Who a Successful Black Woman is, According to Donald Glover’s Atlanta and Beyonce

Beyonce’s “Diva” music video opens with a black screen and simple typewriter-style text providing the viewer with a definition of the word diva: “A successful and glamorous female personality; especially: a female singer who has achieved popularity”. This definition immediately brought me back to the opening scene of Atlanta’s sixth episode, “Value”, which presents with excruciating accuracy the power struggle that can exist between two female friends operating with opposing ideals. For Jayde, success means independence, material wealth, and the attention of notable men; for Van, success means stability and a family. The tension of this scene is palpable and is molded by the fact that these two women, seated at a dinner table in an upscale restaurant, sees the other as the opposite of successful. Jayde is, in Van’s eyes, shallow, vain, and desperate for “running around” with several NBA players, and Jayde sees Van as washed up and desperate for staying with “broke-ass” Earn. As tensions rise, Jayde asks Van, “What is your value?” and it is clear from the ensuing argument that the answer to that question is not one the two women will agree upon. It does become clear, however, to the viewer that, like Beyonce, a successful Black woman is one who is self-defined. Terms like “popularity”, and “value” cannot exist within a vacuum; they require context in order to become important. As illustrated by both Beyonce and director Donald Glover, the most important thing a Black woman can do to become successful is to define who she is for herself and herself alone and to hold true to that definition no matter how it clashes with the imposed definitions of others.

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