When she’s in the mood, Beyonce Knowles Carter, first of her name, Queen of the Beyhive knows how to make the whole world stand still. She’s been doing so for years – with albums, magazine covers and even interviews. Today, the Queen is bigger than just her music; she has her own army of loyal followers aka the Beyhive and has become a template for becoming a cultural legend.
If you take a walk through history, every legend has a moment where they ascend to that fabled status. Beyonce has many, but her 2-hour long performance at the Coachella festival could well be the best. Two years after the fact, the Queen invited us into her world with the Netflix film: Homecoming.
Apart from chronicling Beyonce’s preparation for the Coachella performance, the film is an exercise in all the things that make Beyonce who she is. If you want your name in flashing lights like everyone else, these are the biggest lessons we learned from Beyonce’s Homecoming about becoming THAT person and doing it bigger and better than anyone else. And just so you know they work, we’ve brought some familiar (icons and) legends to the party.
- Want It. And Work For It.
I think it was Malcolm Gladwell who, in his book “Outliers”, first suggested the 10,000-hour rule. The idea is that it takes 10,000 hours of work to attain expert status at anything. Let’s start here; It takes a level of desire to dedicate 10,000 hours to anything and even more desire to do those 10,000 hours over and over again. That’s why Beyonce is who she is. If “Homecoming” is anything to go by, every moment of Beyonce’s waking life is dedicated in some way to her craft. Her dedication makes 10,000 hours feel like a day’s worth of work.
Take the fact that in childbirth, she had high blood pressure and preeclampsia, a possibly deadly pregnancy complication that led to her babies being born by emergency C-section. Beyonce recalls being afraid she would never be able to reach previous levels again but she pushed herself or 8 whole months. Fadalud! That insane work ethic is at the centre of her success. Want another example of insane dedication to one’s craft? You may not agree that Wizkid is a legend, but there is one trait that, according to everyone who knows him, set him apart from the get-go. Zero marks if you guessed it’s his work ethic.
- Stand For Something Important. And Own That Narrative.
One of the best things about “Homecoming” and a message Beyonce herself proudly emphasises is that she is totally, defiantly and loftily black. Given the opportunity to headline such an important festival, anyone in her position would be reluctant to speak their truth. Even her mother was sceptical about putting up such a black show in front of a majority-white audience.
But Beyonce persisted and put black excellence front and centre in her set. It makes sense that her performance, a hat-tip to centuries of black culture, is filled with references to other legends like Nina Simone, and Fela Kuti.
Fela, in particular, is a poignant allusion; today, he is most remembered as Nigeria’s legendary dissenter who fought for his beliefs – he encouraged African pride, called out despots and corruption and is still a global symbol of defiance.
It also reminds me of the classic “Wait For Me” by King Sunny Ade and Onyeka Onwenu. At a time where unguarded sexual liberation was inching its way through a popular disco-fueled subculture, the two made a song that pretty much preached abstinence. It was not what most frenzied fans would have wanted to hear from the two of the biggest pop acts of the time, but it was a just cause and in standing for it, over time, the two have come to represent an inimitable standard that a new generation can only aspire to.
In a world that’s plagued by groupthink, it’s important to stand for something powerful and to live that narrative to the hilt. It’s the only way to stand out and more importantly, inspire change.
- Surround Yourself With Winners and Future Legends
You’re only as good as your team. Beyonce’s “Homecoming” showed us the scale of work, time and dedication that went into what would eventually become known as Beychella. And even though the film has been described as a display of Beyonce just the way she wants us to see her, you can’t ignore the number of people moving and making things happen behind the scenes.
Contrary to what you may have heard, Beyonce did not wake up like this. From the planning table to the main stage, it took nearly 200 talented, dedicated and driven people to make the show a success. It takes a huge team, it takes a village, and I think we all worked to our limit,” Beyoncé said in the Netflix film.
When you’re on the road to greatness, the only people you need by your side are the people who are headed in the same destination. It makes the success sweeter – “We all performed with all of our heart, and we performed with love and connection, and we did it together.” Beyonce said.
Unfortunately, it’s hard to find local examples; many of our greatest collectives or teams have broken off by factors ranging from greed to a desire to be in the spotlight, leaving talented artistes with rookies who can’t bring their dreams to life. You’re only as good as your team.
- Make A Statement
Sure, it was the first time a black woman was headlining Coachella. Sure, it was barely months after she had twins. Sure, she personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid, according to Vanity Fair. But everything Beyonce did was directed towards a single purpose, making a statement.
After cancelling the previous year, staying out of the limelight to have her kids and not releasing any more music for a while, Beyonce could have shown up with a regular set and it would have been good enough for any regular artiste. Instead, she took it a step further and put on a show worthy of her status.
That single decision is reminiscent of Fela Kuti’s set at the Berlin Jazz stage in 1977. Fela, like Beyonce, had built up quite the following at the time. He had become the de-facto face of dissent against successive tyrants and for all his troubles, lost his mother and his freedom on several occasions. His performance at the Berlin Jazzstage was supposed to be a showcase of his music.
Instead, Fela turned it into a declaration of his origin and intent. From the beginning, every performer, down to the man holding the shekere was recognised by name, before Fela was introduced for a performance where he gave a few lessons in Pidgin, made a few jokes and brought the problems of post-colonial Africa for a former colonial master’s front door.
No-one can tell the future, but on the days when we discuss music, culture and the moments that cemented legacies, Beychella and Fela’s performance at the Zenith in Paris will be two of them and it will be just because these two legends decided ‘good’ just wasn’t good enough.