Writer, Jacqueline Laurean Yates, relates and reflects upon her personal thoughts on Mrs. Carter’s latest work of art.
As a self-proclaimed official member of the Beehive, I was excited to tune-in and witness the first premiere of Beyoncé's Lemonade. Each new section of this project included overarching themes of sadness, anger, love, empowerment, forgiveness and a repeated statement that honors the beauty, power and resilience of Black women. As a fellow young Black woman myself, the sections that also portrayed the bond black mothers have with their daughters is one that reminded of me of the positive self-perception of myself that my mom, grandmothers and aunts unknowingly introduced to me at a very young age.
Between Beyoncé’s first few videos, we hear an audio sample quoting the late Malcolm X, “The most disrespected person in America is a Black woman.” I still find this to be powerful quote presently as I witnessed my own mother raise me during a time period where lots of prejudices were (and still are) held against Black women. Reflecting back to my adolescent years, I unfortunately didn’t initially learn about mesmerizing Black mermaids and princesses that signified “beauty” in traditional storybooks. Speaking of which, I rarely experienced the idea of “Black Beauty” being idolized in mainstream media. But, I can say my mother, grandmother and aunts made sure they always told me how naturally beautiful I was, displayed iconic images of beautiful black women and really made sure to reinforce to me that “black is also beautiful,” contrary to what I may have been learning in school or seeing in media.
Then, there’s the section of the album that opens with a scene of Beyoncé (playing the mother) adjusting her headscarf while a little girl sitting next to her (playing the daughter) carefully watches her every move. This scene brings tons of feelings of nostalgia as I too remember sitting and watching my mom adjust her headscarf before bedtime right after making sure a scarf probably way bigger than my head size at the time was thoroughly tied around my head. In the beginning I never questioned it, and just went with the flow as it was a nighttime ritual I saw my mom do and I knew it somehow attributed to preserving her natural beauty which I admired. However, it didn’t take me long to realize, she had been passing down a learned behavior for protecting your natural strands, your crowning glory.
Additionally, during this same section of Lemonade, you also see a young girl sneaking up to her mother’s room to put on her makeup. While we see this happening, Beyoncé discusses how the young girl desperately looks for her mother’s black cosmetic case wanting to look and be like her. This specific portion of the album titled, Accountability, demonstrates how easily influenced a daughter can be by her mother’s beauty and ability to stay pulled together no matter what circumstances she may face. My mother and aunt always tell me a funny story about how they left me alone for just a few short minutes only to come back to seeing my mother’s signature lipstick smeared all across my face. For as long as I can remember, my mom has always worn a signature deep red lipstick. No matter what was going on with her personally or how much I may have got on her last nerves to mourning the death of my late father, for some strange reason, I can always remember her wearing that classic scarlet ruby lip. So now anytime I wear a similar hue, it reminds me of my mother and seems to always recapture the power held by women.
And, I can’t forget about the time I secretly begged my grandmother to allow me to get fake press-on nails behind my mother’s back. My mom always had naturally lengthier nails that seemed so feminine and ladylike. Mine never quite grew that way, and it was something my mom always told me not to stress over and to simply be happy with what God gave me. Always being the curious beauty girl that I still am today, I persuaded my grandma to get me a manicure full of long press-on tips. When my mom picked me up from her apartment that day, she initially was shocked and slightly disappointed that I had went ahead and did exactly what she told me not to do, but later that week she couldn’t help but laugh at me wanting take on some of her natural beauty-isms. Her favorite line, “stop trying to be so grown,” she would say while cracking a smile full of flattery.
About midway through the visual album, there are two scenes that completely drove chills through my spine. First, we notice the scene where Beyoncé leads a group of all different types of gorgeous Black women bonded together in all white while walking through an ocean at sunset. You see women of all of ages and lovely brown complexions topped off with an explosion of different hair textures from big curly coifs to intricately styled puffs. Beyoncé makes a call out to 1,000 girls followed by all the women raising their arms held together in unison as one powerful unit. This scene is later echoed by showcasing different generations of very influential black mother’s, daughters, aunts, grandmother’s and well-known media personalities such as Amandla Stenberg, Quvenzhané Wallis, Zendaya and Winnie Harlow all who have been criticized just as much as celebrated for their undeniable beauty and breaking barriers that those before them weren’t able to do.
And finally, there is a scene where Beyoncé reflects on how her grandmother was served lemons, but managed to make lemonade. I mean, wow. She eloquently states positive thoughts such as, “Grandmother you spun gold out of this hard life. You found healing where it did not live.” These kinds of encouraging declarations, reminded me of all the times me and my mom bonded over beauty, whether it was me trying my hardest to perfectly paint her nails or her combing through my super curly coils to try her hardest to get it just how I liked it styled. Whether she was having a rough morning or not, she kept pushing. Black women today are still thrown tons of lemons, but as they always have succeeded in making “lemonade” out of unfair situations, is the same way they will teach generations of daughters, sisters and aunts that will come after. There’s a sense of confidence carried through out the album which seems to be an affirmation specifically targeted toward Beyonce’s high-spirited obsession with the resilience of Black women. It’s that kind of confidence we tend to hold that is the kind of non-materialistic beauty that will live on forever, and can never be taken away from future generations to come.