I end every show with an editorial on one pressing and personal cultural topic. This week’s editorial celebrates Beyonce’s 34th birthday — a tribute I wrote to explain the cultural significance of her presence in music and media. Watch the clip and read the transcript below:
On this day, 34 years ago, Beyonce Gisele Knowles was born. Today is officially B Day.
For the Bey Hive it’s a holiday that will surely find many getting bodied tonight and let their inner “Naughty Girl” out in their favorite “Freakum Dress” before falling “Drunk in Love” until the “End of Time.”
I was 16 years old when I was first struck by Beyonce. It was a time when my daily news source was MTV’s Total Request Live. It was a time when the rank of music videos on TRL pushed me to spend the money I earned — from my afterschool job — at Tower Records.
It was a time when Britney and Christina and In Sync and the Backstreet Boys ruled. It was a time when the sight of a young black girl group was a rare sight to see.
“Bills Bills Bills” premiered on the countdown in 1999 and my adolescent life was changed. Destiny’s Child were girls my age who looked like me killing it in Tina Knowles originals, and I fell in love with Beyonce after seeing her wave a hot comb in the air in her mother’s salon.
From the very beginning, Beyonce and the lyrics she wrote and sang alongside DC were misinterpreted. These four beautiful and bold black girls from Houston, Texas, were wrongly deemed gold diggers in the press and their role model card was checked.
But DC persevered despite criticism about their sharp lyrics, about the departure of three members, about the singular rise of Beyonce who branched out on her own, from the MTV movie Carmen and Austin Powers to the release of her solo album Dangerously in Love.
Yet it wasn’t until a decade later – in 2013 – with the surprise release of her groundbreaking self-titled audio-visual album – where Beyonce finally expressed her most honest self – beyond the burdens of respectable representation. Listen to Beyonce herself:
Beyonce was free to express everything with the release of that album, enabling her to reclaim her body, unapologetically embrace her sexuality, and take one of my generation’s most bold feminist’s stands. It was her performance at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards that was a gamechanger for me.
I belong to a generation that is both adamantly vocal and completely apprehensive about the meaning and importance of feminism. But Beyonce, from her pop cultural pedestal, shut down any skepticism about the importance of feminism and gender equality by giving a mainstream millennial audience a clear definition of feminist, provided by author Chimamanda Adichie. Adichie’s words flashed behind an assembly line of women before Beyonce took the stage centering herself –literally — as a Feminist.
Beyonce’s feminist stance pushed me to publicly call myself a feminist. Beyonce’s feminist stance is an exhibition of the power of popular culture to do more than merely entertain us, but inform and inspire us.
Today, I am proud to have spent half my life witnessing Beyonce’s evolution — from Destiny’s Child to solo star, from Single Lady to Mrs. Carter and Blue’s mom, from Independent Woman to feminist cultural icon.
This year, the Chime for Change co-founder announced her partnership with Global Citizen to end extreme poverty by 2030. Take a look:
On this day, I wish my favorite pop star, a very happy 34th birthday, and can’t wait to see her take the stage at the Global Citizen Festival Concert, which I am so excited to be co-hosting for MSNBC alongside Willie Geist and Alex Wagner on Sept 26th.
Happy Bey Day!
Watch all clips, conversations and interviews from “So POPular!” anytime at MSNBC.com/sopopular. New episodes every Friday at 11am ET!