On the list of powerful, celebrity women for which my blatant adoration reaches a fever pitch, Beyonce has long reigned supreme.
This comes as no surprise, as her ‘bee hive’ is likely rivalled only by the voracious fan bases of Bieber and Taylor Swift. But Beyonce’s influence extends far beyond musical talent to include an eloquent (but often raw) articulation of womanhood and confidence, political discourse, emotional hardship, body confidence and now, motherhood.
Amongst the often muddy waters of celebrity commentary, Beyonce often represents a voice of widely celebrated reason. This was made more apparent than ever, as she (once again) earned the coveted September cover spot in Vogue, marking her fourth Vogue cover since 2009. Only this time, they did things differently — Vogue handed her the reigns, allowing her to pen her own cover story, discussing her life, her body and her heritage in her own words. And let me tell you, what she wrote left me feeling pretty shook (in the best way possible).
“After the birth of my first child, I believed in the things society said about how my body should look. I put pressure on myself to lose all the baby weight in three months, and scheduled a small tour to assure I would do it. Looking back, that was crazy.”
It is crazy. I am still probably a decade away from motherhood myself, and I’m already painfully aware of the unrealistic expectations weighing heavily on new mothers to regain their pre-baby (or better) body within a far too limited time frame. I’ve come across the lithe, lean Instagram models who, while 8 months pregnant, boast a baby bump that barely rivals the ‘food baby’ most of us might have after a night out to eat. I’ve listened to the concerns of my pregnant clients, their voices dripping in preconceived stress, as they talk about how eager they are to start training again to ‘get their body back’.
And it’s not even just surrounding motherhood — it’s this generational trend of impossible beauty standards often perpetuated into existence by celebrity culture and social media. We are so quick to cram our bodies into a mould that may never be the right fit, trying to win a race against opponents we only know from a distance. We forget that these images we so often idolize are brought into existence with the help of filters, apps, procedures and a global beauty industry that was worth $265 billion in 2017.
So, imagine our shock when we hear that even Beyonce — the Beyonce Carter Knowles — admits to feeling those same pressures and expectations that we continuously face. A woman constantly celebrated for her natural curves and feminine confidence was just like us.
Only, after her second pregnancy she took a different approach. Weighing 218 lbs before the birth of her twins, she was on bed rest for over a month and had an emergency C-section to ensure the health of her and her babies. She endured a major surgery, and rather than succumbing to that previously known pressure to ‘bounce back’ and expedite her healing process, she exercised patience and self-love.
“During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. After six months, I started preparing for Coachella. I became vegan temporarily, gave up coffee, alcohol, and all fruit drinks. But I was patient with myself and enjoyed my fuller curves. My kids and husband did, too. I think it’s important for women and men to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies. That’s why I stripped away the wigs and hair extensions and used little makeup for this shoot. To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real. Whenever I’m ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it. But right now, my little FUPA and I feel like we are meant to be.”
Who would have thought the terms ‘FUPA’ and ‘mommy pouch’ would ever inhabit a page in Vogue? I certainly didn’t, but I do think those words couldn’t have come at a better time. While there are no shortage of sentiments speaking to ‘body positivity’ online, so much of what we see on social media and in the media contradicts that entirely. We are so quick to pass judgement on ourselves and others, to buy into the latest influencer-endorsed health trend or ‘quick fix’, to garner exaggerated media-induced envy and settle into this cycle of believing we are less than. Even if we never admit it to others, or curate an Instagram feed that emulates unwavering confidence, those nagging insecurities can be so quick to work their way into the subsets of our minds. Those quiet conversations we have with ourselves each day. Why are we afraid to take up space? Why is it so hard, at times, to love our bodies in each stage?
I work in an industry that emphasizes the process of physical transition. But so much of that game is mental — and if we aren’t careful, we will become trapped within this cycle of ‘destination addiction’ that seems to especially plague our generation. “I’ll be happy once I lose 5 more pounds” … “I’ll be happy once I have abs”… “I’ll be happy once I fit into that dress… “I’ll be happy once I look like her”.
I’m all for positive change, physical progression and embracing your body’s potential for strength and movement; however, in that same breath, I think it’s so incredibly important not to get lost in that process. To remain privy of the influence social media has on our understanding of what is real, and what is curated for social gain and approval. To simply be patient with ourselves, and exercise the same compassion within our internal dialogue that we would express to loved ones. To celebrate the hell out of our bodies at any given time — and to surround ourselves with others who share that mindset and appreciation. After all, our bodies at the only place we have to live, which makes these honest revelations from individuals of influence more important than ever before.
Beyonce went on to speak to the duty she feels to help open doors (in her industry and beyond), connecting to the past to address your present and future, her journey as a woman and performer and the legacy she plans to leave for her children. She also chose to work with 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell, the first black photographer ever to shoot a cover for the magazine, emphasizing the importance of utilizing a mosaic of perspectives and ethnicities behind the lens and contributing to our society in different ways (art, music, politics and so much more).
“I’ve been through hell and back, and I’m grateful for every scar. I have experienced betrayals and heartbreaks in many forms. I have had disappointments in business partnerships as well as personal ones, and they all left me feeling neglected, lost, and vulnerable. Through it all I have learned to laugh and cry and grow. I look at the woman I was in my 20s and I see a young lady growing into confidence but intent on pleasing everyone around her. I now feel so much more beautiful, so much sexier, so much more interesting. And so much more powerful.”
And for that ever-impactful, honest and socially-savvy candor served up as the medicine we probably didn’t know we needed, we thank you Beyonce. Again and again (and again).