And for two minutes, the news was not about Donald Trump.
On the first day of Black History Month, in the wake of President Trump’s ignorant and tone-deaf speech honoring the month-long event and rising from the ashes of a scorched-earth first week of his horrifying administration, is our Lord and Savior Beyoncé, with glad news and, finally, a reason—or two—to smile about the future.
Posing adorned in a mosquito net refashioned as a veil in front of what appears to be a funeral arrangement of flowers (someone sprung for the “deluxe” bouquet) in a J.C. Penney portrait studio—and still somehow looking fabulous—Beyoncé shared the news with her fans: “We would like to share our love and happiness. We have been blessed two times over. We are incredibly grateful that our family will be growing by two, and we thank you for your well wishes.”
The public—and by public I of course mean “people I follow on Twitter”—have treated this news like manna from heaven: tasty, nourishing morsels of hope, beauty, and optimism for a population starving in the arid desert of executive orders, despotic bans, and consistent threats to civil rights.
Like Beyoncé is going to let her babies grow up in that kind of world.
It is of course utterly ridiculous (and perhaps, admittedly, even a little sexist) to assign political motive to the timing of a woman’s pregnancy. Yet here we are in a bubbling hotpot of culture and politics where everything carries with it at least a semblance of political symbolism, meaning, and context.
The fact that Beyoncé is expecting? It’s like a deity announcing she will be gifting us an offspring. When Beyoncé is expecting we all are expecting, and in a time of turmoil that also means, finally, expecting a little joy in the face of what’s seemed like a deluge of awful.
As women’s rights, the right to choose, maternity leave, and access to reproductive health and services from Planned Parenthood all become war-cry issues in the new administration, the fact that the most famous woman in the world is pregnant and could, should she choose to, speak on all those matters from a very personal space is huge.
(Plus, there are the optics and other observations to make, for example Gráinne Maguire’s excellent tweet: “Sad that there are more black people in Beyoncé right now, than in Trump’s entire cabinet team.”)
The fact that she announced while baring her exposed, protruding, natural baby bump? It’s a middle finger—two teeny, tiny middle fingers, actually—to conspiracy theories at a time seemingly ruled by conspiracy theories: Fake news! Alternative facts! Opposition party!
With one photo, Bey is basically suffocating your past conspiracy theories about her previous pregnancy with a pillow.
That goddamn pillow.
Let’s Beyoncé-strut back in time to Ms. Knowles-Carter’s first pregnancy, with the now-5-years-old Blue Ivy Carter. A vital fixture in her mother’s life and career, poignantly appearing in her Lemonade film, this gorgeous little girl was once considered part of a meticulously orchestrated ruse.
I swear to Oprah that at least once a month—and who knows how it comes up—I hear someone squawk with baffling authority: “And you know Beyoncé faked that pregnancy.”
As Gawker (R.I.P.) outlined last spring, “The No, No, No Baby Theory essentially boils down to three pieces of evidence: 1) the shifting stomach 2) the shifting due date and 3) the dearth of pregnancy photos.”
Any conspiracy theorist worth his or her salt could easily cook up justifications for their theories.
She’s vain! Bey had been open about a previous miscarriage; perhaps they were adopting but she wanted the world to think she carried the baby herself. Jay cheated! To save face she’s pretending the kid is hers. Her dad cheated! Matthew Knowles fathered a child with another woman and Bey agreed to pretend it was her own so that her family could save face.
The most damning evidence that Beyoncé was faking her pregnancy is a sequence of screenshots taken after an appearance she made on Australian television. Defying the laws of physics and biology, a very pronounced baby bump while Knowles was standing seemingly folded in on itself as she leaned over to sit. Not only that, but parenting blogs were quick to point out that the ease and manner with which she sat is atypical of the strain and care a woman would take at that stage of pregnancy.
Was the baby bump merely a pad?
That the timeline and size of the belly never seemed to add up when Beyoncé spoke about her pregnancy—or was photographed—added fuel to the rumors. When Bey addressed the speculation in her self-directed documentary on her own life and greatness (I’ll pause for your eye-roll), she did so with photographs of her bare belly that were arty and blurry, leaving theorists to wonder: if she was going to combat the rumors, why do so in such an unconvincing way?
Then there’s the fact that she and Jay Z paid an ostentatious amount of money to literally close down and close off the floor of the New York hospital she “gave birth” in, prohibiting anyone from entering the delivery area and, if you believe in conspiracies, preventing them from seeing that it wasn’t Knowles who gave birth.
It’s hard to pinpoint the origin of these kinds of things—sort of like searching for the brownest turd in a cesspool—but the rumors did multiply exponentially, spreading like the plague after reliable Patient Zero of such garbage, The Daily Mail, did a big write-up on the Australian TV appearance.
Is it worth mentioning that The Daily Mail is notoriously right-wing? We’re discussing unsubstantiated and irrelevant claims, so why not! The reason it’s worth mentioning: the right-wing is the frequent source of the most outrageous conspiracy theories about Beyoncé that have been cooked up.
(Among the best are from Infowars and Alex Jones, an advisor to Trump, who is convinced that Beyoncé is on the CIA’s payroll, and her mission is to create cultural mayhem with her songs, music videos, and performances. Imagine him going apeshit over the “Formation” Super Bowl performance.)
2011, when Beyoncé was carrying Blue Ivy was, in hindsight, a much simpler time.
Who could’ve foreseen, just five years later, the ways in which whispered suspicions and baseless theories would be amplified, taken for fact, and have lasting, dangerous consequences? How the truth would be helpless at the mercy of the loudest person in the room stating falsehoods? And, too, the role the media would play in disseminating and parsing out falsehoods, which it failed to do with these widely circulated conspiracy theories?
And, maybe, too, how good vindication feels. How sweet it must be to seize back control of the narrative. To prove your strength, even though you know you don’t owe that to anyone.
For Beyoncé, this pregnancy comes on the tail end not just of conspiracy theories, but also seemingly endless rumormongering about the end of her marriage to Jay Z. Reports reached a fever pitch after Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, attacked Jay in an elevator at a Met Gala party—maybe out of anger over his gossiped-about infidelity?—and then broke the thermometer when Bey rather explicitly called out his cheating in Lemonade.
After not only weathering whatever went on behind closed doors, but also the gale-force winds whipped off the incessantly spinning rumor mill, the image on Beyoncé’s Instagram Wednesday morning is one of personal resilience.
No pillows here. No divorces. But a ton of meaning.
The biggest superstar in the world has been, in recent years, notoriously silent. Yet she has, slowly, not only started to be vocal, but to actually speak out. She and Jay Z have quietly donated tens of thousands of dollars to bail out protestors jailed during Black Lives Matter demonstrations. The mothers of Trayvon Martin, Mike Brown, and other black men killed unjustly appeared in Lemonade. Just before Election Day, she gave a rousing speech endorsing Hillary Clinton.
There’s power in Beyoncé raising two more young black children in today’s world, and what she will choose to say about it. Will she be political? Will she become more explicitly vocal about women’s rights, mother’s rights, civil rights?
At the very least we can be thankful that, at this crucial time, there will be two more little ones ready to get in formation.