The Magic Beyoncé and Melina Matsoukas Form

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Beyonce, ‘Formation’
Formation (noun) – the action of forming or process of being formed.

Beyoncé understands the power of visuals. In 2013 she graced the world with an entire visual album and forever changed the way artists release music. So when she prepared Saturday, February 6, 2016, to be the day she’d return to scalp the globe with her pro-black anthem she knew she would need a video to capture the track’s grit and gutter. It would only make sense that she’d turn to Melina Matsoukas, the woman whose directed over 10 of Bey’s visuals.

While known for her vibrant colors, vintage flair, and ingenious direction, Melina does not shy away from controversy; her visuals have often either been banned or come under heavy scrutiny, but that doesn’t seem to stop the NYU and AFI alumna from creating thmelina-matsoukas-video-maven-w-magazinee most stunning videos at a time when narrative music videos seem to be declining. In her latest collaboration with Queen Bey she delves into the spirit of Southern Goth and New Orleans to bless viewers with a healthy dose of #BlackGirlMagic, #BlackExcellence, #BlackEverything.

“I got hot sauce in my bag, swag”

‘Formation’ opens with Beyoncé dressed down in a red and white calico inspired fit and black boots. She is standing atop of a partially submerged New Orleans Police squad car as the late Messy Mya states “bitch, I’m back by popular demand.” Immediately you know that what you are about to witness is unlike anything you’ve ever seen from the Beyoncé and Melina catalog. Flashes of scenes from Abteen Bagheri’s (@abteen), That B.E.A.T., give you just enough time to brace yourself before being launched into a space where the past, the present, and the future intertwine at the picturesque plantation home. Inside is Beyoncé in various Southern garb as she recites her linage:

“My daddy, Alabama. Mama, Louisiana. You mix that Negro with that Creole make a Texas Bama”

It is then that you realize Beyoncé is leading you to a place of no return. For years she has subtly distanced herself from the mainstream media that once kept her in a commercialized box. ‘Formation’ is where she breaks her silence. What we hear, and see, is a Beyoncé who is unapologetically black, who likes her “baby hair with baby hair and afros,” and her “negro nose with jackson five nostrils.” Blue Ivy Carter stands before us, her afro a glorious halo, with all of the grace and confidence that make up her celestial DNA. Melina cuts back and forth between Mother and Daughter conjuring up a spirit, a tangible feeling, so visceral and magical it belongs in a Toni Morrison novel.

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Formation’ is an homage. As Beyoncé sits in a sparse room in a corset, twirling an umbrella, pictures of her ancestors behind her, Melina has expertly woven generations together illustrating the shoulders upon which Beyoncé, Blue, and all black women stand. One of the most powerful moments is the performance scene in the middle of the home’s hallway. Beyoncé and her dancers are clothed in maroon leotards with deep necklines and dancing fiercely as Bey declares:

“I dream it, I work hard, I grind ’til I own it.”

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Amidst those walls where Bey, and crew, dance with a dominant strut are the spirits of the women who once walked those halls as servants, violently stripped of the ability to work toward any dream, let alone own it. Women who were incapable of any agency over their own bodies and sexualities. No one captures that spirit with the same poignancy as Melina who places one of the most powerful women in spaces that once existed as oppressive structures for black bodies and souls, thus, reforming the image–reclaiming power and restoring dignity to what we’ve too long been made to feel ashamed of. 

While managing to insert her signature vibrant color schemes Melina continues to push the envelope as she makes some of her boldest statements yet. As the black boy in his hoodie dances before the line of SWAT officers, and the NOLA squad car submerges, and
the graffiti demanding “stop shooting us” pans across the screen, we see Melina brilliantly tackling police brutality and the incessant violent assault on black lives and bodies. This is not solely Melina’s boldest move, it is also Beyoncé’s. For a womantumblr_o25mci3Bo51qf29nao2_500 who is so calculated  and strategic with her image Beyoncé needed a vision she could trust to handle the most controversial moment of her career with grace. Melina is who Beyoncé trusts. Time and time again these two forces prove that when combined they are nothing short of Magical.

“Ok, ladies, now let’s get in formation.”

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5 Web-Series to Keep You Laughing

Issa Rae sparked something with her Akward Black Girl series. Created out of the paucity of material that reflected awkward black girls, Issa set out to change that—and that she did. Now the producer has a book, not to mention a show due out on HBO, and a series of other internet content.

But Issa isn’t the only black woman making hilarious web content. Check out these five web-series created by, and starring, black women that will keep you laughing:

1. Clench & Release 

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“Clench & Release is an original series that follows Charla, an up-and-coming comedian, as she navigates the frustrating, clench-worthy situations that inspire her stand-up.”

Such clench-worthy events include being “chicken-shamed” by another black co-worker, snorting cocaine with a homeless man, trying to buy a Plan B pill at a pharmacy in Harlem, and explaining what a celiac allergy is to a chef at a fish and chicken take-out spot.

This web-series is created by Charla Lauriston, who is a stand-up comedian and writer for Tina Fey’s Netflix series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. By the end of season 2 you will see why Fey hired Lauriston, she’s hilarious!

Start your clentch-worthy binge here: Clench & Release

2. Downtown Girls 

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“Downtown Girls is the story of four girls, Abney, Alex, Sam and Zo, who recently graduated from New York University and impulsively decide to start a business after an over-achieving college friend pays them a visit and challenges their party, do-nothing lifestyle.”

In an attempt to “revolutionize” the way their peers party these four besties decide to create an app that locates the hottest house-party. The catch is they have to come up with over $100,000 to pay for the creation of the app, so they turn their once do-nothing lifestyle of partying into a do-the-most lifestyle where they turn their house into a club and charge party-goers for everything. ECM: everything cost money—even the amount of toilet paper one uses.

Follow the wild and hilarious journey of these four girls trying to follow their dreams: Downtown Girls

3. Ackee & Saltfish 

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“A comedy that explores the everyday interactions of the two friends. The series was inspired by the desire to capture the small, random, golden and banter-filled moments between friends”

Rachel and Olivia are two friends whose constant bickering and joking will remind you of your bestie. Plus, you can’t afford to miss the intense debate on back-bread—do you eat it or do you not eat it.

The series is created by fierce visionary, Cecile Emeke, who has black women from every side of the pond laughing.

Join in the fun here: Ackee&Saltfish

4. I Love Lucy & Bekka 

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“A comedy web series about two best friends. this is a fly on the wall experience of hanging out with them.”

I Love Lucy & Bekka will have you laughing out loud and clutching your heart at the hilariously tender moments Lucy and Bekka share in their closer-than-close friendship.

The web series is created by writer/director, Rachel Holder.

Become a fly on the wall here: I Love Lucy & Bekka

5. Vocation 

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“A twenty-something writer with 0 skills must find an occupation that doesn’t require leaving her living room.”

Serie is the twenty-something who, like many of us, is  in that interim period of trying to figure out what the heck she’s going to do with her life! Watch Serie try out several careers from actress to stylist to beat-maker.

The web-series is created by writer/actress/director Shelby Coley.

Follow Serie’s hilarious series of career changes and learn more about how not to be a LinkedIn whore: Vocation

The web continues to prove that it’s a viable place for quality, and hilarious content. Each one of these web-series and creators deserves to be supported, not just because they’re black women, but because they’re HILARIOUS!

***this post was originally published on my tumblr site.

The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl: The Book!

She brought us The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, She brought us The Choir, She just brought us three new pilot seriesand she just published a book entitled, The Misadventures of Awkward Black Girl, now available for pre-order.

Isa Rae is a woman making noise in Hollywood and the internet. Her slew of popular web-series even helped her get a gig with HBO.

Will you be reading Miss. Rae’s new book?

If you still aren’t swayed, check out her hilarious book trailer: