Did Solange Inspire Beyoncé's Vogue Power Play?

Did Solange Inspire Beyoncé's Vogue Power Play?

A dive into Tyler Mitchell's connection to the more subdued Knowles sister.

A dive into Tyler Mitchell's connection to the more subdued Knowles sister.

Text: SAMUEL ANDERSON

On Monday, Huffington Post reported what many have speculated: For its September issue, Vogue will grant cover star Beyoncé total control over the feature, which will not include an interview and will be shot by the portraitist of Beyoncé’s choice—23-year-old Tyler Mitchell.

Whatever your thoughts on Queen Bey’s omnipotence, Mitchell’s humanistic portraiture will mark a departure for the 126-year-old magazine classical glossy aesthetic. It also marks a departure for Knowles herself, who has never publicly worked with Mitchell, and whose tastes tend to skew hyper-femme. Mitchell, on the other hand, opts for the unvarnished and experimental, telling the New York Times last year that he “depict[s] black people and people of color in a really real and pure way.” While Knowles is no doubt a proponent of black representation, her choice in the hip photog still begs the question: Could this selection be the work of Beyoncé’s younger and indie-er, yet mysteriously powerful, sister Solange?

Mitchell’s Instagram reveals that he is likely friends with Solange, or at least runs in the same young cognoscenti as she does. In April, Mitchell photographed Solange’s interdisciplinary dance piece Metatronia, which was performed at L.A.’s Hammer Museum and featured student dancers from Cal State—but no Solange. There is, however, photographic evidence that Mitchell and Solange have met: a 2018 campaign for Mercedes-Benz that Mitchell shot featuring Solange, the Met’s Kimberly Drew, and model Slick Woods—who is a frequent subject of Mitchell’s, thus providing further evidence that Solange the likely conduit between Beyoncé and Mitchell.

That theory would support the notion that, since the Proud Family theme song, Solange has been the driving force behind Beyoncé’s artistic cred. After all, it wasn’t until Solange self-released her single 2012’s Losing You that Beyoncé doubled down on her own creative control, releasing her surprise self-titled video album the next year. Solange, meanwhile, joined an artistic vanguard, from her musical partnership with Dev Hynes of Blood Orange to her fashion collabs with Opening Ceremony’s Humberto Leon, who designed her wedding cape. Her take on fashion and style, emphasizing museum-like accessories and up-and-coming designers—ushered in a cerebral, ornamental take on fashion—one favored by Mitchell and his peers.

While Beyoncé may always be the alpha sister, Solange’s true impact seems most apparent whenever art-house Beyoncé emerges; did Solange’s esoteric tastes inspire Beyoncé’s Palomo Spain moment? Did her Telfar-styled performance at the Guggenheim foreshadow Bey setting the “Apes**t” video at the Louvre? Who can say? But Beyoncé’s media-disrupting selection of Mitchell seems to be the latest evidence that Solange has even more power than previously thought.

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