Beyonce: Behind the Curtain

Practically everyone wants to be famous these days.

We all know that person who reads magazines and speaks in hushed tones about the perfection therein; the flawless skin, the perfectly proportioned muscle groups, the happy, carefree, penthouse suite boasting infinity pool life that millions of dollars can afford. Perhaps we tease them gently, rib them about their aspirations, which we ourselves see through because we know that money and a designer baby doesn’t equal happiness, it just appears to when photographed in the right lighting.


But in your friends, your colleagues, your mum’s defence, there’s a comfort to be found amid those glossy, hallucinogenic pages, so thick and pleasingly slippery to one’s touch. There is an other-worldly quality to real, diamond encrusted celebrity, an illusion of safety and protection that can’t be found in day-to-day life. With great power comes the ability to manage virtually every aspect of your image, from how your artistic oeuvre is constructed, to how it is consumed and what you look like while you’re performing it. Imperfections are identified and programmed out at the development stage, and by the time the mixing desk and make-up artists are through, you’ll never know they existed.

If you feel your life is impeded by imperfection, the idea of being in a position to expunge it from your hard drive must be awfully alluring.

And so to Beyonce. A woman whose level of control over her celebrity image surpasses anything we’ve seen before.  Not for Bey the experimental, occasionally ham fisted forays into self actualisation in different territories that at various times in her career had Madonna floundering.

In a recent interview GQ stated that “a temperature-controlled digital-storage facility that contains virtually every existing photograph of her,” exists in her Manhattan HQ, as well as archived video clips, recordings of live shows and diary recordings taken every day. She recently released an audio/visual album without prior announcement via iTunes, to rapturous reviews from both the press and her fanbase. Interviews are hard to come by and the journey to acceptance by her inner circle is as complex and bewildering as that described in Dante’s Inferno, ensuring that the message remains pure and purposeful. Nothing gets out.

That’s why the video of Solange Knowles, Beyonce’s sister and successful artist in her own right, punching and kicking Beyonce’s husband Jay-Z after the Met Gala Ball gala is so utterly fascinating, even to those of us who couldn’t give a shit. Emerging as these things tend to do on Los Angeles based celebrity website TMZ, the CCTV footage purportedly leaked by someone at the Standard Hotel shows Solange laying into the 6ft 2in, 14 stone rapper with a ferocity rarely seen outside of an MMA octagon.

Be clear, people. This is not a bunch of people getting into an elevator, exchanging a few frank opinions and then half-heartedly slapping each other. From the moment the elevator doors slide closed, Solange is on Jay-Z and even as she is being held back by a security guard the size of VW Beetle, she is kicking out and flailing with admirable, if utterly inexplicable, persistence.

Obviously, the internet is groaning beneath the weight of speculation as to why this might have happened. Not least the role of Queen Beyonce herself, whose only response to her sister attacking her husband is to step back slightly to ensure her ballgown doesn’t get trodden on. “What’s he done?” they scream, their faces red and spittle flecked, almost driven mad by the revelation that their idol is fallible and subject to the same inconsistencies and variables that they are.

The truth is, it doesn’t really matter what Jay-Z did to provoke Solange, assuming he did provoke her and she isn’t simply prone to outbursts of violence in confined spaces, which goes some way to explaining Beyonce’s lack of interest and the security detail’s casual shift into management mode . This video is already an artifact of popular culture, a cheeky peek through the looking glass where nothing is as we imagined it to be and the people we blindly put our faith in turn out to have feet of clay because we all do. We’re human.

In time, as the beautifully crafted, carefully honed statements of explanation emerge, the curtain will drift back into place again and everybody will forget how unnerved they felt on the day the world shifted beneath their feet. Before you know it, your own celebrity obsessive friend or colleague will be relaying unwanted tidbits of info about Rihanna’s latest selfie or how fat so-and-so got, back to believing that if fortune ever realises they’re there and deigns to smile in their direction, they too might get a perfect life.

Don’t try to reason with them. They want to believe Beyonce exists. That life can be that beautiful and true love and the ability to look fabulous in photos makes everything ok.

If a video of two people fighting in a lift can’t dispose them of the notion, you certainly won’t. You might as well sit back, relax and just enjoy the show.

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