Becky with the Small Waist: How Beyoncé, Unintentionally, Missed an Entire Demographic in Lemonade

*Written by UCD Alumni, Palmira Muniz '15

Lemonade was the shot heard around the world. Beyoncé, along with her creative production team, put on a show that has already made an impact on music history, and it's only been out for a little over a week.

Before I begin my critique of Lemonade, I need to assure you that the visual album snatched the edges up from my head and made me forget that I had them in the first place. The imagery in combination with the new music and challenging styles were some of the best I've seen in a long time, and can even be compared to Michael Jackson’s HIStory era of music. The representation of all shades of black women, men, and people, in front and behind the camera, overwhelms me with so much joy and pride in the Black/Pan African diaspora community.

But I couldn't help but wonder during the time I'm watching Lemonade, being snatched bald...where my big bitches at? I also did not see visibly disabled bodies, non-binary bodies, or trans bodies in this video, but that is a critique and analysis that does not belong to me, so therefore it will not come from me.

I see womanist spaces as demanding inclusivity for all black womxn and people, so I'm hoping my call for fat/big body representation doesn't fall on unwilling ears. Before the BeyHive comes for my head, let it be known that wanting to see different shapes and shades of black bodies should not seem like a radical idea. This visual album was in fact another catalyst for the black youth movement, portraying our artistic, political, and social ideas on screen, so my only concern for this project is that it was made for only a small group of black women, completely defeating the purpose of Beyoncé’s goal.

People fail to realize that along with black women fighting against European standards of beauty, which Beyoncé addresses in Lemonade, black women are also held to standards of beauty within our own community. Little in the middle, with very much back is one of the standards black women are forced to uphold (with a slight emphasis on little in the middle). Beyoncé‘s dancers and other women on camera fell under this category; all of them are undeniably beautiful...and all thin in stature. I find it confusing that not one biggum was used in any of the visual album, especially since black women (along with brown women) are constantly ridiculed for their weight (i.e “big black (angry) women”).

“But Palmira, they’re all dancers­” There are fat dancers.

“They’re all models­” There are fat models

“Well the main focus is just black wo­” I don’t even have to say it, but there are fat. Black. Women.

I even find the poetry Beyoncé used in her interludes, as a perfect opportunity to be all-inclusive in body representation. Poetry written by the amazing Warsan Shire (who oddly was not in the visual album, perhaps by personal choice), exists as a proud fat black woman. One of her themes is the anger and frustration of trying to make yourself perfect in the eyes of society, and the eyes of your romantic partner. Shire conveys a woman’s urgent need and desire to be perfect for her man in order for him to not cheat on her-- a shared and understood amongst nearly all women. In a society that tells us that fat women (specifically fat black women), are not desirable, who could better relate to this poetic interlude than fat/big bodies? This was Lemonade 's chance to showcase big beautiful black women in Southern Gothic wardrobe, with afros and baby hairs, joined together with their sistahs of all sizes. I would have even been fine with a big girl cooking in the kitchen, cause at least we would have been there, but I digress.

Lemonade was absolutely incredible, and this is an understatement. My critique and analysis of the project is coming from a good and supportive place. I feel absolutely lucky to have witnessed another black woman’s artistic renaissance happening before my eyes, and this is something I would like to continue seeing from Yonce. But I would be lying if I said I could have done without the radiance of unconventionally beautiful women sprinkled throughout Lemonade. If this is something that never came to mind for you, that’s okay; I watched Lemonade three times before I thought to myself “huh...everyone here is probably no bigger than a size 8,” because I was so amazed, and distracted, by the positive aspects of the film. Big bodies may literally take up space and are constantly seen. However, images of big bodies are met with negeativity, and ironically become invisible due to the refusal to make space that showcases our beauty. Hopefully fat/big ladies can, too, get in formation, because we slay.