There is a moment in Nicki Minaj and Beyonce’s “Feeling Myself” video where the two pop titans stand arms entwined, their grips a vice, their mouths devouring what appear to be hamburgers.
It is a vision of many meanings: an image of junk-food rebellion against the celeb-magazine haranguing to get bodies back or otherwise sacrifice all in the name of weight loss; an image of black female solidarity and sisterhood; an image of raw, or rather, charbroiled, pleasure.
It is also a deep and bloody betrayal.
In 2013, Beyonce spent 22 days as a vegan, eating a meal plan designed by her trainer. In February, she announced the launch of her own full-fledged vegan food line, which will arrive at our homes carried on the wings of doves. Seamless is still out there, trembling: this is the only delivery service America needs.
Beyonce is a role model. A diva. Perhaps, some have suggested, an actual deity. To follow her Instagram is thus to catch a flash of the divine; to partake of the food that sustains her would be to channel a fraction of her infinite power. For centuries, we too have had as many hours in the day as Beyonce: now, she has graced us with her hearty nut granola as well.
Eating vegan for 22 days is a Herculean labor: everything from gummy bears to slow-roasted BBQ pork belly is off the menu. We need someone like Beyonce — no, we need Beyonce, specifically, and her meal service — to shoulder the burden, to pave the way, to empower the Beyhive with the courage to never eat another burger again.
But Beyonce has eaten a burger.
How many cows cried out in anguish when that patty flicked across Tidal? How many bovines screamed, to see their former ally gorging on their flesh?
Beyonce’s never silent against criticism. This is the woman who once stood in front of a “feminism” sign at an awards show, putting all debate over her allegiances to rest until the end of time. Yet can she claim true intersectional solidarity when she dines on the bodies of her living, mooing sisters?
“Feeling Myself” is set at Coachella, a scene of reckless hedonism, rampant meat-eating and very little water, thanks to Indio, California, being a desert land-locked in the midst of a state-wide drought. It takes thousands of gallons of water to produce a single burger; further, the bovine impact on climate change on planet Earth, the very world Beyonce runs, is immense.
Perhaps our queen is a spiteful monarch. Or perhaps her wisdom is beyond our simple grasp. Perhaps water conservation, animal empathy, greenhouse awareness and healthy eating are just fool’s errands, distractions on the way to that blissful mingling of bun, sauce, cheese and grilled meat. Mmm. Meat.
Let’s disregard Nicki Minaj here. There is no “featuring Beyonce,” there is only Beyonce, and surely no frame of “Feeling Myself” could pass through the veil and onto this mortal cloud-streaming plane without her willing it. We have seen her eating a burger. That is her verdict. Beyonce has abandoned veganism, and we have no choice but to join her in the glorious beef chaos to come.