Beyoncé has recently released her September 2018 American Vogue cover. Upon seeing the cover for the first time, I was not only stunned but in awe. As I read her essay for the feature, I couldn’t help but think of Black women and young artists of color around the world.
In this feature, she’s being authentic, real and raw with not only her experiences with childbirth, but also accepting her body and the power of opening doors for people of color. She also goes on to discuss her legacy as a mother, daughter and wife. Here’s my perspective on Beyoncé’s Vogue feature and why I think it’s incredibly important for Black culture.
In this issue of Vogue, Beyoncé had a large amount of control. The essays in the feature are done by her without any interviewer, and the photos were shot by Tyler Mitchell, a 23-year-old Black photographer. Both of these aspects were incredibly important, and Beyoncé knew that.
The fact that she was able to tell her own story in this issue and have the cover and feature photos shot by a Black photographer is in itself revolutionary. What is baffling, is that this is the first cover of Vogue that has been shot by a Black photographer in all of its 126 years.
Aside from Beyoncé’s Vogue issue, Mitchell was also featured in Vogue as well. In his feature he states, “for so long Black people have been considered things. We’ve been thingified physically, sexually, and emotionally. With my work I’m looking to revitalize and elevate the black body.” I couldn’t agree more with this statement.
As Black people we know what it feels like to be stereotyped and portrayed as beings that aren’t supposed to explore and feel our own emotions, as well as be comfortable in ourselves. This is why it’s important that we are shown in a light that is not only positive but shows us as genuinely as possible.
At the beginning of her cover story, she talks about her experiences with childbirth. After her first pregnancy with her daughter Blue Ivy, she put a lot of pressure on herself to lose the baby weight, which is relatable to a lot of women because of society’s problematic standards of beauty. Further along, she begins to talk about the birth of her twins, Rumi and Sir, which caused complications that were life-threatening, not only for her but the babies themselves.
These complications led to her having an emergency C-section. She says, “after the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed during delivery.”
Her complications made for a difficult recovery that required more time to fully heal. I think that this statement is important because Black women are dying from childbirth at an alarming rate. No amount of treatment, no matter the cost seems to be stopping this due to systematic racism in healthcare, and doctors not listening to what we have to say.
Another point that I want to highlight from Beyoncé’s cover story, is when she talks about the importance of opening doors for young artists of color. She says, “until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like…If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own.”
People in powerful positions giving younger artists of color the opportunities to show the world their work makes them feel like their voices indeed matter in a world that constantly shows them they don’t.
Lastly, there is a point that I personally resonated with as a creator. Beyoncé states, “I don’t like too much structure. I like to be free. I’m not alive unless I’m creating something. I’m not happy if I’m not creating, if I’m not dreaming. If I’m not creating a dream and making it into something real. I’m not happy if I’m not improving, evolving, moving forward, inspiring, teaching, and learning.”
Beyoncé being authentic and sharing a side of her that we don’t always get to see is incredible. It shows her vulnerability and growth as a Black woman, artist and creator. She’s inspired me to love the body that I have regardless of society’s standards, to trust myself as well as my work and work hard. In my opinion, the experiences of being a Black woman are pure, honest and beautiful. Beyoncé’s ability to showcase this as an artist throughout her career is what continues to inspire many people around the world.