Back in 2013, when Beyoncé headlined the Super Bowl halftime show (the first time), Buzzfeed heard from her publicist demanding that “unflattering” photos of her be taken down. It was the beginning of Beyoncé’s press shutdown, when she stopped giving interviews, stopped engaging with the media. At the time, and still now, the request seemed ridiculous. This was at the Super Bowl, the most widely covered event in North America. The most commercial event in North America. And she killed that performance. Remember there was a power outage? And the joke at the time was that she took all the electricity because she was just that good?
And then when the photo controversy happened, it seemed like she was overreaching with the control. Now, there are some people, the BeyHive included, who have since argued that there were certain outlets that ONLY published the “unflattering” shots of Beyoncé without including any “flattering” ones, so that the images in the story, of Beyoncé roaring and growling and flexing and contorting, dehumanised her, feeding into a certain stereotype of black women as unfeminine and raw – not unlike what Serena Williams has faced her entire career. Whether or not you agree with that position is up to you, but I want to include it, because the people who defended Beyoncé on those grounds see the situation from that specific lens.
As a member of the media, my thoughts on Beyoncé’s attempt to shut down those images was, like, OK, but all eyes were on you at the biggest entertainment event of the year – which was an undisputed success. No pictures can take that away, why are you giving this your energy? And how can you dictate which shots are and aren’t used at such a massive spectacle?
Yesterday Beyoncé performed at yet another massive spectacle: the Kobe and Gianna Bryant Celebration of Life at Staples Centre. B opened with two songs before sitting behind Vanessa Bryant for the rest of the service. Afterwards, Page Six reported that her team banned photographers from taking pictures of her while she was performing.
“Editors at the Associated Press and Getty Images told The Post that organizers of the livestreamed Staples Center event prohibited them from taking photos of the Grammy-winning singer or Bryant’s children.
One insider at the event said, “It is so offensive to Kobe’s family and the fans, Beyoncé is so controlling of her image — she usually only allows approved selected images of her to be released — so no photographers at the Kobe memorial were allowed to take her picture. Really, at a memorial? Not even the family of Michael Jackson did that.
“A Staples Center staffer was dispatched to make sure not a single camera was focused on the stage. The photographers couldn’t believe it. This doesn’t help Beyoncé’s image at all, it hurts her. It makes her look like a diva. The memorial wasn’t about her. The only shots of Bey that did emerge were screen grabs from TV. None of the other artists at the memorial asked for this, not Christina Aguilera, not Alicia Keys.”
I don’t know that anyone can say what’s “offensive to Kobe’s family”. I get that we’re debating a celebrity’s ego here but to speak on behalf of a family that’s trying to survive an unimaginable tragedy and adding this kind of incident to it is kind of gross.
Now that we’ve established that, and given the worldwide attention that was on the Bryant memorial, was Beyoncé offside? Is her obsession with control getting out of control? As an unapologetic Beyoncé fan, I don’t love it either that she keeps interviewing herself, although you can’t force someone to submit to an interview. It’s no secret that she’s a control freak. It’s no secret that she has turned herself into a mystery. But even if she’s Beyoncé, should she be able to show up at an event at Staples Centre, televised globally, and insist that photographers not photograph her?
I think a lot of you out there reading this will say that she’s full of sh-t and should get over herself. I’m not going to fight you on that. Gossip is a buffet, as I’ve been saying for years. You choose who you want to drag and you choose who you want to stan. From my perspective, though, at the risk of you rolling your eyes, because yes, I stan the Queen, this wasn’t just any televised global event. If it was the Super Bowl again, or a music festival, or if Apple paid her $10 million to sing to their shareholders, I’d be like, come ON, Beyoncé, this is too much. Everything on those occasions is for sale. But at a memorial service after the loss of a close friend and his young daughter, is it OK to put things up for sale?
Here’s some background about how photos work. Back in the early days of the internet, we all used to rip photos and post them wherever we wanted. These days, every proper website and outlet (including this one, even if you don’t think LaineyGossip is “proper”) has to adhere to copyright restrictions on images. Photo agencies send photographers to cover events. If PEOPLE.com or USA Today or The New York Times or Buzzfeed or Vulture or whatever website you go to wants to publish a photo of Beyoncé taken at XYZ event, they need to contact the agency and pay a price for the photo. The value of the photo is set by exclusivity and the status of the celebrity.
Remember that shot of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston backstage at the SAG Awards? Everyone who ran that picture, that series of pictures, had to pay for them. We paid for them to post them on this site. We could have not paid of them and embedded a tweet that had them to get around paying for them which is what some sites are doing but we get nervous about doing that because some agencies are objecting to that practice because it cuts down their bottom line. The agency and the photographer who took those Brad and Jen shots made some good money that week – and they’ll likely continue to for years.
The photographers who were “banned” from taking pictures of Beyoncé at the Kobe and Gigi celebration of life yesterday, if they’d been able to take those pictures, would have been able to charge a fee for them. In other words, profit from them.
IF – and please read that, I’m saying IF, IF, IF – that was reason for Beyoncé not wanting them to photograph her, because she didn’t want people profiting from her at her friend’s memorial service, while she was singing to his widow and his surviving children, me personally, I’m not mad at that.
I say if because we don’t know if that was the reason. Maybe it wasn’t the reason. Maybe she just didn’t want to be photographed by anyone other than her team because she’s a vain bitch and if that’s the case, sure, that’s totally bullsh-t and we should call her out. But it’s a possibility, right? It’s a possibility that she wouldn’t have wanted to be for sale on that particular stage? When two people died and she was there to honour their lives?
Beyoncé has since posted her own photos from yesterday’s service on her website. She looks amazing, LOL. And no one outside agency is making money from them. So have at ‘er, depending on which way you see it.