You don’t need a PhD to know that Beyoncé is fabulous but, according to one London academic, it helps. Madison Moore is a postdoctoral research associate in King’s College London’s English department, and he’s delivered a public seminar on ‘How to be Beyoncé’ at leading universities across the country.
The lecture includes advice on how to replicate Beyoncé’s success in your own life and explores the star’s relevance in popular culture, drawing on Moore’s research in performance, race, queer and media studies. There are also elements of a drag show, but that’s all Moore will reveal on the talk itself – “I like to keep elements of surprise,” he says. Students at Oxford and UCL have recently been treated to a performance, and Moore told The Tab that he plans to be involved in UCL’s Yoncé Appreciation Society.
Moore says that Beyoncé is not to be sniffed at as an unintellectual subject. “I’m all about taking popular culture seriously,” he says. “I believe you can take any pop cultural text and open it up and see what’s happening on the inside. If you look at Beyoncé’s performance, it teaches us a lot about how we consume music, and how we relate to pop culture, celebrities and the music industry.”
Moore’s research involves archival research and hours in the library, as well as focusing on street culture and contemporary events. “I want to be able to write things and communicate ideas in a way that my family and my grandmother can understand,” he says.
The 31-year-old academic has been following Beyoncé since she was in Destiny’s Child, and points out the word “bootylicious” is now in the Oxford English Dictionary, following the pop group’s song of the same name.
“We take it lightly but black women’s bodies have long been criticised for having too much backside,” says Moore. “I like to talk about how that song’s resonance goes back through hundreds of years of history – in the 1800s a South African woman named Saartjie Baartman was put on display and sent around Europe as a carnival attraction because she had huge breasts and a huge backside. She was put on display for her weirdness, as a way of saying, ‘Look at what’s wrong with black women’s bodies, they’re so grotesque’.”
Tips on how to be more like Beyoncé include focusing on her work ethic and perfectionist nature. “You have to believe in yourself and your product and put in everything you have to make it work,” says Moore. “Talent is great but it’s the work that keeps you going and keeps you exciting.”
Moore has personal interest in Beyoncé as a “living pop legend” and sees her as the contemporary equivalent of Elvis or Michael Jackson.
And at the root of his studies is a basic appreciation for Beyoncé and her talent. “She’s a diva,” says Moore. “And I like divas.”