Whatever the Beyhive was expecting to see when Beyoncé’s Netflix documentary Homecoming was finally released in the wee hours of April 17, the actual spectacle exceeded their expectations. Homecoming wasn’t simply a concert special of footage from Beyoncé's two 2018 Coachella performances. It was possibly the most vulnerable and honest we have ever seen the superstar be in her 20-plus-year career.
In the doc, she opens up about her difficult 2017 pregnancy giving birth to her twins Rumi and Sir, how much work she put in to get back to the stage, and why it was so important to push herself so hard so quickly after giving birth. After watching the film, the term "hard work" almost feels like an insult to Beyoncé’s work ethic and the commitment she displays throughout the behind-the-scenes footage in Homecoming.
Many who saw the performance at the music festival or via the online livestream were aware that Beychella, the only time a Black woman has headlined the festival, was a celebration of Black culture. The performance included stepping and was essentially a celebration of HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities). So, in Homecoming Beyoncé not only takes fans behind the curtain — she shares why exactly she wanted to use the platform to showcase and honour the Black community.
“When I decided to do Coachella, instead of pulling out my flower crown, it was more important to me that I brought our culture to Coachella,” she said in a voiceover in the documentary. “So I studied my history, I studied my past, and I put every mistake, all of my triumphs, my 22-year career into my two-hour homecoming performance.”
But successfully putting on the unforgettable show that was Beychella didn’t come without complications. Beyoncé explains in the Netflix doc that, as many fans know, she was supposed to headline Coachella in 2017 but she became pregnant unexpectedly. And though she previously shared some curated details about her pregnancy and body acceptance for a Vogue cover story, in the doc, Beyoncé reveals even more about the complications she faced in her second pregnancy before the historic performance came together.
“My body went through more than I knew it could,” she admitted. “I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth. I had an extremely difficult pregnancy. I had high blood pressure. I developed toxemia pre-eclampsia, and in the womb one of my baby’s heartbeat paused a few times so I had to get an emergency c-section.”
At this point in the documentary, a countdown with the number of days until her Coachella performance is displayed on the screen below footage of Bey rehearsing. In a voiceover, the performer professes self-doubt — something fans certainly aren't used to hearing from her —about making Homecoming a reality.
“It’s my first time back home on the stage after giving birth. I’m creating my own homecoming and it’s hard. There were days that I thought, you know, I’ll never be the same. I’ll never be the same physically. My strength and endurance will never be the same,” she says.
“That’s why people don’t like to rehearse,” she continues. “You gotta be humble. You gotta be willing to look awkward. You got to study. You have to be a student.”
Queen B had a serious diet to get her body performance-ready: no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol. The rehearsals were spliced together with clips of Beyoncé dealing with muscle spasms, bonding with her children, struggling through intense workouts, and spending time with Jay-Z, who she calls out as her rock. She also voices the struggle many working moms face: successfully balancing being a mother while also focusing on a career. “It’s not like before when I could rehearse 15 hours straight,” she said. “I have children. I have a husband. I have to care of my body.”
The vulnerability and frustrations Beyoncé willingly shares in the doc are not only uncommon for her to share, it's uncommon for any celebrities this far into wildly successful careers to share. It makes the singer, dare I even think it, relatable — well, as relatable as someone as world-famous as Beyoncé can be.
She concedes that, unfortunately, Beychella was truly a once-in-a-lifetime, in-person experience, not just for the people who witnessed the performance, but for herself, as a performer.
“I definitely pushed myself further than I knew I could,” the musician says halfway through the documentary. “And I’ve learned a very valuable lesson. I will never, never push myself that far again.”
While I recognize the unreal level of intensity and creativity and personal strength it required to bring Homecoming to life, I am so appreciative it exists. Now, we can experience it and its celebration of Black women and culture whenever we want, thanks to the documentary making its way to Netflix. And as the very personal, intimate moments of the documentary proved, the world doesn’t deserve Beyoncé, but we are so grateful to have her.