What celebrity power looks like in 2014
Forbes released their annual list of the 100 most powerful celebrities last Monday and reigning champ Oprah was toppled - by Beyonce. According to Forbes, it's not just about Queen Bey's earnings this financial year -- all US $115 million of them -- but the 'influence and impact' she has in both mainstream and on social media.
But here's what's interesting: on her current 'On the Run' tour with husband Jay Z, (who ranked at number six - not too shabby) Beyonce screened parts of their engagement and wedding for concert-goers. You know, the secret wedding that was so private back in 2008 that Jay Z denied to the press that it happened; the same wedding that Beyonce refused to discuss in interviews. In fact, she refused to discuss their relationship at all, telling Essence magazine in August of that year, '[Not speaking] controls your brand ... and kind of forces people to talk about what you want them to talk about."
As if to fuel such speculation, Beyonce tweaked the lyrics of Resentment at Wednesday's concert in Ohio, leading the interwebz to believe she's either A) passive-aggressively calling out her husband's infidelity in front of the world or B) passive-aggressively trolling fans. Or both. Or neither. Because she did just post happy family snaps on Instagram and oh look! It appears she has another HBO special coming up.
Whichever way you look at it, it's clear that the curtain around her ultra-private marriage has been lifted and what's left has been fashioned into a deeply lucrative brand. Even before this brouhaha, her single, Drunk in Love, the explicit narrative of which is that after too many glasses of plonk you - SHOCK - have intercourse with your husband, has reached platinum.
The self-proclaimed 'God of Rap' has yet to comment on how he feels about having his swimsuit area denigrated to the role of SURFBORT.
But why now? It's not about money - the couple have, uh, enough. It's about intrigue on a mass scale. Which translates simply into POWAH, silly! Don't you read Forbes?
Celebrities are just like us in that they're sensitive creatures who enjoy vaguebooking. Or should that be Vague-gramming, because Instagram is now the hottest place to build your brand. Look at the success January Jones has enjoyed on the medium - and then look at how quickly that shattered when she posted a throwback of her modeling days that drew accusations of racism. Look at Selena Gomez, or Rihanna who both announced their controversial relationships were back on and then off by posting pics.
What's fascinating is when celebs draw a line, like, say around their relationship, and then, when there's a power shortage, they draw another one. Take Gwyneth Paltrow, who said time and again you'd never hear about her marriage. And then she went ahead and announced her conscious uncoupling from Chris Martin on her money-leaking blog,Goop.com and posted Instagram pics of herself still wearing her wedding ring.
Few of us are immune to this. When we post on any social media platform a curated snapshot of our lives, or a self-pitying vaguebook post, we tell ourselves we are posting to our friends but we are really answering the call of the inner critic. The part of us that tells us that no matter who we become or how many hot selfies we take or cute kid pics we have, (or in Bey's case, however many sonogram videos we screen on HBO docos) we are still never quite good enough. 'Both self-critical and self-soothing/self-protective thoughts make up the critical inner voice' says Psychologist Lisa Firestone. 'While not all of these thoughts are critical, they ... sabotage our realgoals and wants, while preventing us from finding meaning in life.'
Now, Queen Bey, who had 'unflattering' pics of herself from the Superbowl removed from photo agencies, who has gone to desperate lengths to let us know she's firmly in control of her Hot! Sexy! Maybe broken? But still crazy-in-love! marriage; what of her own inner critic?
This desperate need to be seen as perfect, or, if a crack shows, to let us know she knowsyou know, tells us that the most powerful celebrity in the world does not really feel powerful at all. She might even feel a little needy.
Celebrities as demi gods in our culture, we pursue happiness according to what they drip-feed us on the old instagram. But the trick of it is, they need our gaze, because it is our craning necks that silence their own inner critics - albeit temporarily. And Queen Bey has an inner critic that likes control. Hey, success doesn't come without a few unrelenting standards.
But, come sit with me now in this circle of serenity and dare to dream of a list of celebrities who understand personal power. Well, we'd have to give that #1 slot back to Oprah, a woman who has stumbled in several areas, (let me know when we can talk about John Travolta, Opes) but perhaps knows for sure that real, sustaining power comes from within. If you need proof, look no further than her 'mum style' photos on Instagram. I mean the 60 year old must feel more secure than most.