I spent a lot of the past year thinking about Beyoncé. As editor of a new collection of essays about the pop superstar, it was actually my job. I was a Beyoncé fan, but not a fanatic. But over the course of a year, my esteem and admiration for her grew exponentially. She is so much more than an incredible singer, a stunning dancer, and a woman who seems to embody the Diana Vreeland quote, “It’s not about the dress you wear, it’s about the life you lead in the dress.” Beyoncé is a change agent, a thinking woman’s woman, and a powerful example of a creative who is constantly evolving. Here are five things we can all learn from Beyoncé—regardless of our age.
1. There’s a Reason They Call Her Queen Bey
She’s not yet 40—so not yet NextTribe age—but I love the way Beyoncé has always embraced the joy and power of being a “Grown Woman.” She’s called “Queen Bey,” I believe, because of the way she embraces her hard-earned wisdom and how she’s spent decades honing her gifts. She started out as so many teen stars did, with her father as her manager, but slowly she took control of her career and her finances.
In unprecedented ways, she began creating albums in secret, with full creative control and dropping them out of nowhere.
Then, in unprecedented ways, she began creating albums in secret, with full creative control and dropping them out of nowhere, without any of the usual publicity roll-outs—just music and videos, straight to her fans. She spoke in the Life is But a Dream documentary about the importance of albums, fully realized creative works, that function as a whole as opposed to the heat-seeking single. Then she reimagined everything an album could be, first with Beyonce, then with Lemonade, then most recently with the album she recorded with her husband, Jay-Z, Everything is Love. As Marianne Williamson wrote in a A Woman’s Worth, “A queen is wise. She has earned her serenity, not having had it bestowed on her but having passed her tests. She has suffered and grown more beautiful because of it. She has proved she can hold her kingdom together. She has become its vision. She cares deeply about something bigger than herself. She rules with authentic power.”
2. The Meme is True: You Have As Many Hours in A Day as Beyoncé
It’s so easy to say that other people have it easier. They have more control of their schedule, they have more money and more help. But I like this meme because I think we all have to decide what means so much to us that we can find the time. I totally get what it means to be tired. The other day I was standing in a too long shower line at a Soul Cycle, knowing that I had 15 minutes to shower and get to a meeting, and I literally felt like Danny Glover in those old Lethal Weapon movies. I could hear the chorus of “I’m too old for this” in my head. But that feels like the choice I’ve got to make, every day: do I want to channel Danny Glover feeling old or the Beyoncé goddess within? I try to choose Beyoncé. Better to choose the workout than the much craved time on the couch at the end of the long day. I can feel so many things pushing at my efforts to be stronger, fitter, happier—I have less energy and my metabolism is slower than ever, but when I turn on Beyoncé, I’m reminded that I can choose the energy with which I approach a long day, and by shifting my energy, I make stronger choices.
3. Beyoncé Is Honest About How Hard Marriage Is
No one can ever know what goes on behind closed doors, in any marriage. But from Lemonade to Everything is Love, Beyoncé bravely counters the fairy tales about relationships. In the song LoveHappy, Beyoncé sings, “You did some things to me, boy you do some things to me/But love is deeper than your pain and I believe you can change.” Every time I hear that song, I’m reminded of all the times I’ve been hurt in my marriage and how hard and slow it was to make changes.
She is a woman whose marital path has been openly a struggle.
It’s not the kind of conversation I ever had with other women in my 20s. It’s the kind of conversation I rarely have with women in my 40s. I love that my nieces and my daughter look at the biggest pop star in the world and see a woman whose marital path has been openly a struggle. I remember at my own wedding shower an older friend telling me that my husband to be isn’t perfect and that no man is.
Beyoncé’s willingness to stay in her marriage, after the patina of the fairy tale has worn off, is a powerful model of how we can go through our pain. Just watch the video for Hold Up—it’s one of the rawest, most powerful statements on marriage I’ve ever seen. In our house, among the girls and women I love, her music is a springboard for all sorts of conversations that might not have naturally happened otherwise.
4. Part of Staying Youthful is Keeping Up Our Tolerance for Failure
I see this a lot. I see it in the women around men, and I feel it in my own life. We get older and we lose our tolerance for failure. We think that things aren’t happening for us because we’re older (Hello? Someone ask Glenn Close to break this down for them.) But the truth is, the ability to accept failure is a youthful quality. A tolerance for failure translates into risk and reward. As Beyoncé said when she dropped her song Flawless, “You can actually work super hard and give everything you have and lose. It was the best message for me. The reality is, sometimes, you lose. And you’re never too good to lose. You’re never too big to lose. You’re never too smart to lose. It happens and it happens when it needs to happen.
5. Nobody Sings Life-Lesson Anthems like Beyoncé
I’m old enough to remember making mix tapes in junior high and later burning CDs for my then boyfriend/now husband. I love a good Apple Music playlist, but I often feel I’m too busy to sit down and make a curated playlist. I’m not alone in this. I actually spoke to a woman the other day who regularly does a two-hour commute, sans tunes, because “who has the time?” But here’s the thing, music hasn’t changed that much since we were younger, and really nothing freshens up your favorites like a Beyoncé song.
All you need is the inspiration to keep moving.
Didn’t get the job? Online dating at midlife turning out to be a horrible drag? Try mixing in Beyoncé’s “Best Thing I Never Had” with your favorite Joni Mitchell/Aretha/Bonnie Raitt. Need to re-address your New Year’s resolutions? Try “Run the World (Girls)” or “Formation.” Looking for a song to make you walk with a little bounce, even if the only runway you’re walking in the next week is down the aisle at the supermarket? Try “Shining” or “Top off the Maybach.” And if you need some inspiration to keep it moving—literally and figuratively—check out this video of Beyoncé’s mom, Ms. Tina Lawson, dancing on a yacht. Miss Tina is 65—and amazing.
Veronica Chambers is the editor of the new anthology, Queen Bey: Celebrating the Power and Creativity of Beyoncé Carter Knowles. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram @vvchambers.