Even before Lemonade showed her bashing male authority figures with a baseball bat and sinking a police car in New Orleans’ floodwaters, Beyoncé’s art and politics had become inseparable.
It made sense, then, that the superstar’s angel wings weren’t all that she intended to be noticed when she arrived at the MTV Video Music Awards in New York today.
Four women, all of whom have lost children to gun violence or police killings, were among Beyoncé’s entourage.
Lezley McSpadden, Gwen Carr, Wanda Johnson and Sybrina Fulton — the mothers of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, Oscar Grant and Trayvon Martin — were decked out in their red-carpet best, making a statement with their mere physical presence.
These women, along with five others, have become household names to many Americans as “the Mothers of the Movement”.
The deaths of their children have become political fodder in a presidential election year. All four have endorsed Hillary Clinton and all appeared at the Democratic Party convention in Philadelphia last month.
“I am an unwilling participant in this movement,” Fulton said to the delegates about the 2012 shooting death of her teenage son, Trayvon Martin. “I would not have signed up for this. None of us would have.”
The mothers have also seized a moment in American politics when awareness and anger around the death of people of colour, caused by police or not, has reached a new fever pitch.
They have appeared as part of Beyoncé’s squad before. McSpadden, Carr and Fulton appear in her video for Freedom, holding framed photos of their lost sons. They are powerfully evocative images, even for those unfamiliar with the faces in the photographs. Similarly, the mothers’ presence at the VMAs struck a chord with everyone watching.
Queen Bey was among the first to hit the carpet with her date for the night – her daughter Blue Ivy. They co-ordinated in sequins; Blue paired them with tulle and a crown while Bey went with feathers.
Speaking of adorable kids, there were baby bumps galore: Catfish‘s Nev Schulman and Laura Perlongo, weeks away from the birth of their first child; Kim Kardashian and Kanye West; Nicky Minaj and Meek Mill; DJ Khaled and Nicole Tuck and Teen Mom 2 star Jenelle Evans, who is expecting her third child, a girl, her first with boyfriend David Eason.
Minaj, who has never been afraid to show off her body, almost wore a long-sleeved, skintight, blue gown featuring cut-outs and strategically placed mesh panels down both sides.
After winning five gold medals at the Rio Olympics, super-swimmer Michael Phelps and fiancée Nicole Johnson, and other American sports stars, walked the red carpet, appeared on stage and enjoyed some other people’s unforgettable performances.
Oh, and some awards were given out too. Guess who was the big winner? Yep. Bey: Video of the Year – Formation; Best Female Video – Hold Up. Best New Artist – DNCE; Best Male Video – Fifth Harmony [ft Ty Dolla $ign] – Work From Home; Best Hip-hop Video: Drake – Hotline Bling. Video Vanguard Award: Rihanna.