When I started this column in 2013, there was one pop star in particular that inspired my preoccupation with pop stars and the gay men who love them. That star: Beyoncé.
Queen Bey, while widely adored in the gay community, is a divisive figure when it comes to bestowing the title of gay icon. When Beyoncé released her self-titled fifth solo album to widespread critical and commercial success, some members of the LGBTQ community felt a little slighted by the former Destiny’s Child singer. One writer for Slate pointed out that Bey’s failure to acknowledge her gay fans among the album’s strong themes of feminism, empowerment and sexuality. The conversation sparked by the Slate post inspired passionate responses and prompted further examination of how one qualifies as a gay icon. Additionally, as a popular black artist with a large gay fanbase, she was at the center of a debate surrounding gay men misappropriating black female culture.
Throughout her career, however, Bey has shown support for the LGBTQ community. She shared a handwritten message of support for marriage equality to her nearly 40 million Instagram followers. When the Supreme Court decision came down, she shared a special rainbow-themed rendition of her “7/11” video.
In an interview with PrideSource, Beyoncé spoke about her relationship to her gay fans:
“Most of my audience is actually women and my gay fans, and I’ve seen a lot of the younger boys kind of grow up to my music. It’s great when I’m able to do the meet and greets, because I’m able to really connect and have conversations. People look at some of the artists that I admire – like Diana Ross and Cher – and they identity that glamour with Sasha Fierce, and I’ve been really inspired by the language. I have my (gay) stylists and my makeup artist, and all of their stories and the slang words I always put it in my music. We inspire each other.”
Here are some of our favorite Beyoncé musical moments:
The world first really got to know Her Beyjesty as part of the late-‘90s girl group Destiny’s Child. With hits like “Bills Bills Bills,” “Say My Name,” and “Bootylicious,” Destiny’s Child sold more than 60 million records worldwide. Their track “Independent Women, Pt. 1” (above) was named by Billboard as one of the Top 20 most successful songs of the 2000s.
As a solo artist, Beyoncé has also amassed a massive catalog of hits and awards. She is the second most-honored woman at the Grammys, with 20 statues earned for work with Destiny’s Child and a solo artist. One of her most enduring anthems, “Single Ladies (Put A Ring On It)” inspired countless recreations across YouTube. It was a central performance on Glee, and was even covered by one of the grande dame gay icons Liza Minnelli in the sequel to the Sex And the City movie.
She paired with Mother Monster herself, Lady Gaga, for their duet “Telephone.” The cinematic music video, above, was named the best video of the decade (so far) by Billboard.
If there was ever a reason to tune into the typically tedious Super Bowl halftime show, it would’ve been for Beyoncé. When she took to the field halfway through the game at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in 2013, she set the stage ablaze with a blistering performance. The incredible medley of hits (including former Destiny’s Child bandmates Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland shooting up from under the stage) is one of the most tweeted-about moments in history, garnering an astonishing 268,000 tweets per minute.
As she describes on Nicki Minaj’s track “Feeling Myself,” Mrs. Carter “changed the game with that digital drop.” She’s referring to the surprise release of her masterpiece of a fifth album that arrived with no prior promotion, breaking the mold of typical album release strategy. On top of the self-titled disc’s revolutionary arrival, she also released beautifully shot videos for every single track simultaneously.
What do you think? Is Beyoncé a worthy gay icon?