridiculous, but they stick with you.

I used to jump rope to ‘Resentment’ (odd, I know) in our basement in high school. ‘ I didn’t even know ‘Emotions’ was a cover, until  I heard the original and realized that Destiny’s Child owned Samantha Sang just like Jeff Buckley did Leonard Cohen. When we lived in England, three girls from our church did a dance number to Destiny’s Child’s ‘8 Days of Christmas.’ I loved ‘Survivor.” “Freakum Dress” was my anthem last year. I enjoyed Fighting Temptations even though I knew it was patently ridiculous. Whenever I felt insecure about my body I would do that thing that pathetic fans did–watch ‘Bootylicious’ and feel proud that someone larger than a size 2 was a hottie.

As the landscape of genuinely talented, megawatt performers begins to run thin–you always go back to Bey. The woman has longevity. She’s beautiful. She’s a great dancer, a burgeoning actress and a fantastic singer (yeah, she can rely too much on melisma, still…)

But what strikes me most about Beyonce, and what confirms my secret theory about home training ( every celebrity’s behavior can ultimately be traced to their home training–or lack thereof), is her class. It’s an odd quality to mention, considering her penchant for garish, House of Dereon designs–and the fact that she effectively announced her pregnancy at the VMA awards. But seriously. Beyonce has always  come across as genuninely humble in interviews. She’s totally type A–in a recent (ish) 6o Minutes interview, it’s revealed that she has a vice-like control over all video taken of her during her tours–but she’s never overstated her gifts. Either she’s perfected the act of the assured, yet modest superstar, or she really is both those things. There are very few celebrities, black or white, that have attained the height of media mania that she has, and the fact that she’s black makes it all the more astounding.

People (meaning me) have given her flak  over the years about her light skin privilege, but Beyonce has never seemed to ride on that wave. As soon as she opens her mouth and you hear that syrupy Texan drawl, you realize there’s no way in hell anyone’s going to forget she’s a black woman. That bodacious booty just seals the deal.  And for all the criticism about her raunch appeal; she’s actually sexy in a decidedly old-fashioned way. She’s all sequins and slinky, glittery costumes–it’s the kind of garish nightmare only a upper -middle class hair salon owner could concoct. High fashion has never seemed to know what to do with her, so they tend to leave her alone. You can see her being a dowdy middle-aged woman, comfortably 20 pounds overweight, selling Mom jeans with a hilariously faux-French name at her designer label.

She’s not shock and awe like Madonna or Britney, or now, Lady Gaga. No same sex kisses for her or elaborate costumes. Her talent will do just fine, thank you. So well done, B. Congrats. You got Twitter tweeting faster than ever.


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