The internet broke when Beyoncé revealed she was pregnant with twins. The announcement was made quietly to her 92.3 million Instagram followers, with a photo of Beyoncé decked out in lingerie and a pale green veil, kneeling in front of an extravagant flower arrangement. A simple caption expressed her joy and gratitude. The media proclaimed her “flawless,” “goddess,” and “queen,” all with an air of, “Duh, it’s Beyoncé; can she be anything else?”
The pregnancy announcement, like almost everything Beyoncé does, was elaborately orchestrated but seemed organic. The logic of it seems almost ridiculous—to create the photo, Beyoncé sat through hours of hair, makeup and dress, posed for the same, if not more time, in a bed of tulips in front of a photographer, then had the image edited to create what we perceive as a natural look. Despite the obvious effort to make all of her actions seem effortless, Beyoncé has been elevated to an unattainable level of perfection. She is the standard, the personification of everything we want to achieve. However, few actually know much about her personal life. We have an almost religious fascination with Beyoncé, yet her status as a goddess is relatively new and has been carefully manufactured to create an universally appealing idol out of a talented singer.
Beyoncé Knowles came into the public eye as lead singer of the R&B group Destiny’s Child. She released “Dangerously in Love,” her solo debut album, in 2003. It launched her image of the “independent woman,” pairing sexy, catchy melodies with an empowering image of femininity and confidence. This combination, in part because it was a one-person manifestation of the best parts of Destiny’s Child, was incredibly popular; the album’s single “Dangerously In Love” debuted at number one on the U.S. Billboard 200 chart and branded Beyoncé as one of music’s top-selling artists. When Beyoncé married hip-hop artist Jay-Z in 2008, an enormously successful artist in his own right, they merged their fanbases and brands, appearing as a dual force of attraction, each catering to a specific audience. Their union also remains an endless source of gossip and fascination for the public, the drama and scandals behind the supposedly perfect couple putting spotlights on Beyoncé and Jay-Z as individuals.
Just as Beyoncé blew up, she cleverly withdrew from the public eye. In the past four years, Beyoncé interviews have been few and far between; her PR insists on full editorial control, and even her social media accounts consist primarily of textless photos and retweets. She plays hard to get and it works; the media and public are hopelessly obsessed with her. Beyoncé’s pregnancy post broke the Guinness World Record for “Most liked image on Instagram” in 12 hours. Particularly in our world of internet culture, where everyone is readily available, Beyoncé is infinitely more desirable and appealing because of how hard she is to find.
Beyoncé’s emphasis on privacy intensifies her attributes as an artist and a figure, framing it so those are all that we see when we look at Beyoncé. Without personal backstory, her music speaks for itself, transcending her as an individual but simultaneously adding to her character in others’ eyes. William Lohier, a sophomore and long-time fan, explains, “As an artist, as a creator, she’s very profound, and her artistic vision expresses itself so vividly and so clearly that people latch onto that.” Beyoncé’s most recent album, “Lemonade,” is at its core a work of art, one that sends and sells an experience of struggle, and ultimately empowerment. The fact that Beyoncé is an incredibly successful black woman makes women and people of color feel like they can relate to her, allowing her to reach out to a demographic other artists can’t. Though there is no doubt that her work is poignant, bold, created with heart, and representative of her values, it can’t be forgotten that it was made under the assumption that it would be extremely popular and profitable, which “Lemonade” absolutely was. Though launched with no warning, it has now sold more than a million copies and garnered great critical acclaim.
The question, then, is does the careful manipulation and manufacturing of her image diminish her value as an artist? I think that the answer is no because it’s Beyoncé’s job as a celebrity to sell to as many people as possible. This is not the purest goal, but it allows for the empowering and uplifting messages of her songs to reach a large demographic, which is a wonderful thing. Beyoncé’s work should be approached without an immediate infatuation with her every move but rather with an objective and open mind. Whether you love her or hate her, the most important thing to remember is that despite Beyoncé’s appearance of perfection—just like the rest of us, she is unfailingly human.