The Moment When Beyoncé Became More Than Just a Mere Celebrity

That response to her pregnancy news was not normal, but made perfect sense all the same

By Natalie Finn Feb 06, 2017 7:00 PMTags

What happened on Wednesday wasn't normal.

Not to say it was surprising, but the frenzy definitely reached a previously unseen level, one that moved even the most jaded among us. Conspiracy theories abounded. The photographic evidence was subjected to the intensest of scrutiny. 

And the madness extended beyond the confines of social media, where frenzy is an everyday occurrence.

We're talking about the response to Beyoncé's announcement that she's pregnant with twins, of course.

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Seriously, no pocket of society has been that collectively pleased about something in who knows how long. In tumultuous times, that almost-ridiculous-but-entirely-fabulous-and-instantly-iconic picture of the Lemonade artist in her underwear and a wedding veil revealing her baby bump was like a ray of sunshine beaming its way into every home, office and smart phone like a message from above.

Or at least that's what it felt like for a few brief, glorious minutes.

And so we ask: Could any other celebrity's pregnancy news have merited that sort of reaction?

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Our expert opinion says no. Not since the news that Kate Middleton and Prince William were expecting royal baby No. 1 did the masses react even remotely like this. Say, however, that the couple had revealed No. 3 was on the way this week: it would have been perfectly welcome news, but it wouldn't have caused the extreme giddiness that Queen Bey's reveal that Nos. 2 and 3 are en route did.

It probably would have made the late-night talk shows, but not for the same reason.

"By now you've probably heard the major announcement—the one that's going to change America's future," Trevor Noah kicked off the The Daily Show Wednesday. "It's twins!!!!"

"She is just so perfect!" he gushed. "As a gift to us all she even did it on the first day of Black History Month."

While that may have sounded like the appropriate level of reverence, it was also obviously his commentary on the outsized reaction to what theoretically amounted to no more than celebrity baby news.

But we all know it was more than that.

Timing does play a big part of it, sure. One look at Twitter, unless you follow nothing but Corgi and kitty accounts, and you can see that bad news (or arguments between un-likeminded people over whether the news is bad or good) is overwhelming the landscape.

So why not lose our stuffing over Beyoncé's delightful news? She's given us so much, artistically, and now this?! As much as Gigi Hadid's flawless street style or a GIF of Gisele dancing at the Olympics entertains us, this is actually giving us life.

We may as well get excited.

But it's still Beyoncé herself that prompted the level of reaction—including the satirical ones—befitting a much more momentous event. As in, truly momentous for other people aside from her actual loved ones. Yet it felt momentous for all. Why? At the end of the day, isn't she "just" a celebrity?

Well, let's back up. Most conversations had about Beyoncé over at least the last several years tend to include some sort of superlative or otherwise potentially hyperbolic characterization: greatest, fiercest, best, boss, legendary, iconic, queen—or the all-encompassing "everything."

And while that could get old real fast, it doesn't seem to with her. The moment has not yet come, nor does it seem imminent, that the scales will tip into "too much" territory, as it inevitably does for some famous people who charm the pants right off you but eventually start leaving you cold (because, you know, you're no longer wearing pants).

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Part of that is due to the fact that we've seen Beyoncé continuously evolve over the years. From one album to the next, she's always looking to communicate something different—and in between incarnations, she's never hit us over the head with either platitudes or too much personal information. 

There are enough photographs, many of which she's shared herself, for a museum, but aside from a sit-down with Oprah Winfrey in 2013 there isn't a plethora of epic Beyoncé interviews to call upon. The New York Times took note of a Vogue cover spread (the 2015 September issue no less) that had no new quotes to go with it. And when she was interviewed before her 2016 Super Bowl performance, the word "rare" was used with abandon. 

So she's kind of an enigma in that respect. She's always around—at award shows, at the Super Bowl, on tour, on vacation, on Instagram—but she chooses to communicate mainly through her music.

Consequently, when that music happens, people savor it like a rare cosmic occurrence, digging into it with shovels in both hands, parsing it for clues about Beyoncé's real life.

It wasn't always like this, though.

Just over 10 years ago, Dreamgirls came out and Beyoncé played the less-talented singer to Jennifer Hudson. No one was exactly going crazy about Bey's acting skills in what was her fourth movie after Austin Powers in GoldmemberThe Fighting Temptations and the remake of The Pink Panther. She was obviously the standout member of Destiny's Child and already a platinum-selling solo artist with two No. 1 albums, Dangerously in Love and B'Day.

But, you know...she was a very popular singer.

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Musically, it was I Am...Sasha Fierce that took Beyoncé to new heights in 2008. Was there a more epic ballad that year than "Halo" or a better refrain than "to the left, to the left..."?

And was there a more imitated, flash-mob-motivating dance than the "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" routine featured in what really was the best video of that year? (Just agreein'...)


She also married longtime boyfriend Jay Z in 2008 in a super-private ceremony that she would only start sharing snippets of images from several years later. So that added another fascinating dimension to her personal life, one that would never be halfheartedly probed by Beyoncé saying ordinary stuff in interviews about keeping the flame alive or marriage being "a lot of work."

Who knew how they made it work, basically.

Bey only upped the mystique factor with her 2013 HBO documentary Life Is But a Dream, which she explained like this: "I wouldn't have released a film just for the sake of self documentation. I wanted it to express what I believe to be true about life—that it's not random, that everything has a reason and that we need to be conscious of life's little clues and how the dots all connect or we miss out."

She is a big fan of clues, we'd later realize.

Beyoncé would shed a little light on her and Jay Z's relationship when she released—entirely by surprise, which also started a major music-industry trend—Beyoncé at the end of 2013.

Tracks like "XO," Drunk in Love" and "Partition" served as one of the steamiest love letters (not to mention realistic—when you're married with a kid, you don't waste opportunity) ever in album form. A visual album came with, a creative departure for Beyoncé that was a hint of what was to come. And, of course, there was "Blue," an ode to their daughter, Blue Ivy, the human evidence of the strength of their bond and Bey's new reason for being.

Artistically, Beyoncé couldn't be beat, except by herself (and by Beck's Morning Phases at the Grammys, but no epic story is without the parts that don't make loads of sense).

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So, last year, she started steadily topping herself. First, there was her "Formation" video, Beyoncé's first explicitly topical and politically charged video with its provocative image of her sinking into the water atop a police car. And the very next day came her electrically charged performance of "Formation" at the Super Bowl, which was irresponsibly deemed by the usual suspicious subjects to be an attack on police.

And then in April came Lemonade, a sonic and visual album that debuted on HBO and gave fans—and a sizable chunk of society—goosebumps with her talk of "Becky with the good hair," regretting "the night I put that ring on" and calling out the "wicked way to treat the girl that loves you." Immediately it all came rushing back, that tense time after Solange fought with Jay Z in the elevator after the 2014 Met Gala, seemingly in defense of her sister, and the questions that uncharacteristically messy public episode prompted.

But for all the concern prompted by what appeared to be the calling out of Jay Z on Lemonade (not to mention all the rumors of an impending rebuttal album from the "99 Problems" rapper), even though the album concludes on a hopeful, beneficent yet still empowering note of forgiveness...nothing ever came of it.

Bey headed out on her wildly successful Formation World Tour, she was nominated for nine Grammys and now she and Jay are having twins.


Who would've thought two and a half years ago, after the elevator scandal, let alone nine months ago, after Lemonade, that the next major Beyoncé headline would be a pregnancy?

No wonder the world took a break from its angst on Wednesday to revel in her happy news. She may have a life that's impossible for most people to relate to on the surface, but she has reassured us that she's only flesh and blood underneath.

These days, there are very few facets of life that haven't been infiltrated by the cult of celebrity. They're everywhere, whether or not they did anything that meaningful in the first place to be so noticed by so many. And while on most days you can reasonably talk Beyoncé down to being "just" a celebrity, albeit one who has earned her superlatives, on Wednesday she was more than that.

This week, Beyoncé became a beacon. Even if that was by accident and what she really intended was just to entertain us a bit more, it mattered not to the 9.4 million people who have liked her photo, which became the most-liked post on Instagram, ever, within hours of the announcement. 

You don't merit that sort of reaction, no matter how good your news, just by being a talented entertainer. You need to matter to people. And in case Beyoncé's importance was in question, we've got our answer.