Beyoncé Addresses Fashion Industry Racism as She Wins Fashion Icon Award

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The Council of Fashion Designers of America held their annual awards gala last night in New York City. Before the show, no one knew that Beyoncé would show up to accept her fashion icon award. But Diane von Furstenberg unveiled the surprise and it was non other than the pop star who arrived in sparkly Givenchy, her designer of choice, wearing a hat with oversize brim.

Public statements of any length are rare for Beyoncé. In her acceptance speech she thanked her mother who was her first stylist and made pointed statements about how she faced rejection in the early days of Destiny Child.

The fashion industry continues to be disconcertingly white, and the superstar encouraged designers to focus on talent.

Watch here.

Read the transcript.

I feel so much love and 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 and could not afford my mother’s Catholic school tuition, so my grandmother sewed clothes for the priests and the nuns, and made 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 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 creativity to giver 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 hundreds of crystals and pearls, putting so much passion and love into ever small detail. 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.

My mother — who’s so fabulous and beautiful and is here tonight, I love you — my grandmother, and my uncle were always with me so I could not fail. My mother actually designed my wedding dress, my prom dress, my first CFDA Awards dress, my first Grammy 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 is a time capsule of all of our greatest milestones. So to my mother, my uncle, my grandma, thank y’all. Thank you for showing me that having a presence is far more than the clothes you wear and your physical beauty. 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 who works tirelessly to make people feel like they can write their own stories. Y’all are fairy godmothers, magicians, sculptors, and sometimes even therapists. I encourage you to not forget this power 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 your work it goes so far beyond what the eyes can see. You have the power to change perception, to inspire and empower, to show people how to embrace their complications and flaws and see the true beauty that’s inside all of us. Thank you so much for this incredible award I’ll never forget this night. Got bless y’all.

Photo by Theo Wargo/Getty Images

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