We’ve said it before an we’ll say it again: it’s Beyoncé and Jay Z’s world, and we’re just living in it. While you were sipping on frosé on some rooftop or binge-watching season two of Queer Eye, the Carters surprised us all by dropping a secret, collaborative album called Everything Is Love and a music video for “APESHIT” that has the internet totally freaking out.
We first see The Carters standing in front of the Mona Lisa casually wearing coordinating pantsuits. This is our first look at The Carters and they’re showing us they both wear the pants in this partnership. While Jay Z, who enlisted celebrity stylist June Ambrose, wore a mint green suit, Beyoncé opted for a pink Peter Pilotto number, accessorised with extravagant jewellery.
For years, big jewellery and the colour pink have been associated with dainty femininity. We saw a similar combination when Marilyn Monroe sang “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Here, Beyoncé is giving those two obvious symbols of femininity a modern twist. The historically girly hue is reimagined in a modern power suit, a look typically reserved for glass ceiling-shattering women. Paired with a diamond necklace and matching earrings, Beyoncé suggests that she can be a boss without sacrificing an ounce of her womanhood.
A HRC-approved pantsuit is only one piece of the puzzle. Beyoncé and longtime stylist Zerina Akers, who worked on the video, used their sartorial choices to challenge society’s outdated perceptions of a womanhood.
Take the two looks Beyoncé wears alongside The Winged Victory of Samothrace. First, she stands stoically in a white sculptural dress, overpowering the statue’s softness. Later, Beyoncé is sprawled in front of the same statue, demanding some respect on her check. Still dressed in white, she appears disheveled with crimped hair and a voluminous skirt, which she later waves around in fury.
The white ensemble tie back to Nike, who is represented in the marble statue. Though Nike is the Greek goddess of victory, she looks unassuming — and almost angelic — in her light, ethereal dress. The two looks Beyoncé wears have very different attitudes — one composed and the other chaotic — but show how women are multi-faceted and aren’t always these perfect, composed beings.
At one point, Jay and Beyoncé stand in front of Venus de Milo, a rendering of Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love, beauty, pleasure, and procreation. While Jay wears a light-colored suit, Beyoncé goes head-to-head with Aphrodite in a nude bodysuit. The skintight silhouette hugs her curves, suggesting that Beyoncé is the modern-day Aphrodite.
But Beyoncé is more than Aphrodite. Throughout “APESHIT,” she infiltrates the Louvre and reimagines herself as some of the art world’s most notable pieces. She lounges in the museum with Jay in a Versace dress, off-the-shoulder jacket, and head wrap that bares comparison to the one seen in Portrait of a Negress. The portrait, which is highlighted at the end of the video, is one of the only pre-20th century portraits of a Black person that is not explicitly a slave. While the woman in a portrait wears a modest white head wrap, Beyoncé’s is in Versace’s barocco print, suggesting a regal upgrade for women of colour.
She also dances in front of painting of Empress Joséphine’s coronation with an army of women. Unlike the women in the painting, Beyoncé’s squad wears nude leggings and bras, while she is decked out in diamond earrings and a Burberry check set. The lavishness of her look suggests that she’s the queen of the group (as if we didn’t already know that…), but a different kind of queen than the one pictured behind her. She is raw, strong, and sexual.
The lyrics of “APESHIT” may talk about pay equity, the Super Bowl halftime show, and the Grammys, but Beyoncé’s sartorial message is simple: Never underestimate the power of a woman. Today, women are so much more than delicate, picture-perfect subjects. They’re equals and just as qualified to wear the pants. They can be strong, yet frustrated. They can be raw and sexy. A woman of colour can be the symbol of beauty — if not, queen. Through her looks, Beyoncé is showing us that women are complex and transformative; and more that can be confined to an art easel.