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The Celebration of Life for Kobe & Gianna Bryant

Source: Kevork Djansezian / Getty

Yesterday, people were surprised to see that Beyoncé opened the memorial service for Kobe Bryant with a rendition of her song, “XO” and “Halo.” There were no announcements about who would or wouldn’t be there and it was a welcomed surprise for many. And for the first few minutes of the service, her song-choice, look, hair fan etc dominated the national conversation about the service.

Today, media outlets are reporting that Beyoncé barred photographers from taking pictures of her during the performance. Page Six reported that an event insider said this about the singer’s request.

“It is so offensive to Kobe’s family and the fans, Beyoncé is so controlling of her image—she usually only allows approved selected images of her to be released—so no photographers at the Kobe memorial were allowed to take her picture. Really, at a memorial? Not even the family of Michael Jackson did that.”

An employee of the Staples Center was tasked with making sure not a single camera was snapping. The source said, “This doesn’t help Beyoncé’s image at all, it hurts her. It makes her look like a diva. The memorial wasn’t about her. The only shots of Bey that did emerge were screen grabs from TV. None of the other artists at the memorial asked for this, not Christina Aguilera, not Alicia Keys.”

Beyoncé does have a history of ensuring that unflattering pictures of herself are not paraded around the internet. For example, in 2013, her publicist Yvette Noel-Schure asked BuzzFeed to remove images of Beyoncé during her Super Bowl performance from their article “The 33 Fiercest Moments from Beyoncé’s Halftime Show.”

We should also note that Kobe’s other daughters who were in attendance were not photographed during the memorial.

When I initially saw this news, I didn’t think too much of it either way. Aside from the fact that whoever dropped dime on Bey Bey was in their feelings. I don’t think asking not to be photographed will reflect poorly on her image or reputation.

When I looked in the comment section, I found another perspective. Beyoncé does have the right to determine how her image will be used. And there is no question that if photos were taken of her during the ceremony they would be sold for profit, meaning in a moment of grief for herself and other people mourning Kobe and Gianna’s death, would be used as profit for a news organization. And perhaps that didn’t feel right for her. That makes sense to me.

The outrage at her decision shows just how much her image is worth and as a human being, she has the right to determine not only how it should be used but who will profit from it. And it’s not lost on me that professional photographers—mostly White men— would take issue with a Black woman exercising her own bodily autonomy. There’s a history of that. And Black men are still trying to catch up to a powerful, Black woman getting her way.

Since Kobe’s passing, there have been a few people expressing their thoughts about what is best for Vanessa Bryant and her children. Snoop is doing it. The people defending him are doing it. And now, anonymous sources are claiming to know the specific behaviors that honor or dishonor Kobe’s legacy and his surviving family members.

It’s all a bit presumptuous and doing exactly what Beyoncé might have been trying to avoid— taking a moment meant to celebrate Kobe Bryant and his daughter’s life and turning it into a conversation about “diva” behavior.

You can see the reactions to the story on the following pages.

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