Video Review: Beyoncé “Pretty Hurts”

In the dressing room, Beyoncé examines her face in the mirror. She runs her hand over her face, wanting to cry.

Already in her bathing suit, she sprays on butt glue to make sure nothing gets loose. She applies Vaseline on her teeth. She puts a roller in her hair. While blow drying her hair, another contestant tries to wrangle it out of her hands. A contestant looks on, disgusted. She sits on a chair, covering her mouth with a towel as she gags. Several women turn around, giving her aggravated looks.

Closing her eyes and taking a couple of steps back, she bathes herself in hairspray. She takes a look at the Vaseline on her palm and wants to throw up. It’s so gross! She throws up in the bathroom. One more pound, one more pound. She walks out of the stall, wiping her mouth, shaming herself for eating so much in the morning.

Rehearsals really took its toll on her this time. Weighing in, she can’t wait to see how much she lost. She’s sure she made her goal weight this week. However, the coordinator waves her off and she’s told to speak with a nutritionist. She raises her hands up as the coordinator measures her for the yellow gown they all have to wear. Two girls scooch their chairs away from her, not wanting to be associated with her. She slips two diet pills and then runs back into line with the other girls. The coordinator slaps her thigh and tilts her head. He tells her how to walk on the stage and then instructs her to turn. She steps back in line, her smile disappearing, feeling worse than she did before she arrived.

She watches another contestant is a pink gown struggles to tie her dress. Another contestant’s rib bones are showing while she straightens her straps. She swallows a cotton ball. Another contestant takes mascara and ruins another girl’s yellow gown. The other girl shouts “hey!”

At home, she stands around, a crown from a previous win on her head. Wearing a neutral color bra and underwear, she looks at the floor. She thinks of all the things she could be doing. She sits on the floor, by the couch, and glares at the trophies, thinking they haven’t really done anything for her really. She lies on the couch, wondering what to do. She rips off a piece of wax paper underneath her nose and then brushes her hair, trying to make sure each hair is in place.

In her gym, she works out, breathing hard, the thought of reaching her goal weight causing her to push herself even more. She moves from machine to machine. Putting her feet on the scale, she takes a deep breath and hopes for the best. She wipes the sweat off her face. Five hours and it still wasn’t enough.

She has visited plastic surgeons. She asked them what was wrong. They marked her chin and injected her chemicals to perfect her smile. She’s had chemicals sprayed over her body to achieve the perfect skin.

She peeks through the glittery curtain at the audience. She’s not really nervous. She’s performed in front of crowds. Once she hears the host (Harvey Keitel) say “Miss 3rd Ward,” she steps out from the curtain and gives the audience her best and brightest smile. The judges, with their pens ready, wait for her start. Then, she begins to sing. The audience claps and she gives the audience her best and brightest smile again. The judges take a moment and then jot down their marks.

On stage, she stares right ahead and waits. The curtain is drawn. In unison, the women walk in a circle, showing off their gowns. She is called for the personality portion. The host compliments on her a job well done. She tells him thank you. The host then asks her what her aspiration in life is. Still smiling, she repeats the question, trying to think of a suitable answer. Inside though, she thinks of how she is drowning from all the pressure. Nothing is ever enough. The question echoes in her mind. Finally, she decides to be honest. She answers to be happy.

The host greets everyone and adjusts his tie. Beyoncé does a little excited jump. She can’t believe it made it this far. She thought her answer for the personality portion would’ve sunk her. Together, she and another contestant hold hands and wait to hear who will wear the crown. It’s the other girl! She puts her hand over mouth, squealing. Beyonce claps and congratulates her with a hug. The winner waves and holds her bouquet. She stands in the corner, wondering why it wasn’t her.

Back in the dressing room, she looks into it, wanting answers from it. But it doesn’t tell her anything different. She sighs and applies on makeup. She touches her cheeks with her hands, thinking she still has time to leave. She doesn’t have to stay and put herself through this again. After crying, she looks into the mirror, her face clean and gives herself a small smile.

In her family room, she has a shrine dedicated to her beauty pageant wins. However, as she stands with her back to them, she wonders what she bought into. She grabs a tall trophy and uses it to smash the top shelf. None of it matters anymore.

On the television, footage is shown of an eight-year-old Beyoncé giving an acceptance speech at a beauty pageant. She thanks the judges, her family and says that she loves Houston. She blows a kiss to the audience.

Rating: 5/5

Amazing. Unrealistic expectations are placed on women to be young and beautiful at all times. If a woman is none of things, she doesn’t matter and will be overlooked by society. Beauty pageants reinforce the standard, continuing to be part of the problem. It has affected her over the years, skewing her thinking of herself. She can’t mess up, ever. Any unflattering photos of her have to be gone. The video places in context some of her perfectionist behavior.

   Director: Melina Matsoukas Year: 2014

 

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