At the beginning of late July, I saw advertisements for the “Anna Wintour approved” September issue. The copies of the infamously thick issues with a yellow sticky note, adorned with Anna Wintour’s exclusive “AW” approval signature. The cover of Vogue magazine’s September issue is a revered place; for years the A-list have graced that coveted glossy cover, each one immortalized by some of the fashion industry’s most notable photographers, and interviewed by some of the most brilliant journalists of all time. Until this year when Beyoncé changed the formula.
Rumors that Beyoncé would have full control over the September issue shocked and excited readers in early August. This would prove to be a half-truth. Whereas the singer didn’t have full control over the September issue, she did handpick the photographer who shot the cover and her accompanying photoshoot. Tyler Mitchell, 23, is among the youngest photographers to shoot a Vogue cover and the first black photographer to do so.
Mitchell’s accomplishment is a large step for creatives of color everywhere. It is only part of what makes this September issue so groundbreaking. Instead of being interviewed, Beyoncé opted to expound her narrative verbally to Clover Hope, a well-known writer and the culture editor for Jezebel magazine. I imagine their conversation to have been a beautiful exchange of wisdom from one woman of color to another, but all women can relate. Here are four things all women can take away from the essay:
1. Body acceptance
Getting back into shape after having a child is a challenge that many women are prone to face. The pressure is heightened when you’re a public figure as you’re expected to jump on a treadmill the second your baby exits the womb. During the conversation, Beyoncé tells Hope that she was 218 pounds the day she gave birth to her twins, and instead of a regular birth she had to get an emergency C-section.
“After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery.” She said. “Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. I am not sure everyone understands that.”
While recovering from surgery, instead of stressing over the way her body looked, she embraced her curvier physique and practiced self-care; FUPA be damned (Google it).
2. Representation isn’t just important, it’s necessary
Beyoncé goes on to tell Hope that when she was first starting out in the industry, she was told that she wouldn’t be able to get on magazine covers because “black people did not sell.” Ironically, what’s so unique about this year’s roundup of September issue covers is that almost all of the major magazines featured a woman of color as their cover star. Actresses, models, singers; all of them with beautiful, diverse narratives and perspectives to share.
“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,” she said. In choosing Mitchell to do her Vogue cover shoot, she’s contributing to the mosaic she describes.
As a journalist, writer, and editor, I feel these exact same sentiments. My ultimate career goal is to give disenfranchised, minority voices a platform to tell their stories. Everyone deserves to be heard, understood, and respected. With social media playing such an integral part in our day to day lives, marginalized voices finally have that platform.
“The beauty of social media is it’s completely democratic.” She continued. “Everyone has a say. Everyone’s voice counts, and everyone has a chance to paint the world from their own perspective.”
3. It is possible to break a toxic cycle of behaviors
Confessing that she “comes from a lineage of broken male-female relationships,” she took that knowledge to heart, using it to heal her own relationship. She believes that this is the reason why she had 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.”
This part of the essay, in particular, struck a chord with me. Though she’s a world-renowned performer, she wants the same things for her children that every parent wants for their kids. She wants them to be able to see themselves in the people they see on screen and as public figures. But, most importantly to be happy. She also wants her son to have a “high emotional IQ”, where he can be free to embrace his emotions.
“I hope to teach my son not to fall victim to what the internet says he should be or how he should love,” she said. “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.”
4. Letting yourself feel emotion is a superpower within itself
From the outside looking in, Beyoncé seems as though she has it all. Not only is she aware that people have this misconception about her, but she’s quick to set the record straight. Yes, even she deals with heartbreak and hard times.
“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,” she said. “I now feel so much more beautiful, so much sexier, so much more interesting. And so much more powerful.”
I want this quote painted on the walls of my bedroom, tattooed on my arms, and shouted from the rooftops. Late adolescence can make you feel like you have to please everyone, neglecting your wants in the process. This quote is a before and after of what it’s like to come into your own. While we may struggle, eventually, we’ll be able to feel the most beautiful, sexy, interesting, and powerful we’ve ever felt.