Besides the phenomenal writing, imagery, and meaningful messages behind the visual album of “Black Is King”, it’s also a wardrobe masterpiece. Beyoncé has always uplifted Black empowerment through her costumes on tour and her daily wardrobe. Zerina Akers, her longtime stylist, doesn’t stray from this plan. Beyoncé is seen in looks from African and Black designers that show the range of the Black American culture and African Diaspora. Zerina also pulled major wardrobe pieces from houses like Burberry, Valentino, and Mugler.
Beyoncé, Zerina and her team seamlessly pull together outstanding fashion looks that coincide with the meaning of the film and tell the story of the classic movie, “The Lion King”. It also symbolically pays tribute to African culture, as well as Black American culture through textiles and traditional silhouettes. From the outfits to the designers, and the journey Simba takes through life, we broke it all down song by song.
We start this journey with Beyonce in a Wendy Nichol look. Nichol is famously known for designing the infamous “Drunk In Love” beach dress. This white organza dress portrays a calm, peaceful look. This is also where we are introduced to the representation of braids all throughout “Black Is King”.
During this scene, we see the “birth” of Simba. The ritual of bathing a baby in water can be seen in Black culture as being baptized. While in African Culture, bathing a baby in water also represents the same thing. Both practices mean a new life or a new beginning.
“Find Your Way Back”
In this video, Zerina stated in an Instagram Live that she wanted to represent the stars during the scene of Simba losing his father. Zerina and her team capture that perfectly through clothing. Beyoncé is in an all-black catsuit designed by D.Blue.Dazzeled, a black American designer. She also pulled Laurel Dewitt accessories, Lace by Tanaya, and a stunning Area Dress. Each piece shines against an all-black background.
“Don’t Jealous Me”
Simba in the den.
Visually, we are taken somewhere dark and Simba is somewhat lost. This is where Simba runs into Scar and his crew, as well as Rafiki quoting one of his most famous lines, “who are you?”
One of the many symbols we see during this video is the use of gold. Gold can be seen as an adornment in the Black and African communities. Each community has a special relationship with gold. It not only represents wealth and luxury but also power and royalty within the community. L’Enchanteur jewelry can be seen throughout this video.
Throughout the film, Zerina also gives us a lot of color representation. This was made apparent in the video for “Nile” with the all-white church scene. The color white is also a heavy representation throughout the film. We revisit the concept of having white represent mourning. Zerina stated on Instagram live that she wanted to highlight how when someone dies, a piece of you dies with that person. As we continue on “The Lion King” storyline, we see this is also when Simba meets Timon and Pumbaa, which leads us into “the good life”.
“Mood 4 Eva”
The Representation of “the good life”.
Zerina stated that Beyoncé wanted to do an “over the top of opulence and decadence” for “Mood 4 Eva”. They seamlessly achieve this with over the top styling and art.
Beyoncé is not only wearing a robe designed by Zerina and Ducki Confetti Pajamas, but she also pulls in other black designers like the Alon Liven’ white gown during the chest scene. This video features Levenity with the floral jacket and Kujta Meri for the leopard dress. She can also be seen in Erdem Moralıoğlu’s during the garden scene, and in Alejandro with a deep blue gown.
One of the most stunning scenes was the synchronized swimming choreography. Beyoncé wears a custom Solace London swimsuit. This scene did not only pay tribute to the classic song “I just can’t wait to be king”, but also challenges the stereotype that Black people can’t swim.
“Ja Ara E”
Beyoncé shines in a custom Valentino catsuit for the “Ja Ara E” video. Leopard print is a textile that is heavily worn throughout the black community.
In “The Lion King” storyline, we now see Simba enter into adulthood. The film pays homage to Black culture as we see extravagant cars doing “donuts” in a parking lot. However, we also see Simba is being challenged with who he as and his role.
The focus for the “Already” video was towards Hathor, the Egyptian goddess. Hathor is seen with horns with a circle between them. She is the goodness of the sky as well as women, love and fertility. Therefore, when Beyoncé wears an all Burberry cow print look and has the horns on her head, she is paying tribute to Hathor.
Besides tying in representation, Beyoncé wears Marine Serre in a crescent moon bodysuit, and Loza Maleombog in a custom black and white jacket. Matching these prints with the African dances creates modern energy. We also see the gold adornment reference come back into play.
Through the execution of designs from 5:31 Jérôme, Zerina was able to pay tribute to Nigerian strength with a traditional Gele look with luxurious lace. We also see Beyoncé take part in crowd celebrations with everyone in “royal” looks. This symbolizes the fact that we are all kings and queens.
In the Africa Diaspora, walking to get water is still apart their daily routine. In the “Water” video, Zerina wanted to capture the daily mood of this task. We can also see Pharrell Williams performing his part of the song on top of water jugs.
Beyoncé is wearing an archived Mia Vesper piece, Mary Kartrantouz pink tulle, Michele Stark elongated jeans and Alon Liven. Directly after this, you see the storyline has now caught up to where Simba and Nala are reintroduced.
“Brown Skin Girl”
For one of the most powerful songs of the soundtrack, Zerina challenged the stereotypes facing Black and Brown women. The stigma these women face is that they are more tolerable of pain, which leads to higher death rates in the medical field. Another stereotype is being overly sexualized, meaning young, Brown girl’s bodies are subject to unwanted attention. Therefore, Brown skin women have been deprived of innocence since slavery. By putting them in pastel colors, she portrays the innocence of Brown skin women.
The wardrobe during this scene is just as powerful as the undertone. Designers like Azeeza, Keäma, and Alessandra Rich are styled for “Brown Skin Girl” on a wide variety of Black female celebrities. Beyoncé is also seen in a beautiful BIRIMA houndstooth printed gown by Tongoro.
Simba and Nala
Back to the storyline, Simba is now reunited with Nala and ready to go back home. During the wedding of Simba and Nala, the set design pays tribute to traditional African culture. We are then brought back to modern-day Africa and a celebration of marriage.
For this video, we are brought back to the basket we saw floating down the river in scene one, which is a direct reference to the Bible story of Moses. Here, Beyoncé is seen in another custom Alon Livné garment.
In the storyline, we are taken near the end where Simba gets a message from Mufasa and prepares for his fight with Scar.
Another ritual we see during this scene is women painting their hair red. This practice of using Red Orche is seen as protection from the sun and body paint.
“Power” is one of the most visually stunning videos during the entire film. We see the representation of color drive home. The power of the color red is seen as Beyoncé wears red while doing African dances in the white room, in front of the fire and water. We also see the horn reference again. Zerina channeled custom Mugler for a colorful moment.
We end with Beyoncé wearing a yellow Balmain gown, singing with a choir before transitioning to the pre-released music video for “Spirit”. During the video, she can be seen wearing Black and African designers from earlier performances like Tongoro.
Storytelling through Fashion and Culture
The visual album for “Black Is King” was a moment we all should pay attention to and really understand. These visually stunning videos are an homage to Black and African culture. The film shows a different perspective of the all-time classic movie “The Lion King”, and presents the opportunity to grow a deeper understanding of the African diaspora and Black culture. The way Zerina and her team put a modern twist on African culture is not only brilliant but groundbreaking. The combination of color, storytelling, and fashion leaves the viewer feeling inspired. “Black Is King” is now available for streaming on Disney+.
Written by: Corinea L. Austin
Corinea is an Atlanta based fashion business owner and voice. She is a graduate of SCAD with a background in fashion, costume design and business management. With insight spanning into the textile industry, she can be found on all social media under @cocorinea