Beyoncé is the most persuasive and influential celebrity in the world, according to Staffordshire University Professor Ellis Cashmore.
"Not only does she sell downloads, cds, ringtones, movie tickets, her own label clothes and any number of products, from cologne to television, but she sells a new American Dream based on an idea – that racism is over," says Cashmore.
In his new article 'Buying Beyoncé', Professor Cashmore argues that Beyoncé's most notable feat is in selling the idea that America's centuries-old problem of racism has vanished. "When she serenaded the US President Barack Obama and his wife at their inauguration ball in January 2009, she achieved the unimaginable," says Cashmore. "Here was a conspicuously successful black women singing to the first black president in history."
Cashmore, Professor of Culture, Media and Sport at Staffordshire University, believes Beyoncé is a symbol for a new age, though, he adds, a misleading one: "Despite the progress of the past few decades, the USA is still mired in its past. African Americans do poorly at school, live in the poorest housing, spend a disproportionate amount of time behind bars and, despite the election of Obama, are underrepresented politically compared to their size in the total population – more than 1 in 7 Americans are black."
In his article, which is published in the latest issue of Celebrity Studies, Cashmore documents the overall social position of African Americans and contrasts this with the position of Beyoncé and other A-list black celebrities, such as her husband Jay-Z, Denzel Washington, Jamie Foxx and Alicia Keys. "Their success can be interpreted by middle America as evidence that, in the land of opportunity, yo women's jackets u can emerge from an impoverished background and live the good life." Professor Cashmore can be seen discussing the article on youtube
Cashmore adds: "It's easy to imagine how Americans think to themselves, 'If these billionaire celebrities can make it, why can't any other black person in America. After all, racial discrimination didn't stop them. It's a deceptive illusion."
Cashmore, whose books include Tyson: Nurture of the Beast and Celebrity Culture believes Beyoncé is a perfect emblem for the Age of Obama. "In a sense she is unique," he says. Her earnings and her influence make her the most globally conspicuously successful black woman this side of Oprah, and, remember, she isn't 29 till September."
Ellis Cashmore is professor of culture, media and sport at Staffordshire University, England.
He also teaches on the new BA(Hons) Celebrity Journalism undergraduate degree. Visit BA(Hons) Celebrity Journalism