When the Academy announced that Beyoncé would perform at this year’s Oscars, Bey stans and casual fans alike were shocked. Music’s most iconic diva is notorious for two things: setting the pulse for the entire music industry at large, and doing it infrequently or without warning. Because if there’s one thing we know about Queen Bey in the golden prime of her career, it’s this: Beyoncé does not leave the house unless she wants to. She rarely does interviews (in print or in person); her presence on Instagram consists mainly of photo dumps (just in her case, they’re of her dressed head to toe in designer clothing on a yacht off the coast of some island we didn’t even know existed); and she does not show up to awards shows unless absolutely necessary.
This is, of course, particularly evident in her diminished presence at the Grammys—an awards show her husband, Jay-Z, publicly boycotted for years. In recent years, both Beyoncé’s and Jay-Z’s relationships to awards shows have been estranged at best. She’s only attended the MTV Video Music Awards three times since 2014 and made sporadic Grammys appearances in the last half-decade, and she hasn’t shown up in person at the BET Awards since 2016. Take last year’s Grammys, for example. Beyoncé led the pack in nominations but declined to perform, leading fans to believe that she and Jay-Z wouldn’t attend the ceremony. But Beyoncé did show up, late, to surprise and congratulate Megan Thee Stallion on winning Best Rap Song for their remix of “Savage.” She also stuck around to accept her own win for Best R&B Performance. Though this award solidified her as the record holder for the most Grammys ever won by a female artist, it also underlined a telling, frustrating truth: With 79 nominations as of 2021 (28 of which she’s won) the awards show has only granted her one singular award in a major category, 2010’s Song of the Year for “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It).”
This year, Beyoncé decided to give the awards circuit another chance by performing her Best Original Song contender “Be Alive” from King Richard at the Oscars. Opening the show with her first awards show performance in five years, she (with her usual background dancers and extensive band) gave an amazing and beautiful performance. But she didn’t do so in the actual Dolby Theatre; instead, Beyoncé and co. appeared on tennis courts in Compton, California (and decked out in tennis ball yellow), as an homage to tennis queens Serena and Venus Williams, whose father is the subject of King Richard.
Then, she surprised us all when she actually showed up to attend the awards in person (but not until much later, of course). But viewers who might have thought opening the show with Beyoncé would ensure that the rest of Oscars night would be boring by comparison turned out to be wrong—in the worst way possible. After I recovered from my initial shock at Will Smith slapping Chris Rock during last night’s Oscars, and then going on to win Best Actor minutes later, the first thing I said was Beyoncé ain’t never leaving the house again.
Though Beyoncé is used to being overlooked come awards season—she lost her category last night to “No Time to Die” by Billie Eilish—I’m here to tell you that this is probably not the reason the good sis doesn’t regularly anoint us with her presence on these occasions. It’s most likely because she’s tired of the mess! While we all sidle up to our TVs during awards season with our popcorn and wine in hand, hoping for some drama to rush to Twitter about, Beyoncé has witnessed a shocking amount of it in front of her own eyes. To hammer it in, let’s take a quick tour of her front-row seat to some of the most chaotic awards moments in recent memory.
Kanye West vs. Taylor Swift at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards
Of course, we’re starting off with one that needs no introduction: the “Imma let you finish” heard round the world. When a young Taylor won the Moon Man for Best Female Video with her “You Belong With Me” music video over Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It),” Kanye stormed the stage to interrupt her, famously announcing: “Imma let you finish, but Beyoncé had one of the best videos of all time.” Of course, instead of leaving her out of a narrative that actually had nothing to do with her, the camera kept cutting back to Beyoncé’s reaction, capturing her incredibly embarrassed shock in perpetuity. This moment put Kanye and Taylor on a public roller coaster of friendship that involved an apology, leaked phone call, disturbing music video (now something of a trend for Kanye), and Kardashian feud. Later that night, Beyoncé actually won Video of the Year and graciously invited Taylor Swift back onstage to finish her earlier acceptance speech.
The 2009 MTV VMAs…again: Lil Mama Stage-Crashes Jay-Z and Alicia Keys
While Jay-Z and Alicia Keys performed their megahit “Empire State of Mind” to close out the very same awards as Kanye’s outburst, Lil Mama decided to crash the stage. Caught up in the New York energy, Brooklyn rapper Lil Mama hopped on up at the end of the song, something Alicia Keys didn’t even notice at the time. Beyoncé even tried to intervene before Lil Mama made it onstage, but the rapper’s need to join in was too powerful. Her husband’s problem quickly became hers too—and it was not the last time this would happen.
In 2014, TMZ acquired footage of a physical altercation between Beyoncé’s sister, Solange Knowles, and Jay-Z in the elevator of a Met Gala afterparty. Beyoncé, situated between the two, memorably kept her composure and mainly stayed out of the fight, while security held Solange back from attacking Jay-Z again once the doors opened. Though the cause of the altercation remains a mystery, the common assumption is that it was due to Jay-Z’s infidelity, which would become the underlying subject matter for Beyoncé’s genre-defying album Lemonade. As the only event on this list to directly involve the Knowles-Carter family, it’s important to note that they published a statement of reconciliation shortly after. Since then, the event has been iconically alluded to in songs by both Beyoncé and Jay-Z, though the former took a cheekier approach than the latter. Since then, the couple appearing at the annual fundraiser has been like wishing on a star, to say the least—rare and unpredictable.
The 2017 Grammy Awards
In another memorable moment directly involving the queen herself, I give you: the 2017 Grammys. Beyoncé’s Lemonade, nominated for several awards that year, is hailed as her defining work, her magnum opus, and an actual cultural reset in music—a towering feat for an artist who had already been considered the best of the best for decades. Everyone naturally expected Beyoncé to win Album of the Year in 2017. Instead, after winning Best Urban Contemporary Album, Beyoncé lost the biggest award of the night to Adele’s 25. Mind you, this was after Beyoncé further proved she deserved the award by giving an incredible 10-minute performance while pregnant with twins. Adele then got onstage and told the world in a heartfelt not-acceptance speech what we already knew: that the Academy had given the award to the wrong artist, and it should have been Beyoncé’s all along. Beyoncé teared up and mouthed “I love you, thank you” back to her, and we all cried. Needless to say, Beyoncé and Jay-Z have only attended the Grammys twice since then, fashionably late and passed over for a major award both times.
And Now This: Will Smith Slapping Chris Rock at the 2022 Academy Awards
It was a surprise to see Beyoncé and Jay-Z seated in the Dolby Theater audience hours after her opening performance. It probably shouldn’t have been: The winner in her category, Best Original Song, was slated to be announced soon after she was seated. I imagine she was as shocked as Lupita Nyong’o when Will Smith made a controversial (to say the least) move to, as he claims, defend Jada’s honor (though viewers pointed out that Queen Bey is no stranger to family scandals). There’s not much I will say about yesterday’s baffling onstage moment that hasn’t already been said, but I will leave you—by which I mostly mean rich and famous people—with this:
As a Beyoncé stan, I rather enjoy when she decides to grace us with her presence. So can y’all please deal with your drama when she’s not around instead of waiting for her to show up and watch you duke it out? It could be that Beyoncé actually enjoys the dramabut I’d like to think that she’s tired of it—I know I’m tired, and if Twitter’s any indication, everyone else is too. If Beyoncé decides to never show up at an awards show again, then we all lose. I’m begging you, on Beyoncé’s behalf: Get it together.