I have seen Black is King multiple times. I have read reviews, discussed with friends, and watched my daughter reenact “Power” for an hour straight. Many have criticized the film and the star. It is certainly not the end all and be all of representation especially for the many and complex entities making up African culture but as a Black American mother with a mixed daughter, “Black is King” was not only entertaining but a valuable conversation starter. It was important to me and, I dare say, I am not alone. It starts and continues a conversation desperately needed and elevates the arts of a people and culture, often misrepresented, in a way few but Beyonce can do.
“Black is King” is certainly a fashion forced to be reckoned with. Seasoned stylist Zerina Akers adorned the Queen Bey masterfully. But beyond Beyonce and the often matching Blue Ivy, the additional players were equally well clad. Speaking to her heightened consciousness of worldwide designers, Akers seamlessly integrates lesser known designers into a cannon of heavy-hitters, showcasing, on an equal stage, a singular concept of high fashion. Notable looks include: A Tongoro Houndstooth Gown, a handmade feather suit by Ashi Studio, the ethereal Wendy Nichol gown seen at the outset, a multicolor ruffled piece from London-based designer Mary Katrantzou’s Fall 2019, a bejeweled fringe piece by AREA, floral pieces from Erdem, and finally, a white crocheted masterpiece by designer Alon Livné. All these looks seen on Beyonce herself. Additional cameos were made by Kim Jones now signature suit from Dior Men on Jay-Z and Brookelyn Styles artfully mixed animal prints on the background models during the song Mood 4eva. La Perla even had a moment on display amidst an exquisitely painted Queen. The celebration of opulence and wealth was fully felt, masterfully combining modern and traditional nods to the concept through fashion.
To celebrate one’s culture is deeply meaningful. To celebrate it on this scale is a phenomenon. That, to me, is what Black is King was. An elaborate “home movie”, celebrating family, ancestry, and power with pride and resiliency. For many African-Americans, a complete picture of lineage and direct ancestry is hard, if not impossible, to come by. But our heritage is something precious, to be studied and lauded. The vision of African artists and Beyonce, an African-American powerhouse, came together, and brought this celebration to Disney. Disney. Multi-billion dollar, globally distributed Disney. Elevated to the mainstream, where it rightly belongs. Black is King is showing an entire generation a gift beyond a seat at “the table.” We built our own table, long ago. This is a fraction of the recognition we deserve. We now owe it to those who came before us to continue to learn, to embrace, and to share life, heritage, and your undeniable spirit and wisdom. We are a force in love, art, and intellect, equal to and surpassing any other in this world. Black is King reminds us of this. Hearing my daughter sing “They’ll never take my power” is something incredible indeed.