I was frying bacon when Beyoncé revealed that her “big announcement” for Good Morning America was something she discussed months ago: that she used a vegan diet to shed pounds and would now like to sell you the meal plan she used with nutritionist and exercise physiologist Marco Borges. I ate my bacon as planned. I had a feeling that she had something to shill rather than reveal, so unlike other certain members of The Beyhive, I was not angrily lighting up Beyoncé’s Instagram page with pizza, hot dog, pig, and chicken in protest.
But there was something about the now infamous segment that made me wince a little bit, though.
If you notice, Beyoncé did not do an interview so much as essentially email GMA a video clip she quite possibly shot from her iPhone – which they gleefully ran anyway. It reminded me of a recent New York Times story on this same subject where Beyoncé provided quotes, but not directly. Writer Courtney Rubin noted that via email, “Beyoncé wrote ‘At first it’s the little things I noticed: I had more energy’ — though, sadly, not enough to deal with a reporter asking about it on the phone, as had been promised for more than a month.” A rep explained that Beyoncé “has not answered any direct questions for more than a year.”
So I’ve noticed. Why? How long will this last?
To be fair, there have been advantages to this strategy. In “Beyoncé Exercises Control in All (Instagram) Things — and the Result Is Flawless,” Jenna Worthman writes, “In a world where Black women are largely invisible, Beyoncé has managed to become not only one of the most famous women on the planet but also one of the most followed and celebrated on the Internet.”
We are not entitled to the details of Beyoncé’s life, but Beyoncé has managed to give the public just enough to satisfy our collective insatiable need for all things celebrity. She does so on her own terms, and for a Black female celebrity to yield that level of control, it is impressive as it is admirable. Nonetheless, while that works for social media, does that level of control and choreography work as well in plain media? Especially when you are trying to enter a lane – lifestyle – that you are not known for?
Would people have been as upset with that overhyped GMA tease had it included an actual interview with Beyoncé where she could have discussed the diet while dually breezing by whatever other inane questions presented before her?
Body image, dieting, and lifestyle change are supremely personal matters. A video segment by a hugely popular celebrity can command wide attention, but when you think about celebrities who sell fitness and food products, it’s more than just that. For all those loud Jennifer Hudson commercials hawking Weight Watchers, there were several interviews to go with them. As in actual dialogue— not copying, pasting, and having the writers and producers do the grunt work.
A part of me realizes that Black celebrities – particularly those who have reached that level of stardom – can quickly be chopped down by mass media. If you find Michael Jackson too controversial an example, you can see what happened to Janet Jackson following the 2004 Super Bowl. Only now is there widespread excitement about her comeback, but for the decade that followed “Nipplegate,” it was her core fans keeping her afloat – and Tyler Perry film roles.
But, but, but: If President Obama can do YouTube and Reddit interviews, can Beyoncé return to charming talk show hosts and stans posing as journalists for a few minutes of conversation?
I never believed the critique that Beyoncé was “robotic.” If anything, she quickly sensed that following the departure of select members of Destiny’s Child, some were invested in trying to make her southern fried Diana Ross. So she played it safer and it worked accordingly.
However, now she doesn’t deal with the press much at all. I get the feeling she calls this control, but it’s starting to go back to a time where she was often categorized as hyper controlled and perfect.
I am a gay, Black man from Houston, Texas— so for the most part, Beyoncé has done very little wrong since 1998 in my eyes. No doubt she is a savvy manipulator of media, having hired her own personal archivist to document and curate her life. As a result, the diamond of Beyonce’s image is flawless, not multifaceted. An interview would expose the nicks, chips, and fingerprints that no one wants to see, least of all Beyonce.
P.S. Don’t kill me in my sleep, BeyHive. I’m one of you.