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History-Making Beyoncé Portrait Will Be Added to Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery

Beyonce Vogue cover
Beyonce 2016 World Formation Tour, by Kristopher Harris [CC BY-SA 2.5 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.5)], via Wikimedia Commons

“When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell. Clearly, that has been proven a myth.”

Music superstar Beyoncé is making history again this week: a portrait of her shot by photographer Tyler Mitchell will be added to the Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery’s permanent collection in Washington D.C.

The original portrait made history last year when it first appeared in Vogue magazine’s September issue in the U.S., with Mitchell becoming the first African American to shoot a cover the fashion magazine.

There is no announcement yet of when the portrait will officially go on exhibition at the National Gallery, which has been a part of the Smithsonian Institution since 1968. A hallmark of the gallery is the Hall of Presidents, which contains portraits of nearly all American presidents—surpassed only by the White House collection itself.

Founded in 1846 “for the increase and diffusion of knowledge,” the Smithsonian Institution consists of a group of museums and research centers administered by the Government of the United States. As a bastion for U.S. history and culture, the institution has been dubbed “the nation’s attic” and welcomes 30 million visitors annually, free of charge.

In last year’s Vogue, the music superstar recounted the challenges she faced as a person of color in the media.

“When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because black people did not sell,” Beyoncé remarked. “Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African American photographer.”

The singer also explained the significance of employing Mitchell as a photographer for her Vogue shoot.

“If people in powerful positions continue to hire and cast only people who look like them, sound like them, come from the same neighborhoods they grew up in, they will never have a greater understanding of experiences different from their own,” she said. “They will hire the same models, curate the same art, cast the same actors over and over again, and we will all lose.”

Beyoncé has notably incorporated more socially conscious issues in her music and performances. Last year, she became the first African American woman to headline the famed music festival, Coachella. Her performance was widely praised for celebrating African American culture.

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