Beyonce is the cover star of Vogue’s prestigious September issue, and she was reportedly given unprecedented editorial authority over her presentation in the issue. As such, it’s a 1,500-word as-told-to in which she talks about subjects ranging from pregnancy and body image to her galvanizing Coachella performance earlier this year, and the ongoing On the Run II Tour with her husband, Jay-Z.
“I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to [twins] Rumi and Sir” in 2017, she tells writer Clover Hope. “I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU. My husband was a soldier and such a strong support system for me. I am proud to have been a witness to his strength and evolution as a man, a best friend, and a father. I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later.”
She says she’s retained some of the pregnancy weight and is fine with it. “I think it’s important for women and men to see and appreciate the beauty in their natural bodies,” she says. “To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real. Whenever I’m ready to get a six-pack, I will go into beast zone and work my ass off until I have it.”
That look informs the low-key shoot, as well, and she spoke about how challenging it is for people of color to receive a high-profile look like the Vogue cover. “When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell,” she says. “Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.”
She also speaks of her own parents’ challenged marriage and how it has informed her own. “I come from a lineage of broken male-female relationships, abuse of power, and mistrust,” she said. “Only when I saw that clearly was I able to resolve those conflicts in my own relationship. Connecting to the past and knowing our history makes us both bruised and beautiful.
“I have experienced betrayals and heartbreaks in many forms,” she continues. “I have had disappointments in business partnerships as well as personal ones, and they all left me feeling neglected, lost, and vulnerable. Through it all I have learned to laugh and cry and grow. I look at the woman I was in my 20s and I see a young lady growing into confidence but intent on pleasing everyone around her. I now feel so much more beautiful, so much sexier, so much more interesting. And so much more powerful.”
She also speaks at length of the inspiration behind her Coachella performances in April, which were an elaborate and reference-laden celebration of black culture. “I had a clear vision for Coachella,” she said. “I was so specific because I’d seen it, I’d heard it, and it was already written inside of me. One day I was randomly singing the black national anthem to Rumi while putting her to sleep. I started humming it to her every day. In the show at the time I was working on a version of the anthem with these dark minor chords and stomps and belts and screams. After a few days of humming the anthem, I realized I had the melody wrong. I was singing the wrong anthem. One of the most rewarding parts of the show was making that change. I swear I felt pure joy shining down on us. I know that most of the young people on the stage and in the audience did not know the history of the black national anthem before Coachella. But they understood the feeling it gave them.
“It was a celebration of all the people who sacrificed more than we could ever imagine, who moved the world forward so that it could welcome a woman of color to headline such a festival.”
On a similar theme, she spoke of the relevance of the Berlin stop on her and Jay’s ongoing “OTR II” tour. “One of the most memorable moments for me on the On the Run II tour was the Berlin show at Olympiastadion, the site of the 1936 Olympics,” she said. “This is a site that was used to promote the rhetoric of hate, racism, and divisiveness, and it is the place where Jesse Owens won four gold medals, destroying the myth of white supremacy. Less than 90 years later, two black people performed there to a packed, sold-out stadium. When Jay and I sang our final song, we saw everyone smiling, holding hands, kissing, and full of love. To see such human growth and connection—I live for those moments.”
She concludes with statements of happiness and contentment at her current life, but also speaks of how she hopes to raise her children, and the values she hopes to share with both her daughters as well as her son.
“My mother taught me the importance not just of being seen but of seeing myself. As the mother of two girls, it’s important to me that they see themselves too—in books, films, and on runways. It’s important to me that they see themselves as CEOs, as bosses, and that they know they can write the script for their own lives—that they can speak their minds and they have no ceiling. They don’t have to be a certain type or fit into a specific category.
“I want the same things for my son,” she continues. “I want him to know that he can be strong and brave but that he can also be sensitive and kind. I want my son to have a high emotional IQ where he is free to be caring, truthful, and honest. It’s everything a woman wants in a man, and yet we don’t teach it to our boys.
“I’m in a place of gratitude right now,” she concludes. “I’ve worked long and hard to be able to get to a place where I can choose to surround myself with what fulfills and inspires me.”