In celebration of pop star Beyoncé Knowles-Carter’s 36th birthday on Monday, former first lady Michelle Obama joined several other high-profile women and dressed as the singer did in her Formation video, which was widely perceived as being anti-police.
One Beyoncé fan account posted a photo collage to Twitter featuring Obama, tennis star Serena Williams and singers Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland from Destiny’s Child, as well as Beyonce’s eldest daughter Blue Ivy Carter, and other friends and family members.
— BEYONCÉ LEGION (@Bey_Legion) September 4, 2017
Those pictured are seen donning similar looks to that of Beyoncé in her 2016 music video Formation, with hats covering their eyes, ornate necklaces and braids.
Michelle Obama showing love to Beyoncé for her birthday is my new favorite thing pic.twitter.com/Jj9uGmkx6Z
— Philip Lewis (@Phil_Lewis_) September 4, 2017
The video is known for it’s Hurricane Katrina-related theme, and features a young black boy with his hands raised standing before a line of police. Near the end of the video, a New Orleans police cruiser is shown sinking in Katrina’s floodwaters.
The video was praised in liberal circles, with Vox saying it was a “callback to Hurricane Katrina and systemic neglect and abuse of the black community in New Orleans.”
During the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show, Beyoncé performed a rendition of the video live, alluding to the Black Lives Matter and Black Panthers movement, as well as to Malcolm X. A number of her backup dancers wore costumes perceived to be fashioned after Black Panther attire.
Following Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani criticized the production.
“I thought it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers who are the people who protect her and protect us, and keep us alive,” Giuliani said.
“What we should be doing in the African-American community, and all communities, is build up respect for police officers. And focus on the fact that when something does go wrong, OK. We’ll work on that. But the vast majority of police officers risk their lives to keep us safe,” he added.
Following widespread backlash, Beyoncé issued a statement regarding Formation.
“I’m an artist, and I think the most powerful art is usually misunderstood. But anyone who perceives my message as anti-police is completely mistaken. I have so much admiration and respect for officers and the families of the officers who sacrifice themselves to keeps us safe.”
She noted, though, that she is “against police brutality and injustice.”
In 2009, Beyoncé performed at the inaugural ball for then-President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama. She also attended the 2016 Easter Egg Roll at the White House.
In an open letter published in 2012, Beyoncé called Michelle Obama the “ultimate example of a truly strong African American woman.”
Demonstrating similar sentiments about the singer, Obama tweeted in April that Beyoncé is “a role model for us all.”
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