Beyoncé Pulls Back the Curtain with Pretty Hurts

by Kirsten Chilstrom

photo: Allure Staffphoto: Allure StaffClad in a hot yellow swimsuit and draped in a shiny pageant sash, Beyoncé radiates perfection as she waves to the imaginary audience in her new video for Pretty Hurts--one of 17 clips she released all at once last week. This is the Beyoncé that fans know best: face, hair, smile, all buffed to a flawless perfection. Her song, though, is about just the opposite. "Miss 3rd Ward," as her sash reads in the video, is delivering the message that being beautiful is about being yourself.

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The six-minute video takes viewers behind the scenes of a beauty contest, where we see pill popping, disordered eating, and excessive exercise. All the smiling and mugging onstage is a facade; backstage, Bey is quiet and questioning in the midst of a cutthroat competition. At one point, she stands Chorus Line-style with other contestants as a man measures her waist, slaps her thigh, and calculates her weight. "Perfection is a disease of a nation," she sings.

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Whether the song is a nod to her personal insecurities, family pressures to shine, or simply an acknowledgement that society has a clouded vision of beauty, it's impossible to say. But the video's a success. Beyoncé remains every girl's girl. She may glow, but not thanks to her hair products and killer lighting; her outside is a reflection of what she has found within. The clip closes with a bare-faced, short-haired Beyonce crying out, "Are you happy with yourself?" which she answers with a quiet (and convincing) "yes." She's not saying it's impossible to be beautiful and happy at the same time; she's saying the two aren't necessarily dependent on each other. The next time you find yourself teasing your hair, putting on makeup, or stepping onto the scale--whether you're looking hot or having an off day--try asking yourself the same question.

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