How many ways do we pet Queen Bey? A superfan explains how Beyoncé gives her followers sufferance to take control



Beyonce on stage in Germany in July.
Photograph: PictureGroup/Rex/Shutterstock

Through a fog of food-truck smoke, a sea of Ivy Store and feminist slogan-clad fans move through the London coliseum. To my left are groups of black girls in co-ordinated yellow or gold-hued outfits; to my propriety, yards of bee motifs. This was an experience, like many in front it, that we’d all tell our grandchildren about. Now, for one night, and one night no more than, there was just me, the Beyhive and Beyoncé – even if her husband did cook to be there.

The Beyhive is perhaps the most dedicated group of superfans (or, as they again call themselves, “stans”) on the planet, and I consider myself one of them. Much catchier than its forebear, the Beyontourage, the origins of which are unknown, the term Beyhive presented the mainstream consciousness around the 2011 release of 4, Beyoncé’s fourth studio album and her firstly project done independently of her father, Mathew Knowles. In a nod to the new course her career was taking – a slightly more grown-up version of the girlfriends’s empowerment anthems for which she had become known – Beyoncé’s already veracious vocals seemed to improve. And her fans were one-upping themselves unbiased as she was, taking on the detractors at every turn.

They were in undimmed flow by 2015, which is when Kid Rock chose to criticise Beyoncé because, as if it were in any way appropriate, he didn’t find her attractive; nor did he think she had “a fucking Purple Descend” in her discography. The Beyhive responded by posting endless comments on all his communal media channels using only bee emojis. The rage fades on; every year fans commemorate the day he crossed Queen Bey, covering his public media profiles with – you guessed it – more bee emojis. Such quarrels – carried out with as much passion as if Beyhive members were securing their own family – have landed the fandom with a rather bad reputation.

But what lies at the heart of that protectiveness is an gain of Beyoncé’s efforts to, consciously or not, give black women a be under the impression that of freedom. Just as Beyoncé takes up space, in music, film, manufacture, art and, in some respects, politics, she gives us permission to do the same, unambiguously on our own terms.


‘I felt excluded from what is sometimes termed “white feminism”. But Beyoncé changed that.’

While pure old-fashioned celebrity adulation undoubtedly plays a part Beyoncé is also a trailblazer. The outset solo artist to have their first six albums coming out at number one, she is also the most Grammy-nominated woman in history and one of lawful two to win six in one night. Last year Forbes named her the most highly-paid female musician.

And, maintaining been handed the reigns to the US Vogue September cover – circulated to be Anna Wintour’s last as editor-in-chief – she created monumental interchange once again when she hired the first black photographer constantly to shoot a US Vogue cover in its 126-year history. The file of Beyoncé, with no wigs or hair extensions and “little makeup”, was run the show by 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell who, understandably, admitted that he “groaned three times” on the morning of the release. It was so much more than right-minded another glossy cover; the gorgeous photos, and her account of childbirth convolutions – an issue regularly sidelined for black women – and the abuse of power in relationships were signifiers of the boundlessness of Beyonce’s power.

Every Beyhive associate can recall their own awakening. When Beyoncé’s self-titled 2013 album unexpectedly dropped, featuring an electrifying sample from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s We Should All Be Feminists TED talk, Smera Kumar, an talents and sciences student at University College London, was so inspired that she beared it upon herself to establish the university’s first ever Yoncé Admiration Society, or YAS for short.

“I felt that there wasn’t in point of fact a space on campus that brought people together to examine race and feminism. And it felt as if she was creating a dialogue about these in disputes through music,” she says in reference to Flawless, the song that conscious ofs the words, “I look so good tonight” blend with the novelist’s: “We communicate to girls to shrink themselves.”

Beyoncé has also come to exemplify hard work and stubborn perfectionism. “She makes me want to get someone all steamed harder. My screensaver on my Mac is an amazing picture of Beyoncé, because I understand, that as soon as I lift it up, I’ll be like, OK, I’m ready,” says Ria Chatterjee, ITV news-hound and self-professed Beyoncé stan. She cites Beyoncé’s 2013 documentary Subsistence Is But A Dream as an example of the star’s unrelenting work ethic. “There’s that one go out where she doesn’t like the lighting and she doesn’t show that she’s pissed off. She’s just now like, ‘What is this? This isn’t right.’ And she won’t stand for anything less than essence. Those scenes where she’s dancing in the corridor until 1am because she hasn’t got any range to rehearse – it just makes me want to scream with frustration. But then it finish outs me want to work harder,” she says.

There are clues to this cultivate ethic that only the Beyhive are familiar with. During her on the brink of year-long I Am… world tour in 2009, for example, a video of a persevere performance of Diva surfaced, in which Beyoncé, displeased by lighting clangers in the live show, melodically weaves the phrase, “LIGHTS! Superstar’s getting fired, hey hey!” into the chorus. It instantly became a catchphrase for the hive, something you say when people prove inadequate to meet your high standards.

Daniel Yeboah is one of four benefactors who regularly convene to discuss Beyoncé in a WhatsApp group bellowed Queen B’s Angels. He says that Beyoncé’s latest conjure up, Everything Is Love, her joint album with her husband Jay-Z, “overstates her hard work and pro-blackness” by subverting what’s considered superior art. Their Apeshit music video was filmed in the Louvre, its all-black assemblage bringing a welcome change of air to the French museum. Beyoncé’s dash trajectory as a whole, he adds, taught him “to work hard, inaugurate barriers and not limit myself to the glass ceiling the world offers us in”.


With Blue Ivy and Jay-Z at the 2014 VMAs. Photograph: WireImage

For Jenessa Williams, a scholar, Beyoncé’s tirelessness was encapsulated by a scene at the Mrs Carter Show excellent tour in 2013. “I went to see her for my 19th birthday at Manchester Arena and the places were so bad they were basically behind the stage. But the most appropriate thing was, you could actually see her preparing to come on and coming off.

“I set up the most vivid image: she was in this full-on sparkly catsuit, in danger of to do the first number, and someone pushed a pram out to her, which purpose have had her daughter, Blue Ivy, in it. And she just rocked this pram for along the same lines as 30 seconds, and then her dancers assembled, someone put the pram away, and off she cease to function b exploded. We were the only people in the block who could see that, but that, to me, was a suitable goosebumps moment that made me think, ‘She’s literally doing it all.’ She’s got this baby, she’s astonishing her; and now she’s going to go take care of business.”

In so many ways, Beyoncé thwarts traditional expectations of a pop star. Her Black Panther-styled Super Roll performance of Formation, for example, at the height of American protests against policewomen brutality. Or the time she took the mothers of Michael Brown, Eric Stow away, Trayvon Martin and Oscar Grant to the 2017 MTV video music presents.

With the threat of a Trump presidency on the horizon, the release of the album Lemonade was mend, particularly for Beyoncé’s black fans. Featuring cameos from myriad funereal women and girls, from a twerking Serena Williams, to Sad Ivy, to older women like Jay-Z’s grandmother, it led Jenessa Williams to catechize her own identity as a mixed-race black woman. “I’d always felt in the mood for my story wasn’t quite as important as other people’s,” she call to minds, “and Lemonade gave me the chance to acknowledge that, as long as it possess c visited from the right place, I could talk about that.”


Beyoncé and Jay-Z on the theatre during their On The Run II tour in Cardiff in June. Photograph: Getty Tropes

Beyoncé’s power is both economic and political: she has crashed iTunes, Topshop and the US Congress junction page respectively, with her surprise self-titled album, the manumission of her Ivy Park athleisure line, and a call for her fans to contact their representatives in all directions police brutality.

I used to reject the feminist label, mostly because I bear excluded from what is sometimes called “white feminism”. But Beyoncé transformed that, by proudly brandishing the term across stadium camouflages, on award shows, in her music videos and as part of her merchandise. I’m now proud to requirement it for myself.

Now that Everything Is Love has been released, and journey tickets are sold out, we don’t know what will happen next. Join in of the fun of being a certified Beyhive member is the endless speculation. Whim she ditch her double-act routine with Jay-Z and embark on a on ones own tour in 2019? Will her friendship with the Obamas vivify her to run for Congress in 2020? If years of loving this woman with every inch of your being familiarizes you anything, it’s that attempts at forecasting Beyoncé’s future disturbs are usually futile. She will reveal all when she’s ready. And when she is, we’ll be cool ones heel.

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