“To me, we are the most beautiful creatures in the world, Black people.”—Nina Simone.
When Beyoncé dropped “Formation” back in 2016, I knew that something about her had changed. Or maybe it didn’t. Perhaps that “newly perceived” pro-Blackness had always been there, she just wasn’t “allowed” to show it to the world.
There’s a moment in the new Netflix documentary ‘Homecoming’ that may reference that time, when the superstar may have not felt free or empowered to speak her truth as an artist.
“As a Black woman, I used to feel like the world wanted me to stay in my little box. And Black women often feel underestimated,” Beyoncé says.
Well, if anything is clear, it’s that Queen Bey is emancipated from the restraints that were once placed on her. Gone are the days of her playing it safe and appeasing her white fans, the same fans that used to be able to easily consume her R&B music in one breath and deny her Blackness in another.
Because regardless of Coachella’s overwhelming whiteness (Bey was its first Black woman to headline the concert series), her Blackety Blackness and HBCU aesthetic were front and center. And like everything she does at this stage of her career, that too was intentional.
“Instead of me pulling out my flower crown. It was important that I brought our culture to Coachella,” Beyoncé stressed, adding, “Creating something that will live beyond me, that will make people feel open and like they’re watching magic.”
See, on that stage, Beyoncé was home, reliving the old days when her young “country ass” would watch the “battle of the bands” and how she once yearned to graduate from an HBCU like her father. You know, before her other passions took her in a different direction.
However now, at the age of 37, it feels as if she’s come back home to herself, all while paving a new path, crafting a different narrative and meaning. Not just in her music, but in the world. I’d say that if “Formation” was the inciting incident and “Lemonade” was the rising action, #Beychella is the beautiful and unapologetic climax of this amazing story.
And for those wondering why revisiting “Homecoming” is so necessary, the answer is simple. Beyoncé didn’t just do this to forever cement her name in the history books or to make Blue Ivy proud.
Bey did this for the culture. She did this for us.
The two-hour and seventeen minute “Homecoming” digs deeper than what we giddily streamed on YouTube in the wee hours of the morning last year. It gives us behind the scene footage of the tireless work and intense planning that went into this cultural masterpiece.
Who knew that one performance translated into eight grueling months of planning and rehearsals? Not to mention, all the precious time Bey took away from mothering, bonding and breastfeeding her baby twins, Rumi and Sir. But that was the sacrifice she was willing to make in order to give Black folks some much-needed joy.
When you witness just how persistent Bey was in “building things from the ground up,” you begin to understand how this joyful perfection was constructed. Not only did she handpick every dancer herself, she “picked every light, the fabric of the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid,” reminding us that every “tiny detail had an intention.” No wonder she described herself as “super specific,” but you have to be when you have a vision this grand.
While Bey is portrayed as the creative beast we’ve always known her to be, we also get glimpses of her being a mere mortal like the rest of us.
In one scene, which I’m glad wasn’t edited out; she’s expresses her frustration to a room of lot of men about how her notes for the show were not being applied, repeatedly. Remember: Bey may be a bawse and the one signing the checks, but she’s also a #BlackWomanAtWork, which can also mean being overlooked and ignored.
In addition, throughout the film she speaks openly and freely about the toll her “unexpected” pregnancy took on her body and the journey it took for her to get to a place where she could perform, and perform to her expected incredibly high standard.
“My body went through more than I knew it could. I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth,” she confides, adding, “I had an extremely difficult pregnancy. I had high blood pressure. I developed toxemia, preeclampsia.”
Fearing for the life of one of her twins she had an emergency C-section, only months later finding herself on that soundstage, pushing herself further than she’d ever done. We also see her like we’ve never seen the seasoned performer before: Curled up on the floor, with Jay-Z rubbing muscles in her upper belly, looking defeated. In another scene, she seems frustrated with herself, unable to keep up with the choreography and rolling her eyes as a result.
Yet, somehow, she dug deep and persisted.
But the most transformative takeaways from “Homecoming” aren’t just Beyoncé’s physical journey, her incredible work ethic or her overall greatness. It’s that her show was a celebration of every last Black body on stage and every last Black body that consumed the performance. An act I would argue is overtly political, especially when you think about how often our bodies are disproportionately overpolicied, scrutinized and punished.
So to be great and see that greatness reflected in us, the institutions and the legacies we hold dear, is powerful and affirming. Not to mention, liberating.
“It was important for me that everyone that had never seen themselves represented felt like they were on that stage with us,” Bey explained.
Adding, “Rejoice in the imperfections and the wrongs that are so damn right. I wanted everyone to feel thankful for their curves, their sass, their honesty – thankful for their freedom.”
See, for her, the stage was this utopia, a space with “no rules,” where “none of us were marginalized.” A place where Black folks, our rich history and our divine excellence weren’t perceived as a threat or a problem. Instead, that glorious shine was welcomed with open arms.
And that right there is what home is supposed to feel like—an unconditional love, a profound sense of safety and a soothing familiarity. And if it doesn’t feel that way, Beyoncé’s “Homecoming” reminds us that we have the agency and the will to create our own homes, wherever we damn well choose and in our own flawless Black image.