Beyoncé’s hit song from 2014 (wow it does not feel that long ago!), “Pretty Hurts,” is a song about the dangers/self esteem issues that come with the beauty standards that are placed on women. Many of the lyrics point out the ways in which beauty standards contradict themselves, forcing women into a corner. Women must be skinny but have curves in the right places. They must be beautiful but also look “natural.”
The video invokes McMillian’s “Performing Objects,” in that the video centers around Beyoncé preparing for and participating in a pagent. Behind the scenes, we see the absurd amount of work/stress/emotional damage that Beyoncé goes through in order to perform objecthood during the pagent. She diets, works out, throws up, eats cotton, becomes concerned about her weight/figure. But during the pagent she is still and smiling, like all of the other girls. She is obviously performing given the nature of a pagent, but she is specifically performing in a way that aligns itself with perfection to the point that McMillian’s use of the word “performing objects,” comes to mind. The video’s climax comes when Beyoncé is asked what her greatest aspiration in life is, to which she answers “to be happy.” The footage and lyrics that follow display a negotiating of the objecthood Beyoncé is performing. “Pretty hurts,” and the footage of Beyoncé emotionally and mentally distraught, allude to the idea that this performance is one that does more damage than it does good.