Beyoncé is one of the most influential entertainers in a generation, but hearing her direct thoughts outside of her music is an increasingly rare event. As she gets more and more powerful, the performer has shied further and further away from publicity and the press, giving precious few interviews. Recently she even denied an interview to Vogue, despite being on the cover.
But in an interview for Elle's May 2016 issue, Beyoncé granted some rare perspective on some contentious topics. While she mostly discussed Ivy Park, her new athletic fashion line in collaboration with Topshop, she also revealed her perspective on feminism and her controversial music video for "Formation," which inspired criticism that she's anti-police — topics that, until now, had only been the subject of speculation.
Beyoncé on the "Are you a feminist?" question:
Asking celebrities whether they are feminists has become a favorite pastime for reporters of late, and Elle didn't pass up the opportunity to ask Beyoncé whether her decision to emblazon the stage on her last world tour with the word FEMINIST means that she, too, is a feminist. The answer came down to, "Pretty much":
I'm not really sure people know or understand what a feminist is, but it's very simple. It's someone who believes in equal rights for men and women. I don't understand the negative connotation of the word, or why it should exclude the opposite sex. If you are a man who believes your daughter should have the same opportunities and rights as your son, then you're a feminist.
...Working to make those inequalities go away is being a feminist, but more importantly, it makes me a humanist. I don't like or embrace any label. I don't want calling myself a feminist to make it feel like that's my one priority, over racism or sexism or anything else. I'm just exhausted by labels and tired of being boxed in. If you believe in equal rights, the same way society allows a man to express his darkness, to express his pain, to express his sexuality, to express his opinion—I feel that women have the same rights.
Beyoncé on "Formation" being "anti-police":
When her single "Formation" came out, the music video gained immediate attention not only for recalling the government's lack of response to Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans, but for blatantly calling out police brutality against black Americans. Her subsequent Super Bowl halftime performance of the song was simultaneously celebrated and criticized for its radicalism, depending on whom you talked to.
Speaking to Elle, Beyoncé confirmed that she was trying to make a statement, but refused to accept the label of being "anti-police":
Anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken. I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of officers who sacrifice themselves to keep us safe.
But let's be clear: I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me. I'm proud of what we created and I'm proud to be a part of a conversation that is pushing things forward in a positive way.
For more on Beyoncé's inspirations, goals, and thoughts on high-waisted leggings, you can read the full interview at Elle.