The bigger a celebrity is, the less likely I am to like them.
So you can imagine how I feel about everyone from Drake to Nicki Minaj to Queen Bey.
When Lemonade dropped it was the topic of every discussion I had, overheard and avoided. I dreaded having to answer the question “Why don’t you like her?” because I knew people wouldn’t understand my indifference towards celebrities who I felt were overrated.
But it wasn’t until I asked myself why I really didn’t like her that I realized that actually, I really did.
It all started when I stumbled into work the other day just before seven in the morning, groggy-eyed and not nearly prepared for the day ahead. My vivacious coworker was blasting Beyonce from her phone. I had half an hour before the safe would beep, so I paced around the room trying to avoid the music.
Before I knew it, I was singing, humming and doing all the ad-libs to Halo.
“I thought you didn’t like her,” my coworker said to me.
“I don’t, but I used to have this song on my iPod.”
Then, songs from Lemonade started playing. And I listened. I really listened.
A few weeks ago, my friend and fellow writer Talia Leacock wrote an amazing piece about celebrities who risk it all to be what she calls, and what I have also come to call “black black”. You know, unapologetically and fearlessly black. Like what Colin Kaepernick is doing with his anthem protest. And what Beyonce did with Lemonade. Here is an excerpt from her piece so that you know just what I’m referring to:
Remember when Beyoncé put out Formation and white people realized Queen Bey was black? I mean they obviously knew she was black. Her pretty brown skin and the occasional slang term in her lyrics were dead giveaways. But after she sang, "I like my negro nose with Jackson 5 nostrils" and sat on top of a sinking New Orleans police car, they realized she was black black. The kind of black that doesn't bite their tongue and hide their accent and pretend they don't agree with Black Lives Matter. They realized she wasn't Stacey Dash black, or Raven Symone black. She was black-looking and black-minded and she was here for black people. Remember how pressed they were about that?
I was so turned off of Beyonce by the time Lemonade came out I never really gave it a chance. I watched it mindlessly, so pre-occupied thinking about the things on my to do list that I really missed the point that she was making in that very powerful and political release. A release that featured the mothers of slain black men who had been killed by cops. A release that had dealt with some of the most recurring issues head-on.
But when I heard it this time, with no choice but to listen to it, I realized that I had no right to dislike her. I also realized the damage that it does to pretend not to like her, especially as a black woman.
Questions fell from the sky like fat raindrops on my head.
Why are we so quick to celebrate women like Taylor Swift? Even after she lied outright on Kanye West?
Why are we not aware of the double-standard of her being able to couple up with whoever she wants in Hollywood, knowing that if it were a black woman she’d be slut-shamed?
Which brings me to my next point.
See that new movie coming out with Bridget Jones? The one about her not knowing who her baby daddy is? I wish I had a nickel for everytime someone said “Maury is for black people.”
Why are we so quick to idolize Lady Gaga for her outlandish and avant-garde style and music, when we have black women who do the same damn thing and receive little to no recognition?
Why are the Kardashians always trending when they bring little to no political or social awareness or contribution to anything, ever?
And why is there only one Beyonce? The obvious answer is because she’s Beyonce. But if you think about it, she’s one of the only black female powerhouses in Hollywood because Hollywood says there can only be one at a time. Meanwhile, Katy Perry, Taylor Swift, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, Ellie Goulding, Kelly Clarkson and all the rest of them can co-exist.
Certainly it’s not because there aren’t an abundance of talented black women. Ask Fantasia. Ask Jennifer Hudson. Ask Jazmine Sullivan. As a matter of fact, sit in on a church service, a black black church service on a Sunday and tell me you don’t have enough singers to make the whole of Hollywood black.
As I paced around the room, listening to the lyrics and the voice ooze out of this superstar, I realized what my real problem was.
Being a Beyonce fan meant I also had to stand by her political messages, her social messages. You can’t like someone’s music but not the message. Not when it’s that powerful. In denying her, I was denying my people and I was denying what needed to be said.
In all honesty, Beyonce put her fame on the line when she released Lemonade. She put her fame on the line when she decided to be black black.
And who am I to object to that?
Here is a woman who has never been involved in a scandal. She’s been with Jay-Z, another black powerhouse, for almost twenty years (and they even went to the Trayvon Martin rally together in 2013). She dedicated herself to her career, married the love of her life and even had time to have a daughter, who became the centre of a media witch-hunt at the age of two for the way her hair was styled.
I know I'm way late to the party. But this isn’t just about liking her music. This isn’t about judging the extent that her fans go to let her know she’s love and revered. This is about giving respect to one of the most-deserving women in Hollywood and arguably in the world.
This is about a black woman who has truly risen to be an artistic voice, but also a social and political one on an international stage for black people. And there are a ton of people who will probably refuse to listen to her music now. Or they’ll say they liked her old stuff better. They’ll say they don’t understand. Maybe someone else will pop up and take over shortly.
But there can only be one Bey. And whoever musters up the courage to try and compete with the success she’s acquired will fall short. Shorter than Britney Spears’ performance after Beyonce’s at the VMAs.