Dr. Boyce: Does Michelle Obama Want Her Daughters to Be Like Beyonce?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins

A lot of conversation has centered around the growing love affair between first lady Michelle Obama and Beyonce Knowles.   Beyonce sent Michelle a very nice public letter, sharing her admiration for the first lady.  Michelle responded by tweeting “Thank you for the beautiful letter and for being a role model who kids everywhere can look up to.”

Perhaps in the spirit of hip-hop, I should have (as Reilly on “The Boondocks” would) said the words “pause” and “no h**o” before discussing how close these two women have become.  But out of respect for President Obama’s announcement in support of gay marriage, I would like to publicly banish the term “no h**o” from my vocabulary.

With that being said, eyebrows were extra arched as one amazing first lady (Michelle) has become especially chummy with a first lady in her own right (Beyonce).   One woman is married to the leader of the free world, and the other is married to the world’s most famous slum lord (did I say that?).  OK, Jay-Z isn’t a slum lord, but he is a very talented artist who goes around the world calling himself a “Ni**a in Paris,” where he even refers to Beyonce as the “b*tch in his home.”  When I get married, I don’t expect that my wife will be happy to hear that I’ve called her a b*tch in public, no matter how much money some white guy paid me to say it.

But in spite of their superstar husbands, neither of these women are Basketball Wives, whose greatest source of achievement comes from the hard work of someone else.  Beyonce has earned more than her husband Jay-Z, and Michelle would probably make a better president than Barack (well, she would at least be a better black president).

Both women are beautiful and intelligent wives, mothers, and career women.   That point is abundantly clear.

Some wonder, however, if Beyonce is an adequate role model for young women.  My friend Demetria Lucas at TheRoot.com openly questioned whether or not Michelle should be following Beyonce around the country and sending tweets of admiration across cyberspace.  I can understand where Demetria is coming from, since we can say that Beyonce did choose to marry a former drug dealer and made a song (Soldier) encouraging young girls to date dudes with “hood status” who “carry big thangs,” “make money three ways,” and “keep it real.”  That song irked me to no end, because a whole lot of brothers have died or gone to prison trying to “keep it real” over some nonsense.

But as we think about what Beyonce represents, the good clearly outweighs the bad.  She carries herself with a tremendous amount of grace, poise and civility that makes her worthy of her superstar status.  She’s not like Rihanna, seen on a blog every week smoking weed with no top on.  She’s not beating women down on television like Evelyn Lozada, and she’s living her life with dignity in a media space that loves to see black women at their absolute worst.

Is Beyonce a bad role model for black women?  I don’t think so.  The mutual respect between Michelle, Oprah Winfrey and Beyonce represents growing empowerment among women in a country where women now officially comprise the majority of the American workforce.  Michelle and Beyonce are not feminists, they are womanists.  They are proud to be feminine, accept some traditional gender roles, but command the respect that they deserve.  They know they don’t need a man, but they allow themselves to need good men in order to make their relationships work – that makes them both powerful and lovable, which is an awesome combination.

I don’t think that Michelle wants Sasha and Malia to grow up and marry their own version of Jay-Z (if Malia’s boyfriend ever calls her a b*tch, he might end up in Guantanamo Bay).  But, there are a few things that they can learn from their mother’s friends, all of whom show them a little bit of what it means to be an empowered black woman in America. That sounds pretty good to me.

Dr. Boyce Watkins is a Professor at Syracuse University and founder of the Your Black World Coalition. To have Dr. Boyce commentary delivered to your email, please click here.

27 Responses to Dr. Boyce: Does Michelle Obama Want Her Daughters to Be Like Beyonce?

  1. What does she want her daughters to have from Beyonce? She doesn’t wear horse hair weave and skin bleach…why would she want her daughters to have that?

    Beyonce gets paid for doing nothing. Why would Michelle Obama want her daughters to model that?

    • I read somewhere(a couple of years ago) there was previous conflict between mechelle and beyonce, had something to do with barrack sending a limo to pick up beyonce when he learned that she was in a crowd of supporters.

      Comes across as a political move because it will surely gain some of the young voters to (re)consider barrack as he runs again. Connecting mechelle (more likeable than barrack) to a person that a large of young voters like andddddd wallllllaaaaa you now have another vote for barrack..

    • BTW, did beyonce graduate highschool?

    • Grandma Aintee

      Now, I jussst saw you comment about Martin Lawrence saying that you could understand him wanting to end it all– & BTW I reached out to you to say that I was available if you felt suicidal. NOW, I see you over here saying Beyonce gets paid for doing nothing. Just what is really your problem… you don’t understand anything if you say Beyonce gets paid for doing nothing!! I am older than Madea and I got more insurance than Kathy Bates — I want to meet you in person & see if you really look like your picture or are you some cyber-fake wanna be with a mission to get on sites to purposely stir up some ish!!

    • When educated men and women think that women should grab their crotches, gyrate like any hoochie mommy, and act sleezy to sell a song the black community is in trouble. Beyonce acts foul and she and her husband have made millions off deviant behavior as they smile and get as much as they can. The prez and his wife show lack of values and principles when they act like they don’t know better.

  2. I also question the rationale for conisering Beyonce a role model for young girls. She flaunts around stage half naked with fake hair singing less than appropriate lyrics. I don’t know her for her accomplishments, I just don’t know why we were hold her up as someone that young girls should emulate.

  3. why would this even be a discussion?

    • Wealthylady, thank you — good point.

      But since the article is published, I have to give Dr. Boyce credit for an excellently-written and well-reasoned article.

  4. The Motown Sound!

    Hmmmm…..maybe Michelle is playing good politics….drawing in that youth vote!

    • I would tend to agree with your point about this being a good political strategy. Huge numbers of blacks folks unfortunately idolize this lady because of the glitz, cash & phony ‘gangsta’ persona. She’s got more in common with Republican greed than they know. I am sorry that Mrs. Obama did not think before speaking and realize she applauds a young woman who’s partnered with a former crack dealer who poisoned his own people, murdered his own brother at 12 to ‘protect’ his Mom,is an alleged Philly slumlord and only stopped referring to his women as ‘b*****s’ after his wife had a baby. While Ms. Knowles is no vocal threat to Ella, Sarah, or Tina, she appears to work hard the illusion of being a good singer and is a surprisingly decent actress but does make bad husband choices. Surely Mrs. Obama can find better options with black women for her girls to emulate and use to aid her husband’s campaign.

  5. Nana Baakan Agyiriwah

    If this is a ploy to gain the votes of the youth, well it is a bad one in my opinion. And if it works, it’s doubly bad, because it says the youth are superficial and do not take into account what serious business voting is. Beyonce is not a good example for young people, especially young girls, she is over sexualized and our young people need to know the difference between a sexualized role model and one with an intelligent head on her shoulders. Beyonce is a star because they decided to make her one, not based on any real talent, in my opinion. But because she is popular than she can be prostituted/used as a ploy to gain votes. I think it is outright disrespectful to use someone’s so -called “fame” to push/boost your program.
    In all sincerity, I do doubt that Mrs. Obama would want her daughters to emulate Beyonce. Mrs. Obama is an extremely intelligent woman. Rather it seems a rather low political move.
    Who knows what lurks in the hearts of men/women?? Only the shadow do.

    • I totally agree. I have given to the Obama campaign. I was very sorry to see that Michelle Obama, an intelligent person, thinks that Beyonce is a role model for anyone who cares about anything other than s*x, fame, power and money. I am debating whether to give to the President based on Mrs. Obama’s thinking. It changes my mind about her. Beyonce represents what is wrong with young Black girls. She is not educated and this is clearly evidenced by her speech and her writing ability. She gives lap dances on national TV. I don’t have anymore respect for Michelle Obama anymore.

  6. well we know that Beyonce did not finish high school just by the way she speaks!!! at times she sounds very stupid. Beyonce is a role model to a centain point.

  7. Rev. George Brooks

    Let me throw a curse ball at you. I’m wondering what Michelle and the president would say if one of their daughters grows up and decides that she, as a straight person, wants to marry a lesbian? And the question is meant for everyone else also, because while I, too, am not opposed to gay marriage, the future is going to lead to straights and gays marrying, in addition to simply gays marrying gays. So, now, what say ye about this, President and Michelle Obama, and all of you on this website ? Whay say ye if your son comes in later on and says that he’s marrying a gay dude, even though he’s straight. And straight women decide to marry lesbian women. — Rev. George Brooks

  8. I am sure the First Lady has higher aspirations for her daughters which does not include the phrase…hip hop singer and dancer.

    I wish MLK children would do more to stand out and set an example for today’s youth.

    I see big things for the Obama young ladies.


  10. I do not aim to be mean but where is the relevance? There is much going on in the black community more worthy of discussion than beyonce relationship to any one…
    Dr Boyce, your articles have been making me question your agenda, often u come across as jealous…you are an intellectual being, now teach us what we ought to learn…

    • Thanks Grandma and Valerie,

      What’s the point here Boyce Watkins? From the comments I’ve read, there are a lot of “haters” on this site. Beyonce had parents who nurtured their children’s talents. And now we have people criticizing someone who made their own way through hard work and sacrifice. I’m not a hip hop fan but I admire the fact that Jay Z went in another direction and now he’s investing his millions, I think, positively. Just because you are not a fan of Beyonce or Jay Z does not give you the right to tell Michelle Obama who to admire. Maybe she saw something special in this young lady that you’ve not had the privilege to see. When entertainers mature, the material they choose for themselves change too. What were you singing or “doing” in your twenties? Cut it out people, and go and do something positive with your lives. smh

      • RJ- I agree with your post in its entirety.
        I would go on to add that viewing someone as a role model does not and nor should it mean that- one must agree with each and every thought, choice, or action of their supposed role models. Most especially choices, and or actions that occurred before they became the person they are in the present.

        I am also of the belief that when parents, and those who are called upon to “fill in the gap” for parents – guide and shape the lives of young people do so responsibly and with tenacity, the need to look to celebs, sports figures, and those of their ilk as role models will be greatly diminished.

        Lastly, naysayers may say what they will and say what they want about Beyonce but her work ethic, and seeming never yielding dicipline- are two characteristics that more should adopt with relation to their chosen professions. They’d also do well to guide their children to do the same.

    • Role models are very relevant and any one who would question that needs to read!

  11. I am so glad to read this article as I have had the same thoughts about Michelle’s comments regarding Beyonce. Beyonce is hardly HARDLY anyone’s role model unless you want to singer/dancer/mediocre actress today. I can think of far better, more appropriate role models for young people other than Beyonce whose talent includes a lot of shaking and gyrating and singing dumb, hoodrat lyrics. The first lady started out giving credit to Beyonce for supporting the move campaign she’s started in the White House but it is farfetched to isolate Bey’s actions and decisions as role model worthy even though sadly hers are the best of many of today’s stars.

  12. How sad that a woman who should be considered an intellectual thinks that Beyonce is a role model. Beyonce:

    hooked up with a thug to further her career

    barely finished high school

    barely can give an acceptance speech

    just learned to drive recently i’m told

    is not even intelligent enough to be astute in computer technology

    how could any woman that is supposed to be intellectually superior and graduate of harvard, married to the leader of the free world, have anything in common or have any conversation with a woman who is clearly intellectually challenged???

    whose deficient? what do they have in common besides a desire to get rich? can bey speak intelligently on the economy, world politics, the euro? LOL LOL would love to hear that conversation LOL LOL maybe Bey knows more than michelle LOL LOL

  13. Okay, call me a prude, but I don’t see how anyone could call Beyonce a “positive role model.” I would not have allowed my daughter to run about as skimpily-clad as Tina allowed Beyonce to … and then to learn that Tina was actually designing the costumes??? She has a good voice and her talent should be able to stand on its own without having to turn her into a Lolita.

  14. Y!? Beyonce has not finished the 9th grade, a fact that has been proven, although she claims to have been home schooled (LIE), h**l Solange did not even finish school, and she has NO REASON not to have finished, o that’s right she had a child at 15, but still no excuse…..Michelle Obama is far from a fool, both daughters, will be full of substance, not just style……

  15. FOR WHAT!

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