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8 Things We Learned From Beyoncé’s New Netflix Documentary Homecoming

6 minute read

Homecoming isn’t just a concert documentary of Beyoncé’s now iconic 2018 Coachella headlining show: It’s also a peek inside the world of Queen Bey. The film includes some snippets of raw, vulnerable narration from Beyoncé herself, explaining her thought process in putting together the incredible performance, her difficulties preparing for it as she recovered from a challenging pregnancy with twins Rumi and Sir and her emotions around being the role model she has become.

You can now watch Homecoming in its full two-hour-plus glory on Netflix, but for a quick read on Beyoncé’s insights, here’s a rundown of what we learned from the artist during peeks behind the scenes.

Beyoncé wanted to go to college

“I always dreamed of going to an HBCU [historically black college or university]. My college was Destiny’s Child. My college was traveling around the world, and life was my teacher,” Beyoncé says in the film. Her entire Coachella performance ends up being an homage to the spirit of HBCUs, from the marching band theme to the outfits. (And, of course, that “Homecoming” title.)

Beyoncé wanted her Coachella performance to go beyond flower crowns

“When I decided to do Coachella, instead of me pulling out my flower crown [laughs] it was more important that I brought our culture to Coachella,” she says. To that end, her goal was to represent African Americans through her body of work. “I wanted all of these different characters, and I wanted it to feel the way I felt when I went to battle of the bands,” she explained. “I grew up going to those shows and that being the highlight of my year. 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.”

Her pregnancy was more difficult than she had previously shared

Beyoncé has been open about having a challenging pregnancy with Rumi and Sir, but in Homecoming she opens up even further about the frightening circumstances of her delivery:

“I was supposed to do Coachella the year prior, but I got pregnant unexpectedly. And it ended up being twins, which was even more of a surprise. My body went through more than I knew it could. I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth. I had an extremely difficult pregnancy. I had high blood pressure. I developed toxemia, preeclampsia, and in the womb, one of my babies’ heart beats paused a few times, so I had to get an emergency C-section.”

Beyoncé’s post-pregnancy diet was no joke

“It’s my first time back home on the stage after giving birth. I’m creating my own homecoming, and it’s hard. There are days that I thought I’d never be the same,” she recalls in Homecoming. Her diet and schedule were extremely strict: “In order for me to meet my goals, I’m limiting myself to no bread, no carbs, no sugar, no dairy, no meat, no fish, no alcohol. I’m hungry. Just trying to figure out how to balance being a mother of a six year old and twins that need me and give of myself creatively is a lot to juggle. It’s not like before when I could rehearse 15 hours straight,” she explains. “I have children. I have a husband. I have to take care of my body.” She also says that in retrospect she would “never, never push” that far again. But in a relatable moment behind the scenes, she showed herself celebrating when she finally fit back into a pre-pregnancy costume and successfully zipped it up.

Beyoncé wanted to make black women proud

“It’s hard to believe that after all these years I was the first African-American woman to headline Coachella,” she said. “It was important to me that everyone that felt they had never seen themselves represented felt like they were on that stage with us.” She continued:

“As a black woman, I used to feel like the world wanted me to stay in my little box. Black women often feel underestimated. I wanted us to be proud of not only the show, but proud of the process. Proud of the struggle. Thankful for the beauty that comes with a painful history and rejoice in the pain, rejoice in the imperfections and the wrongs that are so damn right. I wanted everyone to feel grateful for their curves, their sass, their honesty. Thankful for their freedom. It was no rules, and we were able to create a free, safe space where none of us were marginalized.”

Beyonce is not only a perfectionist but an exacting boss

Beyoncé has vision — and she’s a hands-on creator. “I respect things that take work, I respect things that are built from the ground up. I’m super specific about every detail,” she explains. “I personally selected each dancer, every light, the material on the steps, the height of the pyramid, the shape of the pyramid, every patch was hand-sewn. Every tiny detail had an intention.” She was also an exacting boss when it comes to rehearsing. “I think we all worked to our limit,” she says. And she’s not easy to satisfy: “There are notes every time, because there’s always something we can improve upon.” She also worked on her and Jay Z’s wedding anniversary.

But family still comes first for Beyoncé

“If you know me, you know my family is the biggest priority in my life. My family is my sanctuary, my weakness and my strength. They’re my tribe. It was important that we all felt like family,” she says of balancing work with family.

Beyoncé is hyper-conscious of her position as a role model

“Creating something that will live beyond me, something that will make people feel open, like they’re watching magic, like they’re living in a time that’s super special… that’s what I want,” Beyoncé says in Homecoming. And in her mind, she achieved that goal. “I feel we made something that made my daughter proud, made my mother proud, my father proud, and all my people that are my brothers and sisters around the world. And that’s why I live.” But Beyoncé also goes further, saying she intended the show to be an inspiration for others to rise to her level, too. “It shows them that they are limitless. It’s possible. If my country ass can do it, they can do it.”

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Write to Raisa Bruner at raisa.bruner@time.com