There was much speculation going into this year's CFDA Awards as to whom would receive the coveted Fashion Icon award — an honor that the organization traditionally announces in advance of the ceremony. This year, our only clue came when Jay Z and Blue Ivy arrived midway through the proceedings, and then when Diane von Furstenberg came on stage to present the award, teasing us throughout her introduction: "She's an artist, a fashion icon, a global entrepreneur, a mother, a wife," she began.
To be honest, Beyoncé wasn't my first prediction for this award — or any of ours. While she's definitely an icon, the singer and performer is known less for her personal style than she is for the bold, often sexy pieces that designers (and her army of stylists) put together for performances and red carpet events — none of which are particularly outside the box, though she undeniably always looks great.
Even so, she was a big get for the CFDA, which almost televised this year's show and seems to be angling to up the profile of this event — a move that would only benefit the designers involved. With nearly her entire extended family in tow — Jay Z, Blue Ivy, Tina and Matthew Knowles (where was Solange?) — post-"Lemonade," she brought the event media coverage that stretched far beyond the typical fashion outlets.
And regardless of whether she can truly be considered a fashion icon, she gave a great speech about how fashion has had in impact on her life, recalling how her grandmother sewed clothes for the local Catholic school in order to pay for her daughter's education. (Another instance of said grandmother making lemonade out of lemons?) It was sweet and inspiring, to say the least. Read it in full below.
I feel so proud right now. Thank you guys for this incredible honor. As long as I can remember, fashion has always been a part of my life. Its effect on me actually started before I was born. Most of you guys don't know this, but my grandmother was a seamstress. My grandparents did not have enough money. They could not afford my mother's Catholic school tuition, so my grandmother sewed clothes for the priest and nuns and made the uniforms for the students in exchange for my mother's education. She then passed this gift down to my mother and taught her how to sew. When we were starting out in Destiny's Child, high end labels... they didn't really want to dress four black, country curvy girls and we couldn't afford designer dresses and couture. My mother was rejected from every showroom in New York, but, like my grandmother, she used her talent and her creativity to give her children their dreams.
My mother and my Uncle Johnny, God bless his soul, designed all of our first costumes and made each piece by hand individually, sewing individual crystals and pearls, putting so much passion and love into every small detail. And when I wore these clothes on stage, I felt like Khaleesi. I had an extra suit of armor. It was so much deeper than any brand name, and my mother — who was so fabulous and beautiful and is here tonight — my mother and my grandmother and my uncle are always with me, so I cannot fail. My mother actually designed my wedding dress, my prom dress, my first CFDA Awards dress, my first Grammys dress and the list goes on and on. And this to me is the true power and potential of fashion. It's a tool for finding your own identity, expression and strength. It transcends style and it's a time capsule of all our greatest milestones. So to my mother, my uncle my grandmother, thank y'all. Thank you for showing me that having a presence is far more powerful than your physical being. Thank you for showing me to never take no for an answer. Thank you for showing me how to take risks, work hard, and live life on my own terms.
I want to say thank you to every designer that works tirelessly to make people feel like they can write their own story. You all are fairy godmothers and magicians and sculptors — sometimes even our therapists. I encourage you to not forget this power that you have or take it lightly. We have an opportunity to contribute to a society where any girl can look at a billboard or magazine cover and see her own reflection. Soul has no color, no shape, no form. Just like all of your work, it goes so far beyond what the eyes can see, and you have the power to change perception, to inspire and empower and to show people how to embrace their complications and see the flaws and the true beauty and strength that's inside all of us. Thank you so much for this incredible award. I'll never forget this night. God bless y'all.