American Vogue has revealed its iconic September issue, which features the legendary Beyoncé, who hired the first black photographer to shoot the cover in the magazine’s 126-year history.
While rumours circulated earlier this month that the singer had been given “unprecedented control” of the issue and all of its content, the magazine describes the issue as a “collaborative effort”. Her photoshoot is accompanied by an in-depth interview by Clover Hope in which Knowles opens up about body image, pregnancy and the experience of researching her ancestral connections to slavery.
23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell was put forward for the job of shooting the cover by Condé Nast’s creative director Raul Martinez, who became a fan of Mitchell’s work after he was chosen to produce a digital cover featuring gun control activists for Teen Vogue.
In the photographs, the singer opts for minimal makeup to champion natural beauty, and is pictured wearing a beautiful floral headdress by Rebel Rebel and a Gucci gown on one of the two covers.
For the second cover, she is pictured outside wearing a tiered red, green and yellow-striped gown and corset by Alexander McQueen.
In the accompanying interview, Knowles recalls how she was told early on in her career that she would struggle to make it onto magazine covers because “black people did not sell”.
“Clearly that has been proven a myth,” she tells Vogue.
“Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.”
The singer also opens up about the experience of researching her lineage, revealing how she traced her ancestry back to a slave owner who had fallen in love with a slave.
“I had to process that revelation over time,” she said.
“I questioned what it meant and tried to put it into perspective. I now believe it’s why God blessed me with my twins. Male and female energy was able to coexist and grow in my blood for the first time. I pray that I am able to break the generational curses in my family and that my children will have less complicated lives.”
Discussing the birth of the twins, Knowles revealed she was 218lbs the day she gave birth to Rumi and Sir, and was “swollen from toxemia and had been on bed rest for over a month.”
Knowles’ condition led doctors to schedule an emergency Caesarean section and both twins had to spend “many weeks” in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after they were born.
Toxemia, also known as preeclampsia affects five per cent of pregnant women. The condition is typically a result of the placenta not functioning as it should, or a sign that it is detaching from the uterus.
Following the twins’ high-anxiety birth, Knowles embraced her “curvier” post-baby body and put no pressure on herself to regain her former figure, instead giving herself “self-love and self-care.”
“To this day my arms, shoulders, breasts, and thighs are fuller. I have a little mommy pouch, and I’m in no rush to get rid of it. I think it’s real,” the mum-of-three said.
Knowles also touched on her relationship with her one-year-old son, Sir Carter, in the interview and how she hopes he will mature into an emotional, kind and sensitive person who is not weighed down by societal pressures and stereotypical attitudes towards masculinity.
“I hope to teach my son not to fall victim to what the internet says he should be or how he should love,” she said.