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Who run the (advertising) world? (Beyoncé)

A couple of weeks ago, Beyoncé debuted her new song from a forthcoming album, “Standing on the Sun” in a commercial for H&M. Earlier in the year she launched a new $50 million campaign with Pepsi, including commercials, visual ads, and limited-edition Beyoncé Pepsi cans. Of course, Beyoncé also sang at President Obama’s Inauguration and the Super Bowl Halftime Show. Oh, did I mention that she’s currently on a world tour?

Beyoncé—her music and her image—is everywhere in the media these days. And what’s more, she is in control of her image and her influence.

In an article about her Pepsi deal, the New York Times referred to the artist and her empire as the “Beyoncé Business,” and later in the article, Beyoncé was quoted calling herself “a businesswoman.” The Pepsi campaign is clearly a partnership for the artist and company, not exploitation.

In her music, performances, and business dealings, Beyoncé is one smart, savvy star. Sure, she brings sexy into her music and dance performances, however, the camera focus is mostly on her mighty voice (head and shoulders) or complex dance moves (wide shots).

Her “Love on Top” or “Countdown” music videos are good examples. Also, her songs “Run the World (Girls)” and “Grown Woman” are explicitly about female choice and power.

In a recent NPR piece titled, “The Beyoncé Experiment: How Far Can She Go?” NPR Music’s pop critic, Ann Powers, made this statement about the artist:

One of the things about Beyoncé’s saturation of every moment of our lives is that she is largely in control of it, which makes her very different than many tabloid stars. The nature of tabloid media is that it’s not in the star’s control… Beyoncé has almost completely taken command of her representation in the media, which is extremely unusual.”

I’ll admit my initial intent in writing this post was to question how much power Beyoncé really has over her media image. I thought the H&M ad pushed a Beyoncé-the-Model image rather than a Beyoncé-the-Singer one.

However, after learning more about her career decisions, I agree with NPR’s Ann Powers that overall, Beyoncé is very much in control of her media image.

My college friend Rachel, also a Beyoncé über-fan, said this to me on the topic:

“Beyoncé owns her womanhood. She’s sexy and sparkly and strong. She writes songs speaking out for all the single ladies but at the same time is not afraid to align herself alongside her hubby, Jay-Z, by naming her current tour ‘Mrs. Carter.’ I think she represents a new wave of feminism in that she’s confident enough to admit she needs a man. And the man needs her. And not just because she’s Beyoncé.”

Well said, Rachel. For further proof of Beyoncé’s media prowess, check out her 2011 MTV VMAs performance of “Love on Top” in which she announced her pregnancy, or her performance at the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show. In both instances, she owns her image as a star and a woman.

Meg Kruithoff is a recent graduate of Colby College with a degree in American Studies and a passion for women’s health and girl-empowerment worldwide. A curious, go-getter kind of gal, she plans on pursuing a dual degree in medicine and public health.

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