Vogue’s September publication is the issue of the year. The crux of fall fashion—bursting with glossy ads, the latest trends, and shiny celebrities galore. Everyone knows it’s a big deal.
Well, now they do. Because this year, Beyoncé has landed the coveted cover spot.
Until Beyoncé became part of the picture, many of the not-so-fashion-forward among us didn’t know (or care) about Vogue’s September issue, which in the past has featured the likes of Halle Berry, Kate Moss, Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lawrence.
As usual, Beyoncé is garnering unprecedented attention and standing out in an already esteemed group. Instead of pairing her cover with the expected interview, Beyoncé will be staying silent this September.
This move shouldn’t come as a major surprise. Beyoncé isn’t one to offer up the “totally relatable!” tidbits of her life in casual interviews or add her daily musings to our Twitter feeds. The New York Times reports that Queen B “had not answered a direct question in more than a year,” going on to point out “when Beyoncé does answer questions, it tends to be in writing or, for TV, taped.”
Yet in the muted year or so following the smash success of her self-titled visual album (notably released quite silently), Beyoncé’s popularity and brand power have only grown.
With an estimated net worth of $450 million and a fiercely loyal fan-base (the “Beyhive”) who will notoriously “swarm” anyone who dares besmirch the name of their leader—Beyoncé is an unstoppable force, defined by her art, style and sheer force of presence.
In a time where we’re flooded with chatter from celebrities and brands trying to relate to us, pander to us, and gain our loyalty—Beyoncé reigns not only as the ruler of the music industry, but as a brand leader, showing us that communicating a singular, distinct brand does not require noise and magnitude, but simply that you’re heard clearly, loudly and memorably.
And sometimes that means saying nothing at all.
How did Beyoncé respond to controversial footage of her husband, Jay Z, and sister, Solange, in a seeming physical altercation? By adding a show-stopping verse to her already popular number Flawless that made only the slightest reference to the event.
How has she bounced back from perceived branding failures, including the disappointing Tidal release and the over-hyped 22 Day Nutrition meal plan release?
She doesn’t have to, as the Beyoncé brand, it seems, is unshakable to the point of transcending missteps.
Beyoncé can do what others struggle to achieve. She has a premium, powerful brand in which her messages of confidence, dominance and empowerment radiate from everything she does.
Beyoncé’s not always talking to us, but we’re talking about her—whether it’s her fans, the media or other brands, we all seem to echo her strength and reinforce her persona.
In the sneak peak of the September cover story, Beyoncé is similarly defined by other brand forces, who chime in to sing her praises:
“The word diva is used for so many female performers, and it often means they have reputations for being difficult, but she exudes charm and a lovable quality.” —Marc Jacobs
“She’s the whole package: primal, rare, delicate, beautiful, and powerful.” —Stella McCartney
“There is a magnetic presence to her.” —Riccardo Tisci
Their characterizations paint a picture of a star who is both enigmatic and yet so well known; a unique presence in the celebrity landscape. Beyond these insights, Vogue grants us “a rare personal glimpse of the icon in an exclusive video,” an erotic, stylized piece with a found footage aesthetic that reads as many things before “personal.” But maybe it doesn’t need to be.
As Vogue puts it: “There’s only one September issue, and there’s only one Beyoncé.”
Despite being thoroughly on brand, the recent Vogue decision has been met with controversy and criticism (surprise!), particularly surrounding the singer’s fiercely curated and protected image. The Guardian writes that the decision paints Beyoncé as “brutally calculating, controlling and inescapably empowered,” while an IB Times article questions: “Is Jay-Z Stopping Wife from Giving Interviews?” citing “mental health issues” and strict publicity standards as the root of the cover-only issue.
It’s true; Beyoncé’s image isn’t the most natural or uninhibited. The Huffington Post points out “every aspect of the public life of the very private star is seemingly meticulously curated, from her 2013 HBO documentary to her vacation photos.”
On the flipside, many are applauding the singer’s silence as a strong statement in its own right.
Jezebel celebrates the decision, writing: “She’s a woman who knows her worth, her power, and exactly what she owes Vogue—i.e. not a goddamn word.”
In the NYT piece, “Beyoncé is Seen but Not Heard,” Yale professor Daphne A. Brooks reflects on the Beyoncé distinction: “She’s been able to reach this level of stardom in which she’s managed—in a way that I really think is unique even among other black women entertainers—hyper-visibility and inaccessibility simultaneously.”
“Hyper-visibility and inaccessibility simultaneously” are perhaps the recipe for Beyoncé’s super fandom and success. Her 49.3 million Instagram followers—more than three times her 14.1 million Twitter followers—are as good an indication as any that it’s not what Beyoncé says directly to her fans that matters.
As Margot Jefferson summarizes in a sneak peak of her think piece on the artist, “Such is the power of Beyoncé that just one letter tells us who she is. What does it take to run the world?”
For B, perhaps it’s a little silence in all of the noise—making certain she’s both seen and most definitely heard.
Vogue’s September issue hits newsstands today.
—Melissa Jarrett is a Verbal Identity consultant for Interbrand New York.