If you woke up early to watch last spring's royal wedding and have been feverishly reading up on the Duchess of Sussex's New York baby shower, you're in good company: Beyoncé and Jay-Z appear to be fans of Meghan Markle, too.
On Wednesday evening, the couple received a Brit Award for Best International Group for their summer 2018 collaboration, "Everything is Love." They weren't present at the London awards show — but the message they sent in to accept their award may be even better than the alternative.
In the video that aired at the awards show, Beyoncé and Jay-Z are standing in front of a painting by American illustrator Tim O'Brien of a steely-eyed and very queenly looking Meghan Markle, decked out in a diamond crown and elaborate necklaces, slightly smiling. After giving their thanks, they turn around to gaze at the portrait. The camera lingers on their backs, letting us know the portrait deserves their time and attention.
O'Brien told HuffPost Canada that he painted the Duchess's portrait for the cover of the Summer 2018 issue of The Key, a sorority magazine published by Kappa Kappa Gamma. (Because Meghan had been a member, her royal wedding made the cover, naturally.)
"I wanted this piece to seem timeless, thus the aged look to the colour and costume," he said in the email. "But I also wanted her to look just as she is, with freckles and her lovely long hair."
"I would imagine Meghan has seen it as she's a member of that sorority, but I'm sure she's had a busy year."
He added that maybe the Carters would buy the piece — which he noted with a winky face is still "for sale."
The clip is a nod to their video for "Apes**t," which involved the Carters shutting down the Louvre to film in front of some of the most world's most-celebrated pieces of Western art. In a shot quite similar to the one from the Brits, the "Apes**t" video ends with the two of them, both wearing pastel-coloured suits, in front of the Mona Lisa. They hold that pose for a while before eventually turning to look at the painting.
When the video was released, art historian Alexandra Thomas told Time that its setting at the Louvre represented "an embodied intervention of Western Art."
"In a way, Beyoncé is exploiting/marketing her blackness as creativity — as a kind of weapon — within and against the very Eurocentric system of culture and consumption from which she has benefited," art history professor James Smalls said to Vox of the video.
The Vox piece also points out that Beyoncé has frequently used recognizable art in her work, from the Botticelli references in her birth announcement to the goddess iconography in her 2017 Grammy performance. And in his song, "Picasso Baby," Jay-Z implicitly compares his wife to the Mona Lisa.
Beyoncé's "Formation" video and her "Beychella" performance have been described as significant visual representations of a black aesthetic. And much has written about the significance of a biracial woman like Meghan Markle entering the previously lily-white English Royal family.
On Instagram, Beyoncé congratulated Meghan on her pregnancy, and wrote that in honour of Black History Month, "we bow down to one of our Melanated Monas."
"A millennium of world-shifting encounters—of violence and of romance and of acts in between—produced this scene," Doreen St. Félix wrote of the royal wedding in The New Yorker.
"There is new pressure on the Duke and Duchess of Sussex — who take their titles after the first and only Duke of Sussex, who supported abolition — to liven up the monarchy's reputation. The hunger for a cordial kind of racial harmonizing is strong. I know Markle feels that burden."
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