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Beyoncé's Lemonade: Is Rachel Roy "Becky with the good hair?"

Beyoncé's video for "Sorry," a song on her visual album Lemonade.
Beyoncé's video for "Sorry," a song on her visual album Lemonade.
Alex Abad-Santos is a senior correspondent who explains what society obsesses over, from Marvel and movies to fitness and skin care. He came to Vox in 2014. Prior to that, he worked at the Atlantic.

On Saturday night, following the HBO premiere of Beyoncé's second visual album, Lemonade, the world went to bed not knowing if they would ever learn the true identity of "Becky with the good hair."

According to a verse on Lemonade, Becky was the other woman who the love of Beyoncé's life was cheating with.

During both her solo career and her years as a member of Destiny's Child, Beyoncé's music has often referenced the trifling, perhaps fictional, humans who have wronged her — from the man who would would max out a young Bey's card, give her bad credit, and buy her gifts with her own ends to the hater who said she couldn't breathe without him to the man who showed his ass and became the best thing Beyoncé never had. But those songs, like many other pop songs, have always stopped short of identifying the foolish or confirming if those people even existed.

Initially, it seemed that Becky and her good hair would be one of those amorphous ghosts — a placeholder for the wrath of Beyoncé's fans' ire, a cipher whose sole purpose is to be a lightning rod of anger, a universal punching bag.

But, just as Saturday night was starting to bleed into Sunday morning, something funny happened.

Becky might have revealed herself.

What did Becky with the good hair do to Beyoncé?

The lyric in question. (Beyoncé/HBO)

Becky and her good hair are integral to Lemonade.

The album's first four songs and videos depict a howling, scalding rage, setting the bones for everything that follows. The narrative is that the love of Bey's life — the implicit message is that it's Jay Z, but more on this in a bit — cheated on her and lied to her, and she found out.

"You remind me of my father, a magician, able to exist in two places at once. In the tradition of men in my blood," Bey recites during the "Intuition" video vignette.

At the center of the maelstrom is the other woman, the mistress, the side chick. And that woman is addressed in "Sorry," the fourth song on the album, as "Becky with the good hair."

Bey sings: "He only want me when I'm not on there. He better call Becky with the good hair."

It's a throwaway diss, and Beyoncé is actually doing "Becky" a favor by putting her into a witness protection program of sorts. She's not dragging Becky through the mud. She's not making her a target of the Beyhive, Beyoncé's loyal fanbase. But we know that she's someone we shouldn't like because even though she apparently has good hair (which could also be seen as a throwaway diss and/or a commentary on how smooth, straight hair is considered desirable and attractive), she is a person who didn't respect Beyoncé's marriage and caused her pain.

To be clear, Beyoncé is pretty ruthless toward Jay in the song, even if she doesn't name him directly; she's much more harsh to him than she is to Becky. Beyoncé isn't just blaming Becky, but she's also making it clear that Becky isn't some innocent bystander.

Did "Becky with the good hair" reveal herself?

In the hours following the Lemonade premiere, fashion designer Rachel Roy posted an interesting update to Instagram. Attached to a picture of herself and a friend was the caption, "Good hair don't care, but we will take good lighting, for selfies. or self truths, always. live in the light #nodramaqueens":

Rachel Roy. (Instagram)

The phrase "Good hair don't care" might as well have been written in fire. Roy posting that line to the internet and her thousands of followers was like a person jumping into the lion's den, but only if said person was wearing a vest of ribeye steaks and bacon underwear.

To the casual observer, Roy and Bey's shared usage of "good hair" might be a coincidence. But there's much more to it than that.

Who is Rachel Roy? And is she Becky?

Roy is probably best known for being a fashion designer who's made multiple appearances on Project Runway and appearances on Keeping Up with the Kardashians. Unless you're into fashion or reality television, you probably have no idea who she is.

But to faithful members of the Beyhive, Roy has been floating around in Beyoncé's orbit as a second-tier villain for the last couple of years.

Roy's origin story with music's most powerful couple begins with her stint as an intern at Jay Z's clothing line Rocawear after she finished college (around 1996). According to Teen Vogue, she worked in every department, and eventually worked her way up to become a creative director.

This plays into Roy's role in the Great Elevator Fight of 2014, when Beyoncé's sister Solange infamously attacked Jay Z while the two shared an elevator after the Met Ball.

Make no mistake, Roy wasn't in the elevator when everything went down. But her existence may have spurred Solange's attack on Jay.

Everyone knows what happened in the elevator.

Leaked security video of the fight — which showed Solange attacking Jay Z — went viral online. And Beyoncé later addressed the incident in the remix to her song "Flawless," where she talks about shit going down when there's a "billion dollars in an elevator."

But there's a secondary story from that same night that never received as much attention: Solange had a run-in with Roy before she got into that fateful elevator. At the time, US Weekly reported that Beyoncé got involved, but it wasn't clear what was said or why the two fought. Later, The Daily News reported that Solange fought with Jay because of Roy and Jay Z's working relationship possibly becoming more.

"Rachel is a little too close to Jay Z," the Daily News's source said. "Solange doesn’t like it, and Beyoncé doesn’t like it."

Meanwhile, Wendy Williams connected the dots and alleged that Roy and Jay may have had a sexual relationship when she was an intern at Rocawear, suggesting that something like a flirty look or a greeting that was a little too comfortable set Solange off at the Met Ball party:

Fast forward to 2016 and "Becky with the good hair," and this theory that Roy is Becky begins to make sense. She has pretty hair that looks nice, which she touts as her most remarkable feature. She wrote a message about said hair hours after Beyoncé's Lemonade premiere. She used some of the same phrasing Beyoncé used to describe said hair. She has prior drama with the Knowles family. And if Lemonade is seen as Beyoncé addressing that fight and the rift with her relationship with Jay Z, then everything about Roy being "Becky" locks into place.

What's more uncertain at this point is why the spirit moved Roy to post that Instagram picture with that caption. Was it a cry for attention? Does she have bad friends who encouraged her to do it? Is she not of sound mind?

Rachel Roy feels the sting of the Beyhive

Beyoncé's Beyhive didn't waste any time in dragging Roy. They began responding to the picture, so much that Roy flipped her Instagram account to private. Her Wikipedia page was also changed, referring to Roy as "Rachel Roach," or a "Dusty Side Hoe that died under a lemonade stand."

There was even some spillover to celebrity chef Rachael Ray's social media mentions because of their similar names and because people were not too familiar with Roy.

Amidst the internet fury, Roy tweeted an odd message that appeared to be about Lemonade, her Becky connection, and her haters. Rather than directly deny having an affair with Jay Z, she instead made a declaration about how despicable bullying is:

She's right. The internet hate was ugly and obscene. The attacks were uncalled for.

But still, Roy didn't explain why she used the phrase "good hair don't care" in the first place if she didn't want the glare of the Beyhive upon her. Before Roy's Instagram post, no one knew who Becky was nor was anyone really thinking about Roy. And now everyone was.

How much of Lemonade is autobiographical?

The most shocking thing about Lemonade is how blunt and raw its songs and poetic interludes are. Beyoncé talks about her father. She talks about the love of her life. She talks about how both of those men have hurt her with their dishonesty and infidelity. There are points where the album is so unapologetically uncomfortable that it becomes this sublime piece of art.

But the thing about Beyoncé is that she has never been known for being an open person. In fact, in this age of leaks and social media, she's managed to keep everything a secret. Look at Lemonade — no one knew what to expect when it premiered on Saturday night after being announced just a week or so before, just like no one knew she was going to drop her Beyoncé album with no prior marketing or promotion in 2013.

When it comes to media access, Bey's reputation is that she doesn't give many interviews. In 2015, the New York Times published an analysis of Beyoncé's media presence (or lack of one), noting that though she was on the cover of the September issue of Vogue — the holy grail of magazine covers — she didn't grant the magazine an interview. The New York Times reported:

At some imperceptible point around 2013 to 2014, she appears to have stopped giving face-to-face interviews. A member of her team told a reporter in May that despite numerous appearances, Beyoncé had not answered a direct question in more than a year. Her publicist declined to clarify this stance. (When Beyoncé does answer questions, it tends to be in writing or, for TV, taped.)

It's fascinating that the biggest pop star on the planet is the most private one. It's also incredible that Beyoncé has such a full handle on her image.

Everything is seemingly on her own terms.

That's led to this idea that we never get the "real" Beyoncé. Vulture's Nitsuh Abebe examined this criticism in 2013, explaining that people see a machine instead of a human when they look at Beyoncé:

Here, after all, is a criticism one hears of Beyoncé qua pop star: that she is "flawless" in an empty, dutiful way. That beneath the warrior-queen ­performances and public togetherness, there lies a robot. Or, if not a robot, then something like the kid who’s been so pressured and trained to master a skill that he lacks any kind of feeling beyond his perfect technique—a well-schooled, imposing blank.

If you expand this theory — that everything Beyoncé touches is constructed by Bey and her team — it puts a different spin on her personal life. Everything we think we know about her life is something she wants us to know. From the sexual ecstasy expressed in the songs on Beyoncé to the fight in the elevator to the visceral pain in Lemonade and Becky's good hair Instagram post — it's all part of her grand design.

I'm not quite sure how much of that theory I buy. But if it's true, then I'll admire the skill needed to pull that off instead of being miffed that I fell for it.

Lemonade is no exception. It's Beyoncé's most personal album yet. That's why everyone was so shocked to hear the words spoken and sung about Jay and her father. But only Beyoncé knows how much of it, if any of it, is authentic.

Her version of the story is the only version of the story.

And that she doesn't owe or give anyone an explanation about which parts are real, that she doesn't have to make her life and her art more helpful for our understanding, is much more intriguing than any side chick she's singing about.

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