Over the course of her two-plus decades-long career, Beyoncé has time and time again distinguished herself as an arbiter of intention. At every turn, she showcases that each facet of her artistry has been carefully planned, deliberated, and brought to life through steely precision. With each offering, she aims to break long-established systems, smashing them to bits in hopes that she will leave something more profound and equitable in their wake. Her visual album Black Is King, of course, is no exception to her rule of exceptionalism.
In it, she cuts a wide swath of clothing, hair, and makeup looks that highlight and celebrate Black African beauty in a grand fashion that feels just as aspirational as it does attainable. She invokes goddesses in one scene, casually sips on Ace of Spades champagne while watching television in another. Both are equally-yoked displays of fervor, sass, and aesthetic excellence. That cool regality is further heightened by special appearances by her daughter Blue Ivy, Kelly Rowland, mother Tina Knowles-Lawson, Naomi Campbell, Lupita Nyong'o, and more.
For the project, she turned to her trusted stylist Zerina Akers to bring her vision to fruition. Akers rises to the occasion, as usual, and delivers detailed ensembles that are a masterclass all their own. Lead hairstylist Neal Farinah along with a team that included Nakia Rachon Collins were called upon to tackle the task of creating intricate braided styles, steeped in centuries of African tradition. Rachon Collins tells ishonest that the project gave her the "freedom to create through inspirations from our ancestors and so many amazing artists who are here today that I look up to." She went on to share, "It was really a challenge personally to see how far out the box I could push myself. It was an opportunity to show the whole team and myself that I’ve been watching and learning and I was ready to show the world the beauty in Black hair."
Ahead, we break down some of the most striking and memorable looks from the film.
The multi-hyphenate superstar describes her latest work as a "labor of love" and a "passion project" she has spent the better part of the last year perfecting. In the opening scene, the beauty of her hard work begins to unfold as we see the artist embodying Yemoja, Yoruba Orisha of the ocean, mother of all living things. For this scene, a custom Wendy Nichol gown drapes her body. The hair and makeup was kept simple and neutral — the singer's soft-glam beat was complemented by her hair, left in its natural state with glossy, loose waves cascading down her back.
A custom Burberry cow-print ensemble makes its debut here, and is seen several times throughout Black Is King. But it's her beaded and horned braided hairstyle that steals the scene. Her bangs are adorned with golden beads and small cowrie shells, while two longer braids frame either side of her face. From her head sprouts two horns, wrapped halfway with braids, anchored by a gorgeous braided disc.
Fulani braids topped with Bantu knots are front and center in the "Already" portion of the film. For this look, Beyoncé's baby hair is delicately shaped into soft swirls that reach to the top third of her forehead. The style beautifully complements the custom Loza Maléombho ensemble she wears along with shoulder-length gold earrings.
Beyoncé turned once again to soft glam makeup — filled-in brows, glowing skin, shiny nude lips — to go with this custom 5: 31 Jerome hand-beaded Nigerian lace and silk ensemble paired with Live to Express Pearlii Drops earrings. Her wavy hair cascaded down her back underneath her mile-high gele headpiece.
Beyoncé poses in a Mary Katrantzou Fall 2019 ruffled gown here, with her soft curls coiffed into a gravity-defying wonder of a style. Her hair is piled atop her head, sectioned off into a series of messy buns with her texture hanging loose at the end. Curly tendrils fall past her clavicles, giving a done-undone feel to the style.
"Brown Skin Girl"
This is perhaps one of the most instantly iconic looks from Black is King. Beyoncé is perched in custom Timothy White and wore a flat-top braided style, which looked like a veritable crown. The look pays homage to traditional styles worn by Congo’s Mangbetu people.
Beyoncé closes her near 90-minute film with the song "Power." In one of its scenes, she wears a custom Spring 2020 Mugler look with waist-length goddess braids, which curl at the ends. Barely-there makeup with just a touch of gold shimmer on the eyes and mauve lips rounded out the look.
Beyoncé's latest is a love letter to the African diaspora, putting the diversity and dynamism of its aesthetics on display. For so long, Blackness has been deemed by those who exist outside it as ugly, undesirable, and unworthy. But Black Is King is a reminder that that kind of thinking is erroneous. As she says in the film, "we were beauty before they knew what beauty was."
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Beyoncé Wore Soft Glam Makeup to the Virtual BET Awards
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Beyoncé Just Gave Us a Look at One of Her Never-Before Seen Halloween Costumes
Now, watch Sir John break down some of Beyoncé's most iconic music video makeup looks:
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