Lunch with the one and only

You get to have lunch with the most influential woman (in your eyes); who is it? why? where do you go? what do you talk about?

When I first read this question, I thought about the women who have gotten me to where I am today: my mom, my grandma, my aunt, my English teachers, Angelica Pickles. As much as I love those women, I don’t think they’re the reasons I describe myself as a feminist. Another woman did that for me.

Beyoncé Knowles.

I would have lunch with Queen B because she was the first person who made me proud to be a woman.

Living in a paradigm that tells young girls they need to weigh a certain amount, wear certain types of makeup, say certain things, like certain activities, and act certain ways can be incredibly poisonous. I often felt like I was a doll that society could poke and prod as it pleased.

I used to get out of the shower and hide my body beneath a towel. Looking into the mirror, I would see my face and think, “this face doesn’t belong on this awful body.”

Reflecting on that self-shaming makes me incredibly sad. I was a product of society. I was a product of media messages, teasing in school, and my own misinformed framework of what it meant to be a girl.

I’m not going to transition here by saying that “Bootylicious” taught me to accept myself. There haven’t been any songs I’ve heard that allow me to do that (though “Single Ladies” was pretty close). The reason I believe Beyoncé is the most influential woman is because she gave me hope that self-acceptance is possible.

Recently, my good friend Grace Birnstengel wrote an article for The Wake (page 14) about Miss Knowles. In it, she writes about the cult of Beyoncé, and what she represents for young women. Grace brings up some important points about B creating modern-day feminists just by embracing her strengths, and spreading the message that it’s all right to be a woman and be proud of it

Back to lunch: we’d go to a trendy French restaurant, maybe Salut Bar Americain on Grand Avenue in St. Paul. I would make sure she orders the pommes frites, and let her know that they’re the best fries in the Twin Cities. I’d also highly recommend the crème brûlée, because it’s my favorite dessert.

While we eat, I would let her know that her documentary made me go through 50 shades of every emotion imaginable. Between seeing her endure a miscarriage to becoming Sasha Fierce, I felt like I was watching my best friend, not some superstar that I’ll never meet.

An especially pertinent point I would want to talk about is her concept of fate. I live life by the theme that ‘everything happens for a reason.’ In the last ten minutes of the documentary, B lets the world know that she feels that way too. Realizing that a woman, whom I idolize for her looks, personality, talent, and ability to get Kanye West to make an ass out of himself on national television, feels the same way I do about what happens in life was the most powerful experience I’ve ever had. I felt like she was living proof that bad times are necessary for the good ones to matter.

In the documentary, she discusses how hard it is to be an independent woman in today’s world. She says, “Ultimately, your independence comes from you knowing who you are, and you being happy with yourself.” I would ask her when she discovered this to be true. After I heard it, I realized that my happiness cannot be reliant on what others think of me. I’m the only one who has to be with me all the time—therefore I’m the only one who has to be happy with who I am.

I would ask her what type of world she wants to see little Blue Ivy grow up in. What changes does she want to see? What does she hope will still be the same?

I would ask her what the hardest thing is about being an influential woman. Is it the constant pressure to be conscientious of everything she does? Is it the demand to be the brand ‘Beyoncé’ without gaining the label of ‘bitch?’ Is it competing with Michelle Obama for most likable woman in America? Whatever it is, I would ask her how she copes with it. I imagine that however Beyoncé copes with issues would be a technique I want to try.

And at the end of our lunch when we’d break open the crème brûlée, I would thank her. I would thank her for letting me know that it’s possible to be a woman and love yourself. Thank her for teaching me that even though kids in elementary school thought it was their job to make me feel bad about the way my body looked, everything happens for a reason. Those kids made me who I am today, and though I might not be Beyoncé, I’m someone who is learning how to love myself. That’s a gift that I can’t thank her enough for.

Finally, I would thank her for making “Love on Top,” because there is no other song in the world that truly makes me want to dance.

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