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Beyoncé’s Emotional CFDA Speech Hit on Diversity and Destiny’s Child


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By the time Beyoncé stepped up to the podium to give her CFDA Fashion Icon Award acceptance speech, we were already at the point of tears. Some threatened to burst from a sartorial spot in our hearts — the glimmering pinstripes on Bey’s Givenchy suit were a stroke of genius on the part of designer Riccardo Tisci, her (Prince-inspired?) ruffled black shirt complementing the set perfectly, while her wide-brimmed hat brought us back to the first time we watched Formation, awestruck.

Then there was the ever-quotable Diane von Furstenberg’s on point introduction. She gave voice to our thoughts when she called the Lemonade singer “everything all women want to be,” adding, “The image of a woman in charge has never looked more glamorous or desirable.”

We must also credit Blue Ivy’s adorable, sassy stride up to Hammerstein Ballroom, jabbing her finger at the sky as she went, as if she was hitting the stage for a cameo on her mama’s tour.

Perhaps the element of surprise contributed to our sentimentality. The Style Icon Award was not promoted amongst the list of accolades for the evening, leading us to assume that, as in 2013, no one had been deemed worthy.

[ All the Fashion Highlights From the 2016 CFDA Fashion Awards ]

Of course, the second the Ivy Park founder got to talking, we were goners. Beyoncé’s emotional speech reminded us just how far the self-made millionaire has come and charted the importance of clothing and style throughout that journey.

She recognized her mother and grandmother, the seamstresses who clothed her throughout her earlier days and burgeoning fame. Bey brought us to a time when we coveted Destiny’s Child’s dreamy denim get-ups, not knowing what haute designer labels even meant or why they mattered (Tommy Hilfiger we were well acquainted with).

She referenced our favorite fictional symbol of female empowerment, Khaleesi, and for a moment it was as if we’d shared popcorn with Bey as we watched those Dothraki chauvinists burn.

Most importantly, Beyoncé, who’s tapped gorgeous, unconventional models like Jillian Mercado and Malaika Firth to star in her Formation tour merch and Ivy Park promos, respectively, broached the hot topic of diversity in the fashion industry. She implored her peers to use their power and talents to “contribute to a society where any girl can look at a billboard or magazine cover and see her own reflection.” But let us not dilute her words. Grab a tissue and read her full speech below, or watch it here.

“Thank you so much, Diane, for the things you just said about me. I feel so much love and I feel so proud. As long as I can remember, fashion has been part of my life. Its effect on me actually started before I was born. Many of you guys don’t know this, but my grandmother was a seamstress. My grandparents did not have enough money, they could not afford my mother’s Catholic school tuition. So my grandmother sewed clothes for the priests and the nuns and made uniforms for the students in exchange for my mother’s education. She then passed this gift onto my mother and taught her how to sew.

Starting out in Destiny’s Child, high-end labels didn’t really want to dress four black country curvy girls, and we couldn’t afford designer dresses and couture. My mother was rejected from every showroom in New York. But like my grandmother, she used her talent and her creativity to give her children their dreams. My mother and my uncle, God rest his soul, made all of our first costumes, individually sewing hundreds of crystals and pearls, putting so much passion and love into every small detail. When I wore these clothes I felt like Khaleesi. I had an extra suit of armor. It was so much deeper than any brand name.

My mother is fabulous and beautiful and she’s here tonight. My mother, my grandmother, and my uncle are always with me so I cannot fail. My mother actually designed my wedding dress, my prom dress, my first CFDA Award dress, my first Grammy dress, and the list goes on and on. And this to me is the true power and potential of fashion. It’s a tool for finding your own identity. It transcends style, and it’s a time capsule of all of our greatest milestones. So to my mother, my grandmother, my uncle, thank y’all. Thank you for showing me that having presence is about far more than the clothes you wear and your physical beauty. Thank you for showing me how to take risks, work hard, and live life on my own terms.

I want to say thank you to every designer who works tirelessly to make people think they can write their own story. Y’all are fairy godmothers, magicians, sculptors, and sometimes even our therapists. I encourage you to not forget this power you have or to take it lightly. We have the opportunity to contribute to a society where any girl can look at a billboard or magazine cover and see her own reflection. Soul has no color, no shape, no form. Just like all of your work, it goes far beyond what the eye can see. You have the power to change perception, to inspire and empower, and to show people how to embrace their complications, and see the flaws, and the true beauty and strength that’s inside all of us. Thank you so much for this incredible award, I’ll never forget this night. God bless you all. Thank you.”

[ via Vogue ]