What Beyoncé's 'Hungry' Confession Means For Women Everywhere

Beyoncé, mid-Coachella performance, 2018. (Netflix/ 'Homecoming')

It happens about 48 minutes into Homecoming, the new film by Beyoncé that combines her 2018 Coachella performance with behind-the-scenes footage of planning and rehearsals. Queen Bey's voice is heard over a montage of rigorous rehearsal footage, and she sounds entirely drained.

"In order for me to meet my goal," she says, "I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol, and..."—she pauses here and sighs a very deep sigh—"I’m hungry."

It's a small moment, but the impact is enormous. Within the first minutes of Homecoming, I noticed Beyoncé's waist-to-hip ratio and wondered for a brief moment how a person could get their body back so quickly and so completely, directly after making two small humans with it. Dance must really be the best exercise, I thought to myself.

I'm sure I wasn't alone in thinking about Beyoncé's figure—her Coachella outfits were specifically designed to enhance it—even while watching one of the greatest performances on earth. Women are socially conditioned to do so, and it takes an awful lot of deprogramming to stop thinking about our bodies, and comparing them to the bodies of other women. This social conditioning means that, fundamentally, we believe Beyoncé looks like Beyoncé because she knows the best exercises.

In that one confessional, she told us what it really takes: deprivation and hunger and exhaustion.

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Moments later, on the subject of getting to the size she wanted to be for the show while raising three small children, she says: "I definitely pushed myself further than I knew I could, and I learned a very valuable lesson: I will never, ever push myself that far again.”

Beyoncé, mid-rehearsal, in 'Homecoming.'
Beyoncé, mid-rehearsal, in 'Homecoming.' (Netflix)

This peek behind the curtain is in fundamental opposition to what women of all ages are usually told from childhood: that we could look like that if only we made smarter meal plans and exercised more. That with the right protein shakes, the right gym membership, the right attitude, the right appetite suppressant, we could look however we want.

But the truth is that even Beyoncé—genetically blessed, incredibly fit, dancing non-stop since her teens—had to starve herself in order to get the body she wanted. Sharing this fact is brave; most people expect a "How I Got My Body Back" article that inevitably glosses over the truth of that gleeful moment in Homecoming when she fits back into an old costume for the first time since giving birth.

Recently, a handful of other famous women have been getting real about this as well. Jameela Jamil, in particular, has been on a high-profile mission with her I Weigh campaign. Not only has The Good Place star been asking people to appreciate their bodies, perceived flaws and all, but she, like Beyoncé, has been pulling back the curtain on what it really takes for celebrities, even the most naturally beautiful ones, to get a perfect body. (Jamil has been particularly critical of the Kardashians for endorsing a variety of non-FDA-approved weight loss products, when clearly their bodies are sculpted in other, much less easy ways.)

The day before Homecoming's release, Chrissy Teigen also took a stand on Twitter. After being called "chubby" and "fatty" underneath a post by Nancy Pelosi that featured Teigen and John Legend, the cookbook author responded "I don’t care about my weight sooooo this does not hurt."

The body positivity movement has been in full swing for almost a decade now, spurred on by social media campaigners, authors, bloggers and models of all shapes and sizes. It's been effective in helping thousands of people become more accepting of the bodies they were born with. But the truth is that there needs to be more openness about the grueling, painful and potentially unhealthy lengths that stars go to to stay thin.

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Beyoncé's personal life and image have always been tightly controlled down to the very last detail. For her to let us in on her struggle is no accident. Let's take a moment to appreciate her honesty, for it tells us just how unrealistic the expectations put on everyday women really are.

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