Beyoncé is posting her Earth Mother image on Twitter and Tumblr in an attempt to show us regular folk how much like us she is.
She’s the most beautiful woman in the world – People magazine told me so. (I’d take it with a pinch of salt since they also saw fit to crown Bradley Cooper the ‘sexiest man alive’ in a world where Ryan Gosling lives and smoulders.) And beautiful Beyoncé tells us that since becoming a mother, she eschews big primping routines, opting for ‘no make-up, just sunglasses and lip gloss’. She adds, ‘I feel more beautiful than I’ve ever felt because I’ve given birth.’
She gave birth back in January, and since then Ms. Knowles has cannily and pretty successfully rebranded herself as ‘Earth Mother Beyoncé’, following stints as ‘Bootylicious Feminist Beyoncé’, ‘Sasha Fierce Beyoncé’ and ‘Glastonbury Rockstar Beyoncé’ (for the record, I love all incarnations). This means her look is all trainers, flats and comfy loafers, paired with loose jeans and baggy jumpers. And while this being Beyoncé, the trainers are Isabel Marant (naturally) and the flats by Charlotte Olympia, her look is still recognisably the staple wardrobe of the exhausted new mother.
Which is why, hours after People announced her newest title, Beyoncé was photographed heading out to dinner, with said lip gloss, baggy top and trousers on. The Daily Mail, never one to shy away from an opportunity to tempt its readers to judge a female celebrity’s appearance ran a photo of her, explaining, helpfully, ‘She’s embracing her natural beauty’.
But this time Beyoncé got there first. At the beginning of the month, she sent her first tweet and launched her personal Tumblr blog, which showcases candid photographs from her personal life. These feature the singer, her husband, family and friends, often on holiday or behind the scenes at gigs. Of course these images have clearly been carefully chosen to represent a Beyoncé who looks and acts, as the American gossip magazine Us Weekly would put it, ‘Just Like Us!’. There’s even one in which she appears to have a pimple.
But what the pictures actually represent is the height of ‘fake authenticity’. Why allow Heat or new! to put out grimy paparazzi shots annotated with rings of doom pointing out a hormonal spot breakout, or ashy heels when you can release a ‘real’-enough (i.e. candid but still uber-flattering) photo of yourself just chilling with the family? Especially when Beyoncé on downtime is still a stunningly beautiful woman – it would take sackcloth and ashes to make her look truly awful.
Beyoncé is notoriously private – for years she (rightfully) refused to even confirm her relationship with Jay Z and she wears no ring on her wedding finger. She is, in the arena of media access and control, a master – witness the disclosure of her pregnancy at the MTV VMAs. Her online adventures are regularly said to break the Internet and her Tumblr venture attracted almost 4 million followers in a week.
Yet her actions are only marginally less subtle than what the lower rent Z-listers do to get on to the Daily Mail’s Sidebar of Shame every week.
But now tools like Twitter and Instagram have given celebrities more of a chance to pre-empt the gossip magazines’ commentary – pictures of new hairstyles and pseudo-spiritual tattoos are revealed triumphantly via wonky bathroom mirror images and a Wi-Fi connection instead of a waiting paparazzi. At the time of writing, the Mail’s held not one but two more stories about ‘make-up free’ celebs – Rihanna (self-portrait) and Katie Holmes (street paparazzi street shot). Guess which one looks better. Fake authenticity is everywhere; and it looks like it’s here to stay.
I think we should welcome fake authenticity with open arms. After all it’s what the old-school celebrities used to do, after all. The only real reason we stopped doing it was to make way for the nastier, hyper-realism version of celeb gossip. If we can eat into some of that nastiness via a few honest-but-gently-staged photographs, maybe we can get back to a discourse in which the default position is not to point out flaws so eagerly and gleefully. If everyone starts to look a little more ‘normal’, maybe in the near future, fake authenticity will return to just straight up regular authenticity.
Written by Bim Adewunmi, this article originally appeared in The Guardian.