The Important Message Behind Beyoncé’s Incredible Coachella Performance

That Destiny’s Child reunion was insane, but #BeyChella was also an intentional reference to much, much more...

The Important Meaning Behind Beyoncé's Incredible Coachella Performance

by Jazmin Kopotsha |
Updated on

Bow TF down. Beyoncé just took a couple of hours to remind the world why she’s so duly referred to as the Queen and no, we are not worthy. Coachella was blessed with the performance to end all performances and while our heads are still trying to adequately process the perfection of it all, there’s a lot to unpick from the history-making headline set that took place in the middle of the Californian desert.

Over the weekend, Beyoncé Knowles-Carter became the first black woman to headline Coachella. Albeit, an accolade that would’ve been awarded a year earlier had she not been pregnant with the twins at the time, but even then, it’s also another absurdly late honour to add to the list of ‘firsts’ awarded to women of colour these days. ‘Thank you Coachella, for allowing me to be the first black woman to headline Coachella. Ain’t that about a bitch?’, Beyoncé said to the crowd.

The entire set was a reference to the specific significance of this occasion. Beyoncé used her show to give what many would argue is one of the ‘whitest’ (and most prone to the blatant parading of cultural appropriative behaviour) festivals on the planet a comprehensive education in black culture. The 26-song set was personified by the HBCUs experience, HBCU meaning Historically Black College and Universities, and it was nothing short of magical. ‘Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Beyoncé homecoming 2018’, boomed the tannoy announcement at the beginning.

Beyoncé opened with a rendition of Lift Every Voice and Sing, which is also known on the other side of the Atlantic as the Black National Anthem. A beautiful song and a powerful opening for sure, however for those aware of its roots as a poem written for and ahead of the black American liberation movement of the early 1900s, it resonated on a different level. From there, Bey transitioned into Formation, and in less than five minutes of this long-awaited headline show, we knew that we were about to witness something of Lemonade-level potency.

The audience was taken on a 100-minute musical probate, a ceremony of initiation into her HBeyCU. In true Beyoncé style, every detail dripped in intention and cultural reference. There was the 'Bugaboo' step-team who performed, and pledged, while Beyoncé changed out of her BDK hoodie and fringed, heeled marching band boots. There was the hundred-plus marching band, choir and orchestra performing in the towering, pyramid shaped bleachers. The dancers were predominantly men and women of colour, a collective that refreshingly boasted dancers of a variety of body shapes.

Beyoncé once again bound herself to the Black Panthers and the Black Lives Matter movement within the crest on the chest of one of her five performance outfits; it featured a queen, a black panther, a black clenched fist and a bumble bee. The set was sprinkled not only with hysteria-worthy guest appearances from husband Jay Z for the Deja Vu duet, sister Solange for a dance off to Get Me Bodied, or Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams for the Destiny's Child medley we've been waiting for since the Superbowl, but with the voice of Malcolm X reading his 'Who Taught You To Hate Yourself' speech. Nina Simone's 'Lilac Wine' was sampled and Beyoncé also paid tribute to Nigerian artist Fela Kuti and performed a rendition of his track Zombie.

One of the most overwhelming visual reference points was the colour scheme: black and yellow. It's significant because, yes, bumble bees (ahem, Beys) sport the same colours and, 'wahoo! Look at the extent of that Beyhive on stage', but also because its a sartorial reference that effectively holds together one of the biggest motifs of the whole performance.

The Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity was the frat that Martin Luther King Jr belonged to. Having formed in 1906, it was the first Greek letter fraternity created by African Americans and three guesses what their colours were? They were yellow (or gold) and black. A colour scheme fittingly borrowed by the first black woman to headline Coachella with a history making, HBCU themed performance, I'd say. And we know all too well that Beyoncé doesn't do coincidences.

The message of strength, femininity and unapologetic blackness was intricately embedded within every aspect of Beyoncé's history-making performance and what was clear beyond the beautifully executed journey through Bey's 20-year musical career, was that this was a celebration of years of black excellence that has long been excluded from or overlooked in the cultural mainstream (and, in this type of capacity, from Coachella).

MORE: A Moment For All Of The Destiny’s Child Outfits As Designed By Tina Lawson


The Debrief - Destiny's Child Outfits

Destiny's Child Outfits1 of 21

The Bandeau Crop Scenario

Because it was compulsory for each band member to wear a little bit of the same material on different areas of their body. See Kelly's cardi and everyone else's harem pants.

Destiny's Child Outfits2 of 21

Potent And Pink

Throwback to the era of the statement chunky belt. Hold tight Kelly for taking one for the team and donning the statement trousers too.

Destiny's Child Outfits3 of 21

One Fabric, All The Dresses

This gem was taken at the CFDA (Council of Fashion Designers of America) Awards back in 2000 and is one of the early examples of Tina Knowles' apparent love of an asymmetric hemline .

Destiny's Child Outfits4 of 21

Ladies In Leather

The VMA's afterparty called for a group ensemble too, you know. Is it a coincidence that* The Matrix* was released within a year or so of this outfit's creation? I think not.

Destiny's Child Outfits5 of 21

Power Pattern

Not quite Zebra print, not quite leopard print but hey, here's some more of that asymmetric hem action we were talking about earlier.

Destiny's Child Outfits6 of 21

Cut Out Queens

For a lesson in how to rock a mid-drift baring cut-out dress, please refer to these impeccably impractical examples.

Destiny's Child Outfits7 of 21

Committed To The Print

This look was carried right from Michelle's bra down to Beyonce's pointed toes. Dedication, or what?

Destiny's Child Outfits8 of 21

Deeper Shade Of Blue

No words. Just tassels and cowboy hats.

Destiny's Child Outfits9 of 21

Earn Your Badge

At the Nickelodeon Kid's Choice awards demonstrating how to encourage more young women to join the Girl Scouts of America. No, those outfits might not be regulation but look how many badges they have!

Destiny's Child Outfits10 of 21

Frill Me

Probably the leas matchy, matchy of the lot but we appreciate the shoe to dress coordination.

Destiny's Child Outfits11 of 21

Kira Kira Gold

Golden Greek Goddess vibes with this shiny look. Definite inspiration for the Kira Kira app of today.

Destiny's Child Outfits12 of 21

Sheer Here And There

Because was a dress worthy of a 2001 red carpet if it wasn't a little see through?

Destiny's Child Outfits13 of 21

Lemon Denim Blend

Once again Kelly's out here taking one for the team and wearing a token bit of jean across her body to continue the elaborate lemon on denim tend.

Destiny's Child Outfits14 of 21

Orange You Happy To See Me?

The orange, the blue, the tassles, the kind of leather boots? Name a bigger collaborative sartorial statement. I'll wait.

Destiny's Child Outfits15 of 21

Off White, And What?

Lets play a game of spot how many patterns and items of embellishment. These girls wear 'extra' so well and we're jealous.

Destiny's Child Outfits16 of 21

We're Still Fun But Also Mature

Here's where the trio really tried to demonstrate their individual personalities while also pretty much wearing the same thing. Never not here for Kelly's peek-a-boo mid-drift.

Destiny's Child Outfits17 of 21

All For One

And again.

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Plenty Of Purple

I know, bit of a shock to the system seeing them looking like they shopped from different racks at the same store. But if you were to lose one of them at a party they'd still be easily identifiable.

Destiny's Child Outfits19 of 21

Spot The Sequins

A little upper body glitter action to connect three actually quite different outfits? We se what you did there guys.

Destiny's Child Outfits20 of 21


This was the school talent show dream. The reality was you all wearing dramatically different spangly tops and dresses as stolen from your mums' wardrobes and getting in trouble for trying.

Destiny's Child Outfits21 of 21

You Do You And I'll Do Me

Some JLS-style colour block assignment here, as seen on the Destiny Fulfilled And Lovin' It tour.

Follow Jazmin on Instagram @JazKopotsha

This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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