Why Beyonce's VMA Performance Was The Perfect Manifestation Of Our Global Obsession

Queen Bey has done it again.

At the star-studded VMAs last night, Beyonce closed the show with enough ferocity, otherworldly talent and buzzworthy moments (including a hell-yes feminism shout-out) to make her supposed contemporaries look like her feeble opening acts.
Her performance mash-up of her most recent album, and her glowing acceptance of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award that came with it, couldn't have come at a more opportune time. On the heels of an elevator fight seen round the world—and with a rumor mill churning out Jay-Z breakup rumors at full speed—Beyonce's normally sterling cache was starting to lose some luster.

No more.

With this one performance, Beyonce has masterfully shifted the narrative, shimmying her way back into the blinding spotlight where she belongs, with news outlets practically panting with appreciation for her general fabulousness.
All of which led us to wonder: What exactly is it about Beyonce that makes her so, well, intoxicating? Why is she, more than any other performer today, adored so feverishly, to the extent that she has routinely been able to overcome negative buzz and re-assert herself atop the pop-diva throne?
Her talent is key, of course, but there's more to it than that. Indeed, her idealized status seems derived from three key aspects of a woman’s social identity: beauty, sexuality and wifehood/motherhood. And at Ravishly, we're exploring all three. Part I is all about beauty, with parts II and III to follow—because it's Beyonce and she’s worth three posts, OK?

Badass Beauty, Beyonce-Style

Here’s the thing about B’s looks: Her particular brand of beauty is both alluring to men and accessible to women. Supermodels—conventionally presented as having the ideal body type— actually tend to have the statistically rare lean-column body (narrow shoulders, small bust, small waist, narrow hips, flat bottom). Because fewer than 9 percent of women naturally possess this shape, the model ideal is ever-aspirational, and frankly annoying. (And often sad-making.)

Beyonce, conversely, has the most common female body type: the full hourglass (bigger thighs, rounded bottom and hips, smaller waist, big boobs), making her looks more relatable and attainable. Women actually can kinda look like her if they treat their bodies right (emphasis on “kinda”—mostly because our half our day isn't dedicated to sit-ups and intense dance calisthenics.) Men, too, are more drawn to the Beyonce figure; studies show that the full hourglass figure lights up the male brain more than any other shape

Most importantly, Bey has explicitly repudiated the skinny-girl ideal. In her recent song “Pretty Hurts,” she sings about the pressure to be thin; in the accompanying pageant-themed video, there’s a point where a judge asks, “What do you want in your life?” Her answer? A montage showing her drowning in a pool, crying sans makeup, and angrily knocking over a row of beauty-contest trophies. It's more-than-a-bit trite and obvious, but ladies: I dare you not to get a bit misty watching it, recognizing your own tortured body-image issues lingering in the pageant's shadows.

In short, Beyonce has tapped into something primal when it comes to idealized beauty and our fraught relationship with it in a way no other pop diva has managed to do. Her beauty is more than transfixing; it's empowering.

Stay tuned for Part II where we will explore—among other hot-button Beyonce topics—why the goddess of pop has been coined a "sex alien."
If you like this article, please share it! Your clicks keep us alive!