It's difficult to find a celebrity with a more rock-solid public image than Beyonce – remember when the president said she “could not be a better role model for my girls”? You don't get a much bigger endorsement than that. And yet as the singer herself would no doubt attest, she's far from perfect.
Here's the thing: I respect Beyonce as an artist and performer – she is supremely talented – and her philanthropic efforts are well-documented. But she's certainly not “flawless”: witness the joyful photos she took with poor imprisoned baby tigers and elephants at a Thailand animal attraction over her vacation. Guess what? She and Jay Z deserve to be chastised for this. And it wouldn't be the first time. Here are four more things Beyonce has justifiably drawn scorn for.
1. The time she accepted six figures to perform at a party thrown by the family of former Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi
Gaddafi was cited for serious human rights abuses long before Beyonce accepted a reported $2 million to perform at a St. Bart's New Year's Eve bash thrown by Gaddafi's son in 2009, an event that also hosted Bey's husband Jay Z and celebs including Jon Bon Jovi, Russell Simmons, Miranda Kerr and Lindsay Lohan. To her credit, Beyonce promptly donated the money to a Haiti earthquake relief charity once she became aware of the money's source, with a spokesperson for the singer later pleading ignorance: “Once it became known that the third party promoter was linked to the Qaddafi family, the decision was made to put that payment to a good cause.” Lesson learned?
2. The time she accepted a $50 million endorsement deal from Pepsi
People don't talk about this a lot, but I find it truly baffling that almost no one bats an eye when a celebrity endorses a product that, as noted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, “contributes to obesity, diabetes, heart disease, tooth decay, and other health problems in adults and children.” In fact, the organization even published an open letter to the pop superstar after the 2012 deal was announced, which stated in part:
“You occupy a unique position in the cultural life of this country and are an inspiring role model for millions of young people. Your image is one of success, health, talent, fitness, and glamour. But by lending your name and image to PepsiCo, you are associating those positive attributes with a product that is quite literally sickening Americans.”
Beyonce isn't alone in this, of course: the list of celebrity soda endorsers is long, from Elton John to One Direction to Mariah Carey to Madonna. But why should they get a pass when they're shilling potentially harmful products that, unlike cigarettes, are aggressively marketed to young people?
3. The time she had fashion line PMK create custom-designed wedge sneakers…out of exotic animal skins
Four animal skins, to be exact: stingray, ostrich, crocodile, and anaconda. Nope, PETA didn't like this: “These custom-made kicks come with a high price and it's paid by the various animals who were beaten and skinned alive or cruelly farmed and killed.”
I'm not a fan of PETA's shock-value tactics, but there is something a little obscene about this – and let's not forget, Beyonce has a pretty bad track record when it comes to animal rights issues to begin with (her Super Bowl halftime costume also generated controversy for incorporating python and iguana skins). Indeed, she's had her run-ins with the organization before – witness the cringe-worthy moment when a PETA rep played dirty by ambushing her at a restaurant:
4. All the times she's been accused of credit-stealing and/or plagiarizing
This one's not exclusive to Beyonce: indeed, some of our biggest pop icons play only a small role – if any – in crafting their biggest hits despite muscling their way into a writing credit. But Beyonce's biggest transgression seems to be in not giving credit where credit is due. Not only has she claimed to have “written” (not “co-written”) a number of her hit tunes with Destiny's Child despite obvious evidence to the contrary, her 2011 Billboard Music Awards performance seemed to borrow extremely liberally from a routine by Italian dancer Lorella Cuccarini – even though Bey claims to have been merely “inspired” by it.
Is it fair? Certainly not. But as OneRepublic frontman Ryan Tedder – who wrote basically the entirety of Beyonce's 2009 hit “Halo” despite receiving only partial credit – states, it's par for the course when you're dealing with a superstar: “I know there”s a long history, whether it”s Céline Dion or Whitney, of artists transcending being just artists and becoming icons. Can they demand more? Absolutely. Whether you agree with it or not, they can because they can.”
Thoughts on any of the Beyonce controversies? How do you feel about her as a public figure? Let us know in the comments.