Watch Homecoming with Refinery29 and writer Kathleen Newman-Bremang January 28 at 5:05 PM EST on Twitter using #R29MovieClub.
When Beyoncé was seven, she was competing in and winning talent shows. There’s a grainy clip on YouTube of her confidently belting “Home” from The Wiz dressed as Dorothy, in full hair and makeup, that would have surely gone viral if social media existed in 1988. If you’re a Queen Bey stan, you know that her entire regimented, rehearsal-driven childhood was meticulously documented, and her obsession with archiving has extended into adulthood. When it comes to her own kids, Beyoncé has been strategic about unveiling footage of them — a few well-timed posts on Instagram, snippets of home videos during concerts; just enough to pique interest and maintain intrigue.
Beyoncé’s daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, is now seven years old, and despite her mom’s best efforts (and sometimes because of them), she’s already had multiple break-the-Internet moments. There was that time she hid behind a barricade to shield herself from video footage of her parents making out naked. Relatable. There was when she outshone her peers in a leaked dance recital recording by slaying the choreography and turning it out like only a daughter of Beyoncé can. Iconic. When Blue Ivy declared that she was a little Black girl who had “never seen a ceiling in [her] whole life,” on her dad Jay-Z’s album 4:44, it was awe-inspiring. Every time Blue Ivy shows up on her grandmother’s (the official Peak Mom on social media, Ms. Tina Knowles) Instagram, it’s almost as if you can hear the collective shrieks from Beyhive members around the world.
Blue Ivy’s latest scroll-stopping feat came during one of her many appearances in Homecoming, the Netflix documentary of the 2018 Coachella performances that solidified Beyoncé Knowles Carter’s legacy as the greatest entertainer of all time. At almost exactly the two-hour mark, Blue Ivy’s voice kicks in. It’s a soft, somewhat tentative warble until her smiling face is revealed. In black and white, Blue Ivy sings “Lift Every Voice And Sing,” also known as the Black national anthem. She stops at every line of the song, as Beyoncé presumably whispers lyrics into her daughter’s ear encouraging her to keep going. When Blue Ivy finishes her verse — to rapturous off-camera applause of course — Beyoncé says, “beautiful job, Baba.” Naturally, Blue Ivy replies with, “I wanna do that again!” adding joyously, “’cause it feels good!” Cut to me in a puddle of happy tears.
We’re a week out from Homecoming’s April 17 3 a.m. EST drop (which I stayed up for), and I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Blue Ivy’s song, which is also a track on the doc’s corresponding live album called “Lift Every Voice And Sing (Blue’s Version).” Just as much as Beyoncé’s art will live on for generations, Blue Ivy Carter will also be her legacy. This simple scene in Homecoming — a quiet one between mother and daughter — may not seem as significant as the loud, horn-heavy, foot-stomping, stank-face-inducing instants of Beychella, but it incapsulates Homecoming’s goal of creating a safe space for Black people to see themselves, and for the next generation to grow up in a world where their options feel limitless and their voices are heard. Blue Ivy singing freely without judgement and with the support of her mom is the embodiment of that message. It’s also the antithesis of the already polished and professional seven-year-old Beyoncé.
“I wanted every person that has ever been dismissed because of the way they look to feel like they were on that stage.” — Beyoncé
Throughout Homecoming, Beyoncé speaks about the world she’s trying to create for her children, and for young people just like them. Blue Ivy and her siblings, twins Rumi and Sir, are the driving force behind everything Beyoncé does, and they’re symbolic of all the young Black girls and boys Beyoncé is reaching through her work. The world she’s trying to create is one where they believe their excellence and feel beautiful, and that’s not the world Beyoncé grew up in.
Beyoncé was raised in a pop culture landscape where something like Homecoming, an unabashed declaration of Black excellence on one of music’s biggest stages, not only didn’t exist, artists like her tried to conform to preexisting standards set by an overwhelmingly white industry (see: Whitney Houston, Michael Jackson) and even though their music was exceptional, they adapted to the status quo instead of revelling in their culture — whether by choice or not. I grew up watching a very different Beyoncé than the one that rules the charts today. She wasn’t always this brazen in her display of her Blackness. I think she wants a more liberating path for the artists coming up behind her and yes, I think this includes Blue Ivy who will inevitably follow in the footsteps of her mother (she’s already nailing choreography — at seven!). That’s exactly why Beyoncé included the following quote from Nina Simone in Homecoming:
“To me we are the most beautiful creatures in the whole world — Black people. My job is to somehow make them curious enough, persuade them by hook or crook, to get more aware of themselves and where they came from and what they are into and what is already there, just to bring it out.”
This is the thesis statement of Homecoming. As Blue sings “Lift Every Voice,” Beyoncé is persuading her, slowly bringing out what’s already there. She’s passing the torch, but not in the bootcamp, dance-all-day-in-a-basement Matthew Knowles way, she’s giving Blue Ivy the space to receive her birthright in her own time. Sure, it may seem unfair of me to put that much pressure on a seven-year-old, and to expect her to live up to her mother’s incomparable career, but that’s the point. Through these carefully placed peeks we get of Blue Ivy in the film or on social media, we can see that Blue Ivy is carving out her own path. In her seven years, Blue Ivy’s name has already become as identifiable as her mother’s. She’s growing up in the time of #BlackGirlMagic and when representation, while not perfect, is getting better every day. Structurally, the ceilings Beyoncé has had to break through still very much exist, but for Blue Ivy, the path is clearer and the potential is endless.
It’s easy to look at what Beyoncé achieved on the Coachella stage and call it magical, or downright miraculous. But what Beyoncé does in Homecoming is show the work behind the curtain, and the blood, sweat, no carbs, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol, and tears it takes to create the #BlackGirlMagic we saw on that stage. It’s the work ethic she’s going to pass on to the little ones watching, including her potential pop successor, Princess Blue Ivy Carter.
In 30 years when we look back at Blue Ivy singing just because it “feels good,” not to win a competition or to get likes on Twitter, I hope we remember the Toni Morrison passage that Homecoming opens with: “If you surrender to the air, you can ride it.” We’re about to watch Blue Ivy Carter soar.
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