One of the first things I tell people when I meet them– like a cute piece of Mikala trivia and a glimpse into the overwhelming vastness that is my vanity, is that I was born in the same hospital as Beyoncé. Yes, I actually tell people that and yes I am very proud of it. I learned this fun fact from spending most of 2017 working my way through Becoming Beyoncé: An Untold Story by J. Randy Taraborrelli. It was quite a lengthy read (and 2017 was a slow reading year for me). However after I finished the book, Beyoncé cemented her place in my heart as an icon for the ages and just, you know, that girl.
Trust, I had a healthy appreciation for Beyoncé before. She permeated my life in ways that I was both aware and unaware of. As a Houston native, everything from the way we styled our hair and wiggled our little hips was influenced by her. She was every red-boned black girl’s cousin and she was constantly on the radio, played at school, and discussed in heated debates during school lunches (Why do girls love Beyoncé? Will we ever know?).
Beyoncé’s music was the soundtrack of my childhood and her evolution as an artist has directly paralleled my experience growing up and discovering myself. Myself as a woman (I am…Sasha Fierce), myself as a love interest (4 and Self-Titled), myself as a black person (Lemonade) and myself as a proud, very black, Houstonian (The Carters and Homecoming: The Live Album).
I still remember exactly where I was and how I felt when I heard Formation. I was at a friend’s house, a white girl I became really close to in high school and spent copious hours playing Sims 3 with, and we listened to it together as Beyoncé fans are to do. My friend didn’t like it. In fact, she hated it. As soon as she said it, it felt like a rejection. For her, it was too different from what Queen Bey was doing before and I quickly realized that it was “too black” for her and that was why she didn’t like it. I felt something unlock in me.
It was a very big deal for such a visible (and beloved by white women) black woman, who hadn’t really made strong statements about how black she is. For her to proclaim that she loved the very things that society says makes black people unattractive was so freeing.
I have countless incidents of “friends” downplaying my blackness in order to make themselves more comfortable around me. Yes, I was more likely to pull a book out at a football game than dance in the stands (I literally did this all the time *sigh*), but I was still very black and very aware of it. Witnessing Beyoncé reclaim her blackness so visibly after being denied it for so many years was life-altering. Affirming. Powerful.
I felt seen, validated, and beautiful. Here I was, another curvy black woman from Houston, with Jackson 5 nostrils, baby hair and an afro, part Louisiana Creole and just straight up black. It was hard to feel like that song wasn’t made for me. It just was.
That’s the reason people go so hard for Beyoncé. Bey’s done everything she’s supposed to do: busted her ass since the age of nine, worked herself to the extreme and tried to appear as perfect as possible because that’s all that America will allow black women to be. Award shows still snub her, ashy haters call her overrated, diminish her blackness and her talent– but she continues to mind her own business and provide jams to bop to at the cookout.
In the tone of Lemonade, the Coachella performance, and Homecoming, it felt like Beyoncé was breathing out a deep sigh and saying, fuck that. I’ll cuss, I’ll be angry, I’ll be black as hell, I’ll sing the Negro National Anthem from the rooftops and I’ll call Coachella out for waiting so long to have a black female headliner. It felt like Bey was saying that she’s tired of the pretenses, the performative blackness, the painful news and lack of celebration of black life. With Lemonade, she gave black women the permission to let everything go that wasn’t serving us, to feel and not be afraid of being labeled or stereotyped. She gave us the space to allow ourselves to be ourselves. She gave that to everyone.
Beyoncé the brand is a symbol of everything that is possible to black women and a promise that even though it will not be easy by any means, we can accomplish anything.
Beyoncé the person has never seemed more sure of herself, more in love with her life and what it means to be a black woman from Houston. Mikala, the person, really appreciates that. I appreciate how hard she works to put her best work out there. I appreciate the sacrifices she made to get to where she is today so that I can watch her on Netflix and sit and think about what I want my life to look like.
Beyoncé reminds me of what I’m capable of. That’s why I love Beyoncé. Hell, that’s why girls love Beyoncé.