In the weeks, days, hours, minutes leading up to Beyoncé‘s September 23 concert in Houston, Texas, I made sure everyone knew I was going. I wore it like a badge of honor that said, “You can’t fuck with me because I am going to the hometown stop of the RENAISSANCE World muthafuckin’ Tour.”
I would have gone to the Los Angeles birthday show, but I didn’t want to deal with traffic at Sofi Stadium after the concert. Instead, I decided to fly halfway across the country and deal with traffic at NRG Stadium in Houston after the concert.
It was worth it. Not just because of the concert but because I was returning home… so to speak. As a native Texan and a graduate from Texas A&M University, I would go to Houston often with the friends I made at college.
During my time at A&M, I started my work in community advocacy with fellow Filipino Americans to bolster the culture. Houston is a huge part of they way I connected and navigated my cultural identity. It’s home to a lot of my chosen family. I haven’t been to Houston in 14 years so I knew I had to go watch Beyoncé and reconnect with my friends — who now all have families. Times have definitely changed…and I think for the better.
Long gone are the days of drunken nights of poor life choices and emotionally immaturity. We all just want to get through our mid-life crises and go to bed at a reasonable hour.
Donning a denim jumpsuit and silver Lanvin sneakers, I attended the concert with my friends Jaimee and Christian. We had pretty good seats that provided a good suite-level view without the suite. As we have seen, Beyoncé starts the tour with ballads so that we can make room for the party later.
Adorned in a gorgeously romantic Balmain couture gown from the amazing Olivier Rousteing, she sang her goddamn heart out and when she sang “Dangerously In Love”, she took pause and made sure to acknowledge that she was in her home of H-town and that it was, in fact, “goin’ down” that night.
And it did go down that night. The RENAISSANCE concert was worth the money. It was a celebration of artistic talent, identity, love, joy, sexiness, happiness — honey, it was A SHOW. Beyoncé continues to make it clear that she is a PERFORMER. She is a ROCK STAR. And as she has pointed out, she is the BAR.
Beyoncé is a performer that only comes once in a lifetime — and that’s why I had to experience RENAISSANCE as a cultural moment in the town she was birthed. It was a phenomenal showcase of the force that is THE Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter and her fine collection of deadly sickening wide-brimmed hats.
There was an extraordinary amount of thoughtfulness about RENAISSANCE to the point where it was crystal clear that Beyoncé had her hand on every single aspect of this show including the outsized floating disco ball in the center of the arena; the gigantic “Break My Soul” horse; the wildly talented dancers; the futuristic SkyNet Terminator 2 tank that she rode in on during “Black Parade” and the “Savage Remix” Megan Thee Stallion guest performance; the “mute” challenge (Houston night #1 was pretty dope while night #2 was claimed the winner); the mirrorball-encrusted horse lifting her to the heavens as a gentle blizzard of silver confetti kissed the queen’s face during the big finale — and the fashion. My God. The fashion.
The thoughtfulness of the sartorial choices made and the elevated style of each and every single fabric worn by her and the dancers is the epitome of fashion.
She’s making fashion interesting to the masses again. Case and point: she made everyone wear their best in silver when attending RENAISSANCE and they got creative in doing so… some of it was creative and gag-worthy and some if it was… well… beautiful gowns.
Nonetheless, RENAISSANCE was all about self-expression in a safe space and as Beyoncé pointed out, the visuals are us.
From Balmain to Marc Jacobs to Diesel to Loewe to Alexander McQueen to Philosophy di Lorenzo Serafini to Valentino to Alberta Ferretti to Gucci to Del Core to David Koma to Fendi to Mugler — Beyoncé was a one-woman Paris couture show. Specifically, I enjoyed the candy-coated and graphic Pucci-clad section when she delivered a high-energy melange of get-out-you-damn-seat-and-dance energy with “Break My Soul” as well as “Cuff It”.
Without a doubt, the wardrobe of this concert is more than worthy of high praise when it comes to spotlighting modern fashion as only Beyoncé can do — but that’s just one part of this RENAISSANCE tour that has been anointing the world with an inimitable joy for everyone to share.
A queer joy to be more specific.
The world is introduced to Uncle Johnny
On March 28, 2019, Beyoncé and Jay Z accepted the Vanguard Award the 30th Annual GLAAD Media Awards.The annual award is presented to allies who have made a significant difference in promoting acceptance of LGBTQ people. The power couple have been longtime allies and of the queer community
Upon accepting the award, Jay Z celebrated his mother, Gloria Carter, who came out as a lesbian on the track “Smile” on his album 4:44. She was on hand to accept a GLAAD Special Recognition Award in 2018 for the song and the music video.
For Beyoncé, this was a moment for her to plan the seed of RENAISSANCE in our head. It was during her acceptance speech (yes, I was in the room!) when we heard more about her Uncle Johnny, a name that would become iconic in 2023.
Describing him as one of the “most fabulous gay man” she ever knew, Beyoncé said: “He lived his truth; he was brave and unapologetic during a time when this country wasn’t as accepting — witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived.”
“I am hoping that his struggles serve to open pathways for other young people to live more freely,” she continued. “LGBTQI rights are human rights. To choose who you love is your human right. How you identify and see yourself is your human right.”
Fast forward through a pandemic, a racial reckoning, an insurrection, and a new president to the release of the lead single from the album: “Break My Soul” which had everyone in a frenzy as it included a sample from Big Freedia‘s “Explode” as well as the Robin S.’s ’90s house classic “Show Me Love”, leaving the masses thirsty for more and wondering what the rest of the album would sound like. She teased us even more with the track list a week before the release — but then it leaked early.
That didn’t matter.
Upon release Beyoncé released a statement that said: “Creating this album allowed me to dream and to find escape during a scary time for the world. It allowed me to feel free and adventurous in a time when little else was moving. My intention was to create a safe place, a place without judgment. A place to be free of perfectionism and overthinking. A place to scream, release, feel freedom.”
“A big thank you to my Uncle Johnny. He was my Godmother and the first person to expose me to a lot of the music and culture that serve as inspiration for this album. Thank you to all of the pioneers who originate culture, to all of the fallen angels whose contribution have gone unrecognized for far too long. This is a celebration for you.”
With RENAISSANCE, Beyoncé, a cis hetero-identifying Black woman, embraced the queerness that surrounded her. She, followed the lead of the queer community and explored her talent, sexuality, emotions, joy, frustration, anger and beauty through the artistry if disco, house music and ballroom culture. At the same time, she gives the queer community an opportunity to join her. In the most creative way possible she simultaneously celebrates herself along with the community that created the art she performs — something performers rarely succeed at doing.
Queens in the front and the doms in the back
Let’s face it. RENAISSANCE is gay. It is a Swarovski-encrusted LGBTQ rainbow utopia of music and joy where queer people can sissy that walk, thwack that fan, limp that wrist, be their cunty selves without judgement or fear while dancing the house down boots.
With Uncle Johnny as Beyoncé’s guide and the stamp of approval of the LGBTQ community since she, Kelly Rowland, LaTavia Roberson, and LeToya Luckett uttered the words “No, No, No” on the airwaves in 1997, RENAISSANCE is not just “gay” for the sake of being gay. RENAISSANCE is part of a bigger movement where Beyoncé has used her platform as a global pop star to deliver art that is good a a form of protest — whether people realize it or not.
As a Black woman, Beyoncé is already under so much scrutiny and judgment that she does everything with intention, meaning, and a thoughtfulness that is unlike some of her peers. With RENAISSANCE, she knew that she was going to celebrate the queer community and she wanted to do it right.
In an industry that prides itself on appropriation, Beyoncé went in the opposite direction, looking towards queer icons and people to work with, to help her grow as an artist. Queer artists like musician Honey Dijon who served as the lead producer on two of the cuntiest tracks on the album: “Cozy” and “Alien Superstar”. She also worked with Kali and Syd, a former member of Odd Future on “Plastic Off the Sofa”. And in addition to the aforementioned Big Freedia, Drag Race judge and trans trailblazer Ts Madison lends her POV on the album and drag icon Moi Renee‘s underground hit “Miss Honey” is appropriately woven into the track “Honey”.
Speaking of honey, Honey Balenciaga, the member of the House of Balenciaga and Legendary alum is part of the inclusive dance corps that also includes a sickening range of talented people, many of whom are part of the alphabet mafia. Balenciaga is joined by Carlos Irizarry, Darius Hickman, Jonté Moaning, Aahilah Cornelius, Ai Shimatsu, Aliya Janell, Brianna Pavon, Kyndall Harris, Lisa Sainvil, Nerita McFarlane, Simone Alston, Trinity Joy, Jus’t Chase, Kevin “Konrete” Davis Jr., Rob Bynes, Zavion Brown, and Alannah Wilhite. On top of that we had Les Twins were doin their thing on that stage as well as dance captains Hannah Douglass and Amari Marshall. And let’s not forget MVP dancer Blue Ivy Carter.
Yes, the Beyoncé of it all is fabulous. The music is fabulous. Everything is fabulous. However, taking a step back we really see the impact that Beyoncé has besides stimulating the economy. She’s openly advocating and being an ally to the queer community, something that many people of her stature are hesitant to do.
In a time when queer people are being attacked with anti-LGBTQ legislation across the country and trans people of color are being murdered, any and all authentic allyship is welcome — and when the grandest pop star and high priestess of culture unapologetically celebrates queerness, the world will take notice.
This is not the first time Beyoncé has advocated for marginalized folks. Ever since Destiny’s Child, she’s been part of a movement to empower women — whether it was quiet or out loud. It started to become vocal with her solo career as she bolstered this sense of empowerment with I Am… Sasha Fierce and tracks like “Run The World (Girls)” from 4.
All was taken to the next level in 2013 when she surprised all of us and dropped her self-titled album. This was when she started to let her music flourish and show us different parts of her identity and self that we aren’t used to seeing.
From this, she put the pedal to the metal, releasing Lemonade, a very personal journey that celebrated all dimensions of her Blackness, unpacked her relationship with Jay Z, and advocated for a Black community that is seldom heard. She helped the Black community celebrate themselves with this album and it continued with Homecoming at Beychella as well as The Lion King: The Gift which was accompanied by the Disney+ film Black is King. And let’s not forget when she and Jay Z released Everything Is Love as The Carters.
Lemonade, Homecoming, The Lion King, Black Is King and Everything is Love were albums that came out as the Black Lives Matter movement gained traction. With the death of Trayvon Martin in 2012 (and even before that), Black people were being murdered by police at an alarming rate. After the death of Martin, we saw the murder of many others including Michael Brown, Eric Garner, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and unfortunately many more.
The aforementioned albums reflect an era of change in the world and she does it again with RENAISSANCE, amplifying queer voices and using her voice — literally — to say “don’t fuck with my sis”.
A homecoming of sorts…
Even before Beyoncé praised her Uncle Johnny at the GLAAD Media Awards, she has been serving us a movement that bolsters a trifecta of marginalized voices. First, she empowered women and then elevated Blackness to the highest of heights as it still ascends with no end in sight. Now, she does the same thing with the LGBTQ community. She reaches up and reaches back to help lift and celebrate beauty of queerness with a loving intentionality.
Texas is not necessarily the perfect place to grow up queer and closeted — especially in the ’90s and through the early ’00s. That said, it’s poetic that Beyoncé bring such a gay-ass show to a state that dehumanizes the queer community. I’ll spare you the traumatic stories about my experiences while growing up there and attending college at one of the whitest and most conservative universities. The concert was this emancipating catharsis of queer joy that I wasn’t allowed to celebrate when I lived in the state.
From the release of the album to the world tour, RENAISSANCE brings a satisfaction that I will never experience again. Not because I have been obsessively thinking about this concert since the album was released but it gave me reason to revisit who I was to make me celebrate who I am.