Talk Back

Beyoncé: Blonde Ambition & Black Power

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Are you familiar with the childhood story The Emperor’s New Clothes?

In it, there’s a king (aka an emperor), who’s walking a parade route naked. He is parading down the street with absolutely no clothes on, making a complete fool out of himself, but nobody dares to say anything because, after all, he is the emperor.  That is until the emperor makes his way past one small child who’s staring in disbelief, partly because the emperor is totally naked, but mostly because the emperor’s walked past tons of other people and nobody had the stones to say, “Hey Emperor, you’re naked!”

Upon finally realizing that nobody else is going to say anything, the little child finally blurts out, “But he isn’t wearing anything at all!”

That’s a brave kid right?  To just say what everyone else was thinking. Well, it’s in the spirit of that kid that I’m going to say the obvious thing that probably needs to be said about Beyoncé’s latest single, “Formation.”

In many ways, Beyoncé came through with the win on this track. “Formation” is a catchy song, its video has brilliant visuals and a powerful message.  But I have to ask:  Does anyone else think it was odd that Beyoncé performed a “Black Power” tribute in a long, blonde weave?

Now we’ve all been staring at Beyoncé and her hair long enough to know that if she wanted to wear an afro, she very well could have. All she’d need to achieve the look is a few buckets of water and a blow dryer to the scalp.  So the question is, if she could have achieved the look, why didn’t she?  If she loves “afros” and “negro” noses, like she claims, what’s with the long, blonde, weaves and the heavily (cough, cough) “contoured” nose, she’s always sporting?

I think the answer probably lies somewhere in the unspoken truth that one of the major components of Beyoncé’s crossover success has been her ability to make her ethnic features as inconspicuous as possible. A long blonde weave and a thin, subtle nose have made her more user friendly to fans all over the world.  And the irony of that fact lies in her song “Formation.” She’s now embracing the very look she elected to abandon in order to achieve this level of success in her career.

So yeah, she loves the Afros on her dancers and large nostrils on the Jacksons, but she still knows that she’d better not go near them herself, as they’ll compromise her marketability.  In fact, when she did sport a curly, natural look for a brief period back in 2002 (before the release of her first solo album), she told Vibe Magazine (Oct. 2002) she didn’t know how much longer she’d maintain the style because, “I wake up looking like a crack head.”

Now, to be clear, I’m not faulting nor am I criticizing her majesty for her style of tress, because weave or no weave, releasing that video is still a gutsy move.  Secondly, I understand that every artist must express herself in a way that makes her comfortable and if she’s not comfortable changing her hair, that’s her business.  And lastly, I’d never come for her for being blonde, because it will only take a quick Google search to see that on many occasions, I have worn blonde highlights myself (and that stuff snapped my hair right off, lol!) BUT, I’ve never purported to be the leader of the new Black revolution.

You can tell people whatever you’d like to tell them, but people rarely model their behavior of off what you tell them. They model their lives off of what you actually do. Beyoncé can put everyone from her dancers to her daughter in an afro, but it won’t be until she is comfortable wearing her own hair and her natural nose, because she believes them to be no hindrance to her appeal, that the revolution she claims to seek will actually be televised.

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