Beyoncé graces the September cover of Vogue, wearing cornrows, a clothes line and cream sheet flowing behind her against the blue sky. She is barely wearing any make-up, and the photograph is shot by 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell. Tyler is the first ever African-American to shoot a Vogue cover in its 126-year history.
In her interview, Beyoncé is more candid than ever as she discusses maternal health, representation, and art. But what is even more interesting (as art history Professor Elissa Weichbrodt has highlighted in her Instagram stories) is the deep historical connection and contrast in the covers themselves.
On the first cover, Beyoncé wears white ruffles and a flower head piece. Elissa says, “In the first image, Beyoncé inserts herself into an archive of white femininity to highlight its narrowness…In this context, Beyoncé’s Vogue cover reads as a specifically black intervention. Rather than holding the flowers behind a white counterpart, she wears them herself.”
In reference to the second cover, Elissa says, “She claims an aesthetic from African visual culture and references the agency of black women’s resistance…And, of course, (in the second image), she is wearing the colors of the Pan-African flag…It also reminds me of the legacy of black washerwomen, some of whom were the sole providers for their families following emancipation.”
Perhaps you were drawn into the interview, but didn’t catch these visual components. Maybe you related to her words on body issues or motherhood. I’ve pulled some of her quotes on different topics below. Whatever captures you, it’s an interview worth reading and taking to heart as Beyoncé clearly addresses life as a black MOTHER in today’s world.
On maternal health as a black woman (more important with last week’s news):
“I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU. My husband was a soldier and such a strong support system for me. I am proud to have been a witness to his strength and evolution as a man, a best friend, and a father. I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later. Today I have a connection to any parent who has been through such an experience. 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 temporarily during delivery.”
“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. That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.”
On raising black children:
“My mother taught me the importance not just of being seen but of seeing myself. As the mother of two girls, it’s important to me that they see themselves too—in books, films, and on runways. It’s important to me that they see themselves as CEOs, as bosses, and that they know they can write the script for their own lives—that they can speak their minds and they have no ceiling. They don’t have to be a certain type or fit into a specific category. They don’t have to be politically correct, as long as they’re authentic, respectful, compassionate, and empathetic. They can explore any religion, fall in love with any race, and love who they want to love.
I want the same things for my son. I want him to know that he can be strong and brave but that he can also be sensitive and kind. I want my son to have a high emotional IQ where he is free to be caring, truthful, and honest. It’s everything a woman wants in a man, and yet we don’t teach it to our boys.
I hope to teach my son not to fall victim to what the internet says he should be or how he should love. I want to create better representations for him so he is allowed to reach his full potential as a man, and to teach him that the real magic he possesses in the world is the power to affirm his own existence.”