As I am writing this article, Beyoncé has just 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 accepting her body, the power of opening doors for younger artists of color, ancestry, life journey, creativity, Coachella, On the Run II, and 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 American 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. But what's baffling is that this is the first cover of Vogue that has been shot by a Black photogorapher in 126 years.
Aside from Beyoncé's Vogue issue, Tyler 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, feel our emotions, and 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 purely as we are.
There are a few points in Beyoncé's cover story that I want to highlight. At the beginning of her cover story she talks about childbirth and how after her first pregnancy with her daughter Blue Ivy, she put a lot of pressure on herself to lose the baby weight. Which, a lot of women can relate to because of society's problematic standards of beauty. Further a long, 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. Which led her to have 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." This caused her to go about her recovery differently than her last pregnancy so that she could have time to fully heal. Also, she states, "It's important for women and men to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies" after sharing how she embraced her natural curves after having the twins. I think that this statement is important because Black women are dying from childbirth at an alarming rate.
Black women are dying after childbirth now more than ever. When I first read the beginning of Beyoncé's cover story about childbirth, I immediately thought of Serena Williams and how after giving birth, she was experiencing excessive coughing and shortness of breath which was later diagnosed as a pulmonary embolism. Serena Williams had to ask a nurse herself for a CT scan. From hearing Beyoncé and Serena's stories after childbirth, I couldn't help but think of the millions of Black women who are dying after giving birth who don't have access to the level of treatment that they have. Black women are dying after childbirth and no amount of treatment (expensive or not) is stopping this because of systematic racism in healthcare and doctors not listening to what we have to say.
Another point that I want to highlight in 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." Which is why she wanted to work with Tyler Mitchell. People in powerful positions giving younger artists of color the opportunities to show the world their work, makes them feel like their voice indeed do 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." This resonated with me because as a creator, I find happiness in creating. I find joy in all that it brings to my life and the lives of others that read, view, and share my work. I like having the freedom to share my voice without any barriers. Seeing the progression of my work and how much I've changed through it is what keeps me motivated as an artist and creator.
There were many more points in this cover story that were also amazing. inspiring. and important for Black culture. 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, trust my myself as well as my work, and work hard. In my opinion, the experience of being a Black woman are pure, honest, and beautiful.