Why Publishing Awkward Beyoncé Photos Belittles Her Actual Accomplishments
The post-Superbowl onslaught of "unflattering Beyoncé" photos on Buzzfeed and elsewhere was a low point for me, as a fan of Queen Bey and of live performance. Anyone who saw the show knows that Beyoncé and Destiny's Child killed it. It was powerful, it was entertaining, and it looked fun as hell, even from my laptop screen in Chicago. I have watched the Superbowl halftime show since before Janet Jackson, and I cannot remember a time when I was actually proud of the artist afterward. That's how great I felt about it. When my favorite Superbowl performance was eclipsed by offensive gifs using pictures of Beyonce onstage, however, I was disappointed. Not with Beyoncé or her publicist, but with the rest of us.
The Queen has been criticized for her decision to try to get many of the unflattering pictures from the Superbowl removed, and to ban press photographers from her Mrs. Carter World Tour. Following the scrutiny about her body post-baby and the Superbowl memes, I can't honestly blame her. If I worked my ass off onstage only to be immortalized in images of my hard work that were branded "ugly" or "unflattering," I'd want to kick out anyone with a camera.
What Bey commentators don't understand is that being onstage may look glamorous, but in fact, it's not. I have been on a few tiny stages in my life, but allow me to extrapolate from my experience in second grade plays and tiny bar concerts. I assume, like any concert stage, Beyoncé's is rigged with the brightest of lights, which somehow manage to give your scalp and sunburn while making you sweat like a over-hydrated mobster in a crowded sauna. These lights also manage to blind you, making your pupils shrink to the point of nonexistence. Then you are expected to perform whatever act you have prepared for screaming (or booing, or obscenity-shouting) fans, all of whom could physically assault you at any time. It's not exactly a relaxing night at home with Jay and Blue Ivy.
In the midst of all of this Beyoncé is expected to put on one hell of a show. If you've seen any footage from the Mrs. Carter tour, you can see that she busts her hump every night showing her fans that she loves them, and that she still can sing, dance, and perform multiple costume changes.
And how do they repay her? They take out their cameras when they get an opportunity to sing with her, or they take "awkward" pictures of their own. Then blogs and gossip rags run them alongside headlines asking what is "wrong" with Beyoncé.
But when Lady Gaga worked it onstage at the Little Monsters tour, all of her fans were worried about her health. Having been in the front row of her Lollapalooza show in 2009, I can tell you that she often looked exhausted, sweaty, and well, like she was performing an impossibly long cardio workout while singing — which is exactly what she was doing. Even before the singer's collapse at a show and subsequent cancellations, no "embarrassing Gaga pics" surfaced of this tour. Yet when Beyoncé works at an equally hard routine, all we want to do is point out her flaws.
Since I hate smartphones at concerts anyway, I have no problem telling fans who snap "awkward pics" the following: Go move your bags, let me call you a cab, because this ends now. If you go to a Beyoncé show, appreciate the performance, and stop expecting her to do the impossible.