clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Why Tiffany Haddish’s “someone bit Beyoncé” story is so enthralling

Besides the obvious.

Tiffany Haddish (L), Beyoncé (R)
Tiffany Haddish (left), Beyoncé
J. Merritt/Getty Images; Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for NARAS
Constance Grady is a senior correspondent on the Culture team for Vox, where since 2016 she has covered books, publishing, gender, celebrity analysis, and theater.

In March, Tiffany Haddish — the breakout star of last summer’s Girls Trip — gave the world a gift. She gave us some of the most entrancing gossip to hit the Internet since that time she told us all about taking Will and Jada Pinkett Smith on a Groupon swamp tour.

In a dishy and absorbing new profile by Caity Weaver for GQ, Haddish tells the world that somebody bit Beyoncé.

The time: last December. The place: the afterparty for Jay-Z’s concert in Inglewood, California. (You may recall this as the party that prompted Beyoncé to write the lyric, “If they’re tryna party with the queen, they gon’ have to sign a nondisclosure.”) The perpetrator: unknown.

Here’s what Haddish says went down:

“There was this actress there,” continues Haddish, keeping her voice low, “that’s just, like, doing the mostest.” One of the most things she did? “She bit Beyoncé in the face.”

Haddish declines to name the actress. […]

“Near the end of the party,” says Haddish, describing her final run-in with Mrs. Carter sometime later, “Beyoncé’s at the bar, so I said to Beyoncé, ‘Did she really bite you?’ She was like, ‘Yeah.’ I was like, ‘She gonna get her ass beat tonight.’ She was like, ‘Tiffany, no. Don’t do that. That bitch is on drugs. She not even drunk. The bitch is on drugs. She not like that all the time. Just chill.’ ”

Across the internet, gossip site after gossip site became absorbed with the same burning question: What kind of person would go around biting Beyoncé?

“Hold my earrings,” began R. Thomas Eric for Elle, “somebody actually bit Beyoncé and I’m about to snap.”

“To be clear,” wrote Hunter Harris for Vulture, “An actress (!) bit (!!) Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter (!!!).”

“Who the hell bit Beyoncé in the face?” demanded Kristin Correy at Vice.

In June, we finally learned the answer. In a new interview with the Hollywood Reporter, Haddish heavily implied that the Beyoncé biter was none other than Sanaa Lathan.

On one level, the reason that this story is spreading far and wide is pretty clear: Someone bit arguably the biggest star in the world on her face. That’s nuts! Of course everyone wants to know who did it!

But the story also benefits from being told by someone like Haddish, and the very specific way her celebrity interacts with Beyoncé’s.

This story puts two different models of celebrity into conflict

Haddish made the jump from working actress to movie star over the course of 2017. That means that right now, she’s at the stage of her celebrity in which she can mine enormous amounts of goodwill from reacting to her new famous friends like a non-famous normal person, like you and me.

“Ah,” you think, as you listen to her tell her stories. “I too would drive carefully if I had Will Smith in my car! I too would offer to pay for the Groupon if Jada Pinkett Smith wanted to go on a swamp tour with me! And I too would want to defend Beyoncé’s honor should someone bite her on the face in front of me, and of course I would then immediately tell the world that there are people trying to bite Beyoncé out here.”

It’s a dance we’ve seen before — remember an ascendant Jennifer Lawrence meeting Jack Nicholson in 2013? — but it’s one Haddish is extraordinarily good at. She’s a scrappy underdog, a Woman of the People, pulling back the curtain and giving us all a glimpse at what it’s like to live on the other side, and we love her for it.

Beyoncé, meanwhile, has built her fame on doing the exact opposite. She tells the world very little, and what she does say is tightly controlled. Beyoncé has not granted an interview to anyone in years. If she wants to announce something, she’ll stage an elaborate artistic photo shoot and then post it on her Instagram. Beyoncé sings about making her friends sign nondisclosure agreements. Beyoncé is an untouchable queen whose life we could never hope to understand, and we love her for it.

Part of what makes this particular story so compelling is the way it places these two very specific forms of celebrity into conflict: transparent versus opaque, relatable versus aspirational. It’s Tiffany Haddish at her most Woman of the People — of course if you see someone bite Beyoncé, you have to tell the world — and Beyoncé at her most unknowable and untouchable: Once attacked, she tells everyone around her to stand down, and then goes and slips opaque references about what just happened into lyrics she will later drop with no announcement into someone else’s song.

Plus, you know, it’s a story about how someone bit Beyoncé on the face.

Update: This story was originally published in March 2018. It has been updated to note that Haddish named Sanaa Lathan as the Beyoncé biter.