I Woke Up Like This: Beyoncé and the Image of Perfection

When outtakes from a 2014 L’Oreal photo shoot surfaced on the Internet recently, fans were in an uproar - for all of the wrong reasons. Theses images show Beyoncé Knowles, age 33, untouched and with foundation covering less-than-smooth skin, and they caused the Twitterverse to explode with comments. One user said the pictures made her feel sick. Another commented that she felt “personally victimized” by the images.


            Image from The Beyonce World


The irony of this is of course that the images were uploaded to a fan website, The Beyonce World, meant to demonstrate the celebrity’s natural beauty, and were removed shortly after because of the negative feedback. In a post released after the photos were pulled, the blog stated, “We were just posting the photos to share the fact that our queen is naturally beautiful, at the same time she is just a regular woman.”

This negative reaction underlines the unreal expectations we have for celebrities. As one member of our Her Campus staff pointed out to me, if these pictures were of neighbor, they would be seen as incredibly beautiful, but because of the standards set by photo-shopped magazine covers and hero worship, we have come to have unreal expectations for the appearance of already beautiful celebrities. It’s also important to keep in mind that these photos are outtakes. These were the pictures that the photographers saw as poorly lit, taken at a bad angle, etc. We’ve all been tagged in a less-than-perfect photo on Facebook. Now imagine that on a larger scale.

Knowles, who has come to be known as “Queen Bey” and is often quoted for her 2014 hit song, “Flawless” (which reached the charts without being labeled as a single). When she sings, “I woke up like this / We flawless, ladies tell 'em / Say I look so good tonight,” she is not referencing physical perfection, but rather a state of mind in which a female audience can feel confident about their appearance and empowered by her own confidence. However, the term “Flawless” has come to be used in reference to Knowles’ physical beauty. While she is definitely a beautiful woman, the repetition of the idea of one single person embodying physical perfection can create a reverse effect, making people feel inferior about their own bodies.

Beyoncé has been incredibly successful and created popular music. She is known all over the world. In the end, however, like all celebrities, she is a human being. It is unreal to expect her not to age, and, in a world where we are becoming hyper aware of the manipulation of photographs, to be truly and accurately represented by magazine and album covers. When we come to accept that these airbrushed images are not representative of life, we are able to express the sentiments that Knowles intended in her song “Flawless”, we are able to feel that we too, look good, and feel that despite our flaws, we are flawless.