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Beyonce in Academic Works and News Media Term Paper

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Updated: Apr 11th, 2022

Introduction

Beyonce is arguably the top female musician in the world. From a career that emerged from the success of an all-girl music group, she has received several accolades for her music and acting careers. Her success has attracted a lot of media attention from critics and fans alike.

Moreover, her recent engagement and wedding to rapper Jay-Z has even brought more media attention to the laid-back musician. Now, most entertainment observers consider Beyonce and Jay Z as America’s “power couple” (“Beyonce, Jay-Z Top” par. 1).

In several ways, Beyonce has been in the limelight for most parts of the last decade. Thus, different media have always contained different stories about her. This paper compares the singer’s image in the news media and academic literature by arguing that both sources share more similarities than differences in how they portray the artist.

Notably, this paper shows that academic literatures are concerned with Beyonce’s role in female empowerment and healthy living, while her media image focuses on her glamour, music, sex symbolism, and style.

The structure of this paper first analyzes Beyonce’s image in academic literature. Subsequent sections of this paper highlight her image in news media. The last section of this paper compares both images (in news media and academic literature).

Image in Academic Literatures

Symbol of Female Empowerment

Professionally, Beyonce’s image has easily appeared besides other powerful African-American personalities, like Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, Michelle Obama and the likes.

Most of these comparisons stem from Beyonce’s success in the music industry and her ability to transcend the superficial and stereotypical image of African American women, as objects of sexual gratification (within the confines of white supremacy) (Celeste 11).

While it is important to appreciate the individual successes of music icons, such as Beyonce, many academic journals have found it difficult to do so outside the confines of race (Fan 117). Thus, in many academic circles, many researchers largely perceive Beyonce as an icon of female empowerment (Celeste 11). Feminists have especially championed this view.

For example, Murphy (96) says Beyonce is an icon in the success of the third wave feminist movement. This perception led Murphy to say, “Beyonce is a girl power icon who is average but, beyond her star status, she is overwhelmingly portrayed as a normal and powerful woman” (96).

Indeed, in one journal article, Celeste says, “The media has portrayed Knowles as empowered and in charge, as a mask to make oppressive forces, such as the “sexualization” of black women and white supremacy, invisible” (12).

The depiction of Beyonce as a female icon has made it difficult for scholars to ignore the racial identity within the discourse of female empowerment. Indeed, many academic literatures appreciate Beyonce’s stature as a woman of color.

Therefore, unlike most female icons (mostly white women) that demonstrate the “girl power” ideology, Beyonce has achieved the same stature by demonstrating multiple talents and performing abilities. Evidence of Beyonce’s multi-talented nature comes from her career launch in the pop group, Destiny’s Child.

Murphy says, “As a dancer, songwriter, and choreographer, she later catapulted her success into new fields, such as acting and fashion design” (p. 97). Through such multi-variable talents, scholars have not shied from associating Beyonce’s success with the third wave of feminism.

Certainly, they have done so by associating racial identities with discussions concerning the empowerment of young women. African-American scholars have especially used the success of young African-American women, like Beyonce, to inspire African-American audiences.

Health Image

Although Beyonce has received global accolades for being a top female musician, her image has transcended her professional career and delved into her lifestyle attributes. Notably, she has curved out an image of being an enviable female icon for healthy living. Academic journals that focus on healthy living have especially affirmed this image because they say Beyonce has an ideal body that most women strive to have.

For example, Apple (111) exposed a study which asked women to state the body type they would like to have (the researchers gave the women the options of choosing the body types of four female celebrities including, Beyonce, Kate Moss, Keira Knightly, and Queen Latifa). Most of the respondents preferred Beyonce’s body style (“Men want a” 121).

The emphasis on Beyonce as a fitness model stems from her widely publicized workout and diet plans. Concisely, her name has appeared in most health fitness regimes (“Another jar of” 50). For example, Beyonce’s workout plan exists in healthyceleb.com and motleyhealth.com (these websites advice people how to live healthy by maintaining a proper diet regime) (Borges 7).

For example, Beyonce advises women on how to lose weight, at healthyceleb.com. She gives a step-by-step account of the time she wakes up, the types of activities she does for exercise, and how her diet helps her to be healthy.

In the same forum, she advises most young women to breastfeed, as a way to stay healthy (Borges 7). Here, she emphasizes the importance of a vegetarian diet and its role in keeping her healthy (Borges 7).

From the huge responses she receives from the website, Beyonce also provides a link for people to contact her personal trainer and get more advice on healthy living. Her success in health education has permeated through most academic literatures.

News Media Image

Flamboyant Image

Beyonce’s image in mainstream media contrasts with her “academic” image. While the above sections of the paper highlight Beyonce as a motivational icon for racial minorities in America, her public image in mainstream media portrays her as a glamorous and flamboyant person.

As portrayed in the introduction section of this report, Beyonce’s image in news media largely premise on her superficial attributes, such as her sense of fashion, style, net worth, and the likes. For example, her recent marriage to rapper Jay Z has shifted most of her public image to her net worth, lifestyle, and influence in the music industry (Seno and Lukas 121).

For example, many American newspapers picked an article from Forbes magazine to show the position of the “power couple” as America’s highest earning celebrity couple (“Beyonce, Jay-Z Top” par. 1). Such news has always been associated with huge monetary figures, to show how rich the artist is, and how she compares with other wealthy celebrities in the country.

For instance, mainstream media have often compared Beyonce and Jay Z to Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt. Similar comparisons also exist with the celebrity couple Tom Brady and Gisele Bundschen (“Beyonce, Jay-Z Top” par. 2).

Sex Icon

Besides the media’s obsession with Beyonce’s money and wealth, the singer has adopted an image of being a crossover sex symbol in American music. Indeed, most news media have referred to the singer as “bootylicious,” “voluptuous,” and similar acronyms to denote her status as a sex symbol (Seno and Lukas 122).

Partly, the singer, through the former all-girl music group, Destiny’s Child, affirmed this image through songs, like “bootylicious.” However, mainstream media have emphasized this image as the singer’s trademark.

Beyonce’s image as a sex symbol largely differs from the star’s academic image. Certainly, earlier sections of this paper show that, academically, scholars have perceived Beyonce as a role model for women worldwide (Celeste 11). Scholars have also disassociated the singer from stereotypical images of African-American superstars as sex symbols (Celeste 11).

However, this image appears to disappear in the news media because her image consistently depicts her as a sex symbol. This image has not only existed in music videos and television, but also in print media. For example, “Beyonce, Jay-Z Top” (par. 3) says, after Beyonce appeared on Tom Ford’s fashion show, in 2011, People magazine identified her as the world’s sexiest woman.

Complex (a celebrity website) also named the singer the sexiest musician of all time. The list of other print media that have popularized Beyonce’s stature as a sex symbol is endless. For instance, VHA and GQ have also named the star as the sexiest woman of the century.

This way, Beyonce has received several offers to appear on magazine covers from different entertainment outlets in America and Europe. Her success on this front has affirmed her image as a sex icon.

Fashion Icon

News media have also highly popularized Beyonce’s image as a fashion icon, to characterize her identity. Murphy (131) says this image has largely been popularized by mainstream media, but the Knowles family has also helped to cement it. For example, Beyonce’s mother co-authored a book, in 2002, titled, Destiny’s Style. She revealed that Beyonce’s fashion sense had a huge role to play in her success (Murphy 131).

Independent fashion designers (who have worked with the star) have also reinforced this image. For example, one Italian fashion designer, Roberto Cavalli, also revealed that Beyonce’s success largely stemmed from her strong fashion sense (“Beyonce, Jay-Z Top” par. 3).

He made this statement after referring to the diverse fashion styles used by the singer during her performances. Indeed, based on an assessment of Beyonce’s music videos, it is difficult to dispute the fact that Beyonce’s fashion sense ranges from a continuum of classic to contemporary fashion styles.

Again, magazines and other types of news media have not shied from affirming Beyonce’s image as a fashion icon. For example, People Magazine listed Beyonce as the best dressed celebrity of 2012.

Such rankings paved the way for the star to feature in more prestigious print media magazines, such as the Sports Illustrated Swimsuits Issue. Again, it is important to highlight Beyonce’s stature as an icon of African-American descent because she was the second African-American woman to feature in this magazine (Tyra banks preceded her debut on the Magazine).

Musical Icon

Since Beyonce started her solo career as an artist, after breaking away from Destiny’s Child, she has cut out an image as an influential and powerful musician. This image has largely dominated most mainstream media because many commentators have portrayed Beyonce as a great and influential musician. Music critics, for example, consider Beyonce as the greatest musician of all time (“Beyonce, Jay-Z Top” par. 1).

Influential commentators, such as Jody Rosen of the New Yorker, hold this view. Surprisingly, most news media have upheld this image of the singer for a greater part of the last decade. In fact, 2013 rankings showed Beyonce leads other artists in exerting the most influence in America’s music industry. Her musical prowess prompted Luhrmann (12) to say,

“No one has that voice, no one moves the way she moves, no one can hold an audience how she does. When Beyonce does an album, when Beyonce sings a song, when Beyonce does anything, it is an event, and it is broadly influential. Right now, she is the heir-­apparent diva of the USA — the reigning national voice” (Luhrmann 12).

Such views have brought a lot of national attention to Beyonce’s influence in mainstream music. The Guardian has even named her the greatest artist of the decade (Luhrmann 12). This image has elevated the mellow-voiced singer to iconic status in the music industry. This image has also enabled Beyonce to command unwavering respect in the industry.

Observers say her production of two great musical singles of the decade (crazy in love and put a ring on it) marked the reinvention of Rhythm and Blues (R&B) music in the last decade. Indeed, Luhrmann (12) says through Beyonce’s contribution to the music industry, pop music has relied on the success of R&B, as its favorite medium.

Beyonce’s influence in the R&B genre has also replicated in redefining the success of other musicians. For example, evidence shows that Beyonce’s works have influenced other successful R&B musicians, such as Adele and Rihanna to succeed.

Seno and Lukas (121) say Beyonce’s reputation, as a successful artist, mainly stems from her strong stage presence. Through her success on stage, other artists, such as Rihanna, have reinvented their stage performances to make them more entertaining and captivating. Beyonce’s success beyond music has spilled over into marketing and branding (Seno and Lukas 121).

Here, she has also influenced other artists to participate in marketing campaigns. For example, in a recent interview, Nicki Minaj claimed that Beyonce’s commercial success in a Pepsi campaign motivated her to try the same in a 2012 global campaign. Through her influence in the music industry and other artists, mainstream media continue to affirm Beyonce’s image as a music icon.

Conclusion

After weighing the findings of this paper, it is important to say Beyonce’s image in news media and academic sources differ. Notably, both sources focus on different aspects of the celebrity. News media portray the singer as a sex symbol, musical icon, and fashion icon. Comparatively, academic literatures appreciate the artist for her contribution to female empowerment and health education.

These two zones of focus highlight different aspects of Beyonce. News media highlights her superficial and glamorous aspects of life, while academic literature highlights her beneficial contributions to society. A comparison of these two aspects of analysis shows that academic literature and news media share one similarity of depicting Beyonce in a positive way.

Although news media concentrates on her glamour and splendor, they still show Beyonce’s positive contribution to the music industry. Evidence of her contribution to the R&B genre is the most notable contribution to the music industry. News media also portray her as a mentor to upcoming and existing musicians.

Overall, an assessment of Beyonce’s image in academic and news media shows that both media are sympathetic to the artist. Furthermore, both depictions of Beyonce’s image do not exaggerate her achievements and contributions. Instead, they portray a factual image of her personality and achievements.

Both perceptions (from news media and academic sources) are also not stereotypical (however, academic literatures show the stereotypical background that influences the perception of African-American artists, such as Beyonce). Comprehensively, this paper shows that there are more similarities than differences between how academic literatures and news media portray Beyonce.

Works Cited

“Another jar of baby food?” Nutrition & Food Science 39.1(2009): 49- 53. Print.

Apple, Michael. “Democratic Education in Neoliberal and Neoconservative Times.” International Studies in Sociology of Education 21.1 (2011): 111-118. Print.

. 2013. Web.

Borges, Marco 2012, . Web.

Celeste, Manoucheka. I’m Universal: Beyoncé and the Re-Packaging of Black Women in Media, Boston, MA: TBA, 2013. Print.

Fan, Weihua. “Social Influences, School Motivation and Gender Differences: An Application of the Expectancy-Value Theory.” Educational Psychology: An International Journal of Experimental Educational Psychology 31.2 (2011): 117-122. Print.

Luhrmann, Baz 2013, . Web.

“Men want a body like Beckham.” Nutrition & Food Science 41.4 (2011): 238 – 241. Print.

Murphy, Caryn. New Girl Order: Youth, Gender, and Generation in Contemporary Teen Girls’ Media, University of Wisconsin, Wisconsin: The University of Wisconsin Press. Print.

Seno, Diana and Lukas Bryan. “The equity effect of product endorsement by celebrities: A conceptual framework from a co-branding perspective.” European Journal of Marketing 41.1 (2007): 121 – 134. Print.

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