The Beyonce Paradox

About a year ago I started listening to Beyonce and I recognized what a great artist she is. She’s got something about show biz figured out. Her live performances are 10x what her recorded audio is and she surpasses fan’s expectations with every album. She’s respected and idolized across the globe and reasonably so. They don’t call her Queen B for nothing (all hail!).

 

English: Star of the group Destiny's Child on ...

English: Star of the group Destiny’s Child on Hollywood Walk of Fame. Português: Estrela do grupo Destiny’s Child na Calçada da Fama. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

Some people get their best ideas when showering at a Holiday Inn. I get mine when I’m trying to go to sleep. Such was the case for tonight. I was lying in bed, on the cusp of passing over into the world of stress-free surreality when all of a sudden I saw a Girl dressed in a revealing business dress-suit, on her hands and knees, frantically collecting money on the floor that has is falling from the ceiling. All the while, the chorus of Destiny’s Child’s “Independent Women” is blaring in the background.  I watched Girl panic in ‘. Then the lyrics “Girl, I didn’t know you could get down like that” accused Girl and she looked up to realize she was being watched. I grabbed my journal and started thinking about other songs Beyonce has written or contributed to. Songs like “Crazy in Love”, “Survivor”, and “Run the World (Girls)” all came to mind. Each time, a scene came to mind that had something to do with the paradox of being a successful, independent woman in America. I started asking myself: What does it mean to be a woman in my cultural environment?

 

beyonce.complex2.mp3waxx

beyonce.complex2.mp3waxx (Photo credit: mp3waxx.com)

 

What does it mean to be successful?

 

White Girl

An 11 hour plane ride almost erases the idea of distance. Initially only the multitude of unfamiliar trees made me feel as though I were carrying a small terrier in a wicker basket and wearing ruby slippers: I weren’t in Texas anymore. The first two weeks of living in Auckland were full of adjusting, adapting, and maneuvering myself to appear as invisible and unassuming as possible. I didn’t realize how uncomfortable testing the waters of a new culture could be. Luckily for me, Auckland is the largest city in New Zealand and it was easy to blend in within the surprisingly international crowd. Eventually, as I familiarized myself with the layout of the city and formed friendships with those living with me, I felt I had a right to own the space I occupied.

Like your last hairpin inhaled into the vacuum, the feeling of validity vanished when I walked into my first class at University: Intro to Pacific Studies. I immediately realized, for one of the handful of times in my life, I was a racial minority in this space of 170+ people. I also realized  I had never spoken to anyone of Pacific Island ethnicity before. At this point, I didn’t feel particularly uncomfortable, I simply noticed it. I gravitated toward a group of American students I knew from orientation week. The warm, smiling professor introduced himself and proceeded to discuss typical “welcome to class this is what we’re covering” type topics. As I was listening and taking down some notes, the prof. mumbled a joke in Samoan (I think) to which the class roared with laughter. I was startled by the energetic response and looked around to see everyone around me, save the 4 or 5 American students beside me, was rolling with laughter. I awkwardly laughed along. I laughed for the fact I had no clue what just happened, for the fact that none of my friends did either – but mostly I laughed because at that moment I felt so different and small that I wanted to jump on a bald eagle and fly back to Texas right then and there.

An overreaction? Probably. The regret for leaving my comfort zone was fleeting. It was only for the duration of the laughter  that I continued to dwell on my insecurity. I’ve since made many friends from all over the world, a few of them I met in Intro to Pacific Studies. But this whole event got me asking some hard questions of myself.

Why did I notice, the moment I walked in, that I was ethnically different from everyone else? What does it mean that this made me feel uncomfortable? What’s up with this human craving to fit in? Did everyone else notice I was different too?

Does all of this make me racist? … What does it mean to be “racist”?

The woman on the left side of the coat of arms...

The woman on the left side of the coat of arms of New Zealand is Zealandia. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)