The venue

“Beyoncé doesn’t scowl or com­plain. She smiles. Not just with her mouth, but with her eyes – the kind of smile you can’t fake.”

Glamour (South Africa) - - Glamour Women Of The Year 2016 -

We were thrilled that Joburg’s chic Hyde Park Cor­ner played host to our GLAM­OUR Women of the Year 2016 event – start­ing at the gor­geous Life Grand Cafe, the cre­ation of 2014 GLAM­OUR Women of the Year style win­ner Maira Kout­soudakis. As for the renowned South­ern Sun Hyde Park ho­tel, where we held our lunch, it was noth­ing less than lux­u­ri­ous.

The ori­gin of trends can be as divi­sive a riddle as the ori­gin of species. But if Charles Dar­win cared about such things and were around to­day, he’d sail right up to Beyoncé and Jay Z’s mega yacht and study Mrs Carter as as­sid­u­ously as he scru­ti­nised the ex­otic crea­tures of the Galá­pa­gos.

Beyoncé isn’t so much a trend­set­ter as a trend syn­the­siser. The singer­song­writer may not orig­i­nate, but she bril­liantly rein­ter­prets and pop­u­larises. She makes it all look easy and fun. And her taste is im­pec­ca­ble.

Case in point: she said in a TV in­ter­view that the chore­og­ra­phy in her most fa­mous video, ‘Sin­gle ladies’, was in­spired by an ob­scure Bob Fosse work called Mex­i­can Break­fast that had been per­formed by Gwen Ver­don in 1969. Beyoncé, an ac­com­plished and ex­pe­ri­enced dancer, se­lects the per­fect moves – the hip pop­ping, hand ges­tures and that un­mis­tak­able down­ward-punch strut – that are ripe for trans­la­tion to a new decade. And more than 400 mil­lion Youtube ‘Sin­gle ladies’ views later, this cross-pol­li­na­tion is a proven recipe for suc­cess.

That same alchemy shows up in her fash­ion and beauty choices. And in those realms, it’s eas­ier for le­gions of women, in­clud­ing some very fa­mous ones, to check In­sta­gram and fol­low her lead.

“Beyoncé bor­rows from fash­ion, and then fash­ion bor­rows from her,” ex­plains Joe Zee, the ed­i­tor in chief of Ya­hoo Style who has dressed Beyoncé for mag­a­zine cover shoots and ad­ver­tis­ing cam­paigns. “She picks up an idea and makes it more sexy and more fem­i­nine – de­sir­able, but also ac­ces­si­ble.”

And ac­ces­si­bil­ity is the key. Beyoncé is a democra­tiser. Con­sider the so-called nau­ti­cal look. The yachts that line the har­bours of Mediter­ranean plea­sure ports are mon­u­ments to con­spic­u­ous con­sump­tion. And these float­ing palaces are of­ten dec­o­rated with eye candy who look like Bond girls in a bad mood and are dressed about as the­atri­cally. Beyoncé’s nau­ti­cal style, by con­trast, is also re­veal­ing, colour­ful, be­jew­elled and sexy. And yet it has some­thing else: it’s cheer­ful in a way that those other Euro-party looks are not. It might be ex­pen­sive, but it’s not ex­clu­sive.

Whether the trend is bronzed eyes, naked dresses, Flash Tat­toos or curly bobs, Beyoncé’s ver­sion al­ways rises to the top. So what gives her this spe­cial magic? The first an­swer, sim­ply, is joy. The world has had its fill of sullen celebri­ties. Beyoncé doesn’t scowl or com­plain. She smiles. Not just with her mouth, but with her eyes – the kind of smile you can’t fake. Rid­ing a Jet Ski off St Barts, she has the ex­pres­sion of a five year old at a party just as she catches her first glimpse of the birth­day cake.

And hap­pi­ness is con­ta­gious and per­sua­sive, which may ex­plain why pretty much ev­ery­thing Beyoncé does seems to be unas­sail­able. What other per­former could lip-synch to a pre-recorded track of the US na­tional an­them at a pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tion with­out any dam­age to her rep­u­ta­tion? Beyoncé taps into a well of ap­proval that would make any politi­cian sali­vate.

US First Lady Michelle Obama has called her “a role model and a pow­er­ful pres­ence for young girls and women all around the world.” In another in­ter­view, Mrs Obama also said that if she could have a dif­fer­ent oc­cu­pa­tion, she would be Beyoncé. And Lady Gaga has said Beyoncé “rep­re­sents the dream”.

With per­for­mances such as her song ‘Flaw­less’, which sam­ples a TEDX talk on fe­male em­pow­er­ment by Nige­rian au­thor Chi­ma­manda Ngozi Adichie – and which she in­cluded in her med­ley at the 2014 VMAS, singing in front of a gi­ant flash­ing sign that read “Fem­i­nist” – Beyoncé is of­ten hailed as a paragon and pop­u­lariser of the 21st cen­tury women’s move­ment. And while she didn’t in­vent booty­li­cious fem­i­nism,

no less an au­thor­ity than the late Betty Friedan, fem­i­nist leader and au­thor of The Fem­i­nine Mys­tique (Pen­guin Books; R330), praised her in a 2002 ar­ti­cle in Al­lure mag­a­zine.

In that story, Betty also ad­mired the in­de­pen­dence and work ethic ex­pressed in Beyoncé’s songs. When women em­u­late a fash­ion choice or hair­style or covet a Saint Lau­rent bag on Beyoncé’s lap at a basketball game, they also tac­itly em­brace the sur­real eq­uity be­hind the glam­orous im­ages. This is why en­thu­si­as­tic em­u­la­tion never seems to spill over into per­ni­cious envy.

Beyoncé’s grit and de­ter­mi­na­tion as a per­former are ev­i­dent in her videos, movies and, most dra­mat­i­cally, in her con­cert per­for­mances. At a Mon­treal show in 2013, for ex­am­ple, she moved to­wards the front of the stage to greet ec­static au­di­ence mem­bers and she was in the mid­dle of her bal­lad ‘Halo’ when her long hair got caught in the blades of a pow­er­ful fan. She tugged and tugged to free her­self and her as­sis­tants rushed over and did the same with in­creas­ing lev­els of dis­tress. For sev­eral hor­ri­ble mo­ments, it looked like her head was be­ing pulled ever closer to the fan. Fi­nally, a body­guard lit­er­ally cut her free. And through the en­tire in­ci­dent, Beyoncé car­ried on singing, not miss­ing a sin­gle note or lyric.

Now that is what Charles Dar­win would call sur­vival of the fittest.

Hyde Park Cor­ner Crys­tal Kasper and Palesa Mahlaba of The Duo Desk.

Brigitte Reeve-tay­lor Karabo Mathang-tshabuse, Mpho Mathang, Ruby Gan­giah and Kriya Gan­giah.

Jackie Burger

Kamini Pather In­side Life Grand Cafe.

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