It's Official: Beyoncé Belongs in the Smithsonian

Illustration for article titled It's Official: Beyoncé Belongs in the Smithsonian
Screenshot: Vogue (YouTube)

Last year, Beyoncé helped make history when she approved Tyler Mitchell to photograph her for the cover of the September 2018 issue of American Vogue, making the then-23-year-old the first black photographer—and one of the youngest—to shoot the cover of the world’s best-known fashion magazine in its 126-year history. In the year since, that barrier-breaking moment has spawned others, including the first cover by a woman of color photographer on any of Vogue’s editions, and most recently, Laverne Cox becoming the first transgender person to garner a cover slot at the British version of Vogue, which celebrated another first with Meghan, Duchess of Sussex as its first co-editor for the year’s largest issue.


“When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell,” Beyoncé recalled in her groundbreaking issue (in a feature penned by Jezebel’s Clover Hope). “Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.”

A year to the day of the September 2018 cover debut, Mitchell announced that his historic moment will be treated as such, as one of his portraits of Beyoncé, in which the star wears a sleeveless sequined sheath by Valentino and star-like golden headpiece by milliner Philip Treacy, is entering the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection. The photographer wrote on social media:

A year ago today we broke the flood gates open

Now I’m glad to share this picture is being acquired into the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection

“We are delighted to acquire this magnificent portrait of Beyoncé,” Leslie Ureña, Associate Curator of Photographs, Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, wrote in an email to CNN.


While the star has yet to comment on the acquisition, becoming museum-worthy is a full-circle moment for Beyoncé, as well. In 2018, the star memorably helped the Louvre break attendance records after she and husband Jay-Z filmed their “Apeshit” video in its famed galleries. No doubt the National Portrait Gallery will also see a bump, as the star’s portrait now joins those of friends Barack and Michelle Obama, Henrietta Lacks and more as a part of American history.

Maiysha Kai is managing editor of The Glow Up, host of The Root Presents: It's Lit! podcast and Big Beauty Tuesdays, and your average Grammy-nominated goddess next door. May I borrow some sugar?