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The Queen Returns

Local fans speak about Beyoncé’s legacy ahead of her Houston concerts.

Beyoncé (Facebook)

When Beyoncé released her Renaissance album last summer, the girls, gays, and theys rejoiced! Queen Bey brought ballroom culture, a disco vibe, and old-school glamour front and center with her latest chart-topping feat.

The superstar’s Renaissance World Tour World Tour comes to NRG Stadium in Houston on September 23 and 24—complete with sickening outfits, stunning visuals, a levitating disco ball horse, voguing, and mind-blowing choreography and vocals.

Beyoncé has always rooted her art in Black joy and heritage, and her most recent projects have focused heavily on Black cultural influences and African American history. With Renaissance, the Queen pays homage to queer communities of color, and specifically those from the Harlem ballroom scene, whose essence, choreography, vocabulary, and fabulosity have influenced generations of performers, including herself.

The album is rich with queer references, as well as features and samples of Black LGBTQ artists and culture makers. Ts Madison, a trans advocate and social-media star who has been a rotating judge on RuPaul’s Drag Race, is featured on the song “Cozy” with the spoken phrase “I’m dark brown, dark skin, light skin, beige, fluorescent beige. Bitch, I’m Black!” Big Freedia’s song “Explode” is sampled at the beginning of “Break My Soul,” gay R&B artist Syd co-wrote “Plastic Off the Sofa,” and samples from underground drag legends Kevin Aviance and Moi Renee are included. A host of other Black queer artists also had a hand in influencing the album.

One name that is checked in the track “Heated” is that of Beyoncé’s gay cousin, who she affectionately refers to as “Uncle Johnny” as she sings, “Uncle Johnny made my dress, that cheap Spandex, she looks a mess.” In an Instagram post, Beyoncé’s mother, Tina Knowles, explains that her nephew Johnny loved house music and introduced it to Beyoncé and sister Solange at a young age. He is also credited for inspiring their “sense of style and uniqueness.”

Beyoncé paid tribute to Johnny at a 2019 GLAAD award presentation, saying “I want to dedicate this award to my Uncle Johnny, the most fabulous gay man I have ever met, who helped raise me and my sister. Witnessing his battle with HIV was one of the most painful experiences I’ve ever lived. I’m hopeful that his struggle served to open pathways for other young people to live more freely.”

Johnny’s legacy and impact will be felt throughout NRG Stadium when Beyoncé comes home to perform this month, bringing his story to fans of every gender and sexual identity. 

A few members of Houston’s LGBTQ community spoke with OutSmart about Beyoncé’s impact on their lives, and what they’re anticipating most about the concert event of the year.

Damion  Tolliver
(He/Him), 29, 
Digital Marketing Strategist

Damion Tolliver (Photo by Cameron Perry)

What is your earliest memory of hearing Beyoncé, and how did it impact you?
My earliest memory of Beyoncé is so vivid. I was at my grandparents’ house in a country town in Louisiana called Clarence. My aunt, who is ten years older than me, was a big music lover, and we bonded over watching videos on BET. I’ll always remember seeing the Destiny’s Child “Bills, Bills, Bills” video for the first time. Although I heard the song on the radio many times, I was blown away by her voice and beauty. I’ll never forget I was singing word for word, and trying to do the run at the end of the song. In that moment, I was a fan, and over time my love for her grew stronger.

Which song are you most looking forward to hearing her sing at the concert?
Since the Renaissance album dropped, I’ve been connected to “Virgo’s Groove” from the moment I heard the funkadelic beat. No matter the tempo, I’m a sucker for a good love song. I’m a Scorpio through and through, but this song makes me wanna be a Virgo for the six minutes she’s blessing us with her vocals. The way she describes her love for her partner, and how she wants to experience this sexual bliss with him and to be high on his love, is a place I always want to be. Plus, her vocals were top-freakin’-tier. You can hear the passion in her voice in this song. You can tell that she had fun creating this record. I wish I had been in the studio when she recorded it!

Are you planning to wear anything special for the concert?
I’ve been thinking about my outfit since Renaissance dropped last year. I’ve had many ideas, but I finally settled on this Grace Jones-inspired outfit. I’ve always been inspired by her androgynous spirit and wanted to channel that in my outfit with sequins and sparkles.

“Beyoncé has taught us to not limit ourselves, and to shoot for the stars.”  —Damion Tolliver  

As an LGBTQ Houstonian, what kind of influence do you think Beyoncé has had in the community?
Beyoncé means so much to me as a member of the LGBTQ+ community. Watching her grow into her career has been a beautiful journey. She has taught me to embrace everything that makes me unique. She has taught me to embrace the highs and lows of life. She represents empowerment, self-acceptance, and fierceness—the archetype of someone in this beautiful community. Her music has been a message of self-acceptance and love, and has taught us to not limit ourselves, to shoot for the stars, and to push through all of life’s troubles while promoting love, understanding, and equality.

Do you have a favorite Renaissance lyric or song?
There are so many lyrics that speak to my soul. But I would say my favorite lyric is when she’s belting out “You’re the love of my life” on “Virgo’s Groove.” It sends me into this trance of love that I never want to leave. I want this song to be played at my reception whenever I get married so I can look my man in his eyes and sing, “You’re the love of my life.”

Any special plans to celebrate Beyoncé’s homecoming this month?
My friends and I will be having a Renaissance pre-game to make sure everyone is prepared to be on Mute and have the “Heated” lyrics and fan-clicking correct.

Zach West
33, Program Manager at Bain & Company / Co-Founder at for the people.

Zach West (Photo courtesy)

Have you seen Beyoncé perform live before?
Have I? Yes, I went to The Mrs. Carter World Tour, the Formation Tour twice, On the Run I & II, and the Renaissance World Tour twice (as soon as Houston hits).

What is your earliest memory of hearing Beyoncé, and how did it impact you?
My earliest memory of Beyoncé is going to see Destiny’s Child at the Houston Rodeo. Something about that performance was so electrifying for me, and really started my love of Beyoncé.

Are you planning to wear anything special for the concert?
I wanted to find a way to highlight the Renaissance album and showcase my hometown. I partnered up with local Houston artist Layne Stitch to create a one-of-a-kind Renaissance-inspired jacket that will be the focal point of my outfit.

As an LGBTQ Houstonian, what kind of influence do you think Beyoncé has had in the community?
Beyoncé is known for using her platform to advocate for inclusivity, equality, and acceptance. Take the songs “Formation” or “Cozy”—they both resonate with me as a Black queer man because the lyrics promote empowerment and pride. She is an artist that understands how to effectively show allyship by including people in her music videos and performances who identify similar to me. I appreciate that she is not afraid to send a message of acceptance and celebration.

Do you have a favorite Renaissance lyric or song?
Favorite song on the album has to be “Heated”! I mean, that outro? My other favorite would be “Church Girl.” I’ve had the personal experience of struggling with the expectations and norms within a Baptist church, particularly in the context of how the “Black church” identity is perceived and imposed on others. It can feel challenging and isolating at times. It took me a while to understand that spirituality and religious beliefs are deeply personal, and every individual’s relationship with their faith should be respected and valued. “Church Girl” is a reminder to me as a preacher’s kid that I can maintain a strong spiritual connection while also embracing my authentic self, without fear of judgment from others. Then to top things off, the Clark Sisters sample—chef’s kiss to Beyoncé!

Israel Cruz
(He/Him), 32, 

Israel Cruz (Photo courtesy)

Have you seen Beyoncé perform live before
I’ve seen Beyoncé three times. My all-time favorite concert would be the Formation World Tour in 2016.

What is your earliest memory of hearing Beyoncé, and how did it impact you?
My earliest memory would be around 1999 when The Writing’s on the Wall album was released. “Say My Name” is one of my favorite songs. I used to have a Hit Clips that played the song “Independent Women” when I was younger. I also hope nobody forgot that Beyoncé sang the theme song for The Proud Family on the Disney Channel.

Which song are you most looking forward to hearing her sing at the concert?
I’m most excited to hear the song “My Power.” I think the song does an amazing job of embodying African culture and being proud of that African heritage. I’m also hoping that Blue Ivy joins her onstage and leaves zero crumbs with that viral dance.

As an LGBTQ Houstonian, what kind of influence do you think Beyoncé has had in the community? 
Renaissance is essentially a love letter to the queer community. Not many artists would take a risk like this, considering it comes with major potential backlash. It’s important to have public figures like her to celebrate our community.

Do you have a favorite Renaissance lyric or song?
My favorite song from Renaissance would be “Cozy.” I interpret the song as [a call to] be confident as a member of the LGBTQ+ community, even after most of us receive daily hate over our sexual preference. I love Verse 2 specifically, where she pays homage to the Progress Pride Flag by naming all of the colors shown on the flag [that represent] everyone from our community.

Any special plans to celebrate Beyoncé’s homecoming this month?
I share the same birthday, September 4, and the same hometown, Houston, as Beyoncé, so I am treating this as a delayed B-Day Twins celebration. My go-to pre-concert activities include brunch with friends and then a Happy Hour prior to arriving at the venue.

WHAT: Renaissance World Tour
WHEN: September 23 and 24
WHERE: NRG Stadium

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Zach McKenzie

Zachary McKenzie is a marketing professional and freelance writer in Houston, TX. He received his bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin in 2014 and has lived in Houston since. Zachary is a volunteer with Big Brothers Big Sisters and enjoys spending his free time with friends, exploring the richness and diversity of Houston.
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