Beyoncé Discusses Being Black in America in Vogue Cover Interview
Beyoncé has built a career on embracing her place in history as one of the most visible and powerful Black women in the entertainment industry. As the cover star on the September 2018 issue of Vogue, she continues that legacy, not only in how she directed the shoot — after being given unprecedented control over the issue, per HuffPost — but in how she talks about being Black in America and how she's learned to embrace everything as she learns and grows as a performer, a mother and a person.
"When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell," Beyoncé told Vogue. "Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer."
For the cover shoot, Beyoncé hired 23-year-old Tyler Mitchell, a New York-based photographer who Time reports is the magazine's first Black cover photographer in its 126-year run. “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," Beyoncé said of her decision to hire Mitchell.
Choosing Mitchell for this unprecedented opportunity is part of Beyoncé's desire to open doors for a new generation of artists, which she also speaks about in the cover story: "There are so many cultural and societal barriers to entry that I like to do what I can to level the playing field, to present a different point of view for people who may feel like their voices don’t matter," she said, adding, "Imagine if someone hadn’t given a chance to the brilliant women who came before me: Josephine Baker, Nina Simone, Eartha Kitt, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner, Diana Ross, Whitney Houston, and the list goes on. They opened the doors for me, and I pray that I’m doing all I can to open doors for the next generation of talents."
Likewise, she hopes to open doors and leave behind a legacy for her three children. "My mother taught me the importance not just of being seen but of seeing myself," Beyoncé said. "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."
She added, "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."
After the birth of Blue Ivy, Beyoncé said she felt pressured to lose weight and get back to her pre-pregnancy body, something she hasn't felt the same pressure to do since she had an emergency C-section to deliver twins Rumi and Sir. She said, "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."
Embracing who she is, for Beyoncé, means embracing her history, as well. She revealed that she recently researched her ancestry and discovered that she "come[s] from a slave owner who fell in love with and married a slave." She added, "I had to process that revelation over time. I questioned what it meant and tried to put it into perspective. I now believe it’s why God blessed me with my twins. Male and female energy was able to coexist and grow in my blood for the first time. I pray that I am able to break the generational curses in my family and that my children will have less complicated lives."
September is a huge month for Vogue, so Beyoncé's cover is an incredible moment in the magazine's history. British Vogue also revealed Rihanna as its first-ever Black cover star for its September issue this year, and we are so here for these powerful women continuing to make waves in the industry.