Beyoncé’s Dubai concert was controversial, but her fashion had meaning
Beyoncé’s first performance in four years (with a rumoured $24 million [£20 m] price tag) was always going to be epic — but the 60-minute show at the Atlantis The Royal’s opening party far surpassed expectations.
On Saturday (January 21), VIPs, influencers, and journalists — including mogul Jay Z, Kendall Jenner, British Vogue editor-in-chief Edward Enninful, Black Panther star Letitia Wright, actress Rebel Wilson, and former One Direction singer Liam Payne — were invited to celebrate the seven-star landmark’s grand reveal. The mega resort, which has been eight years in the making, features 17 celebrity-run restaurants, a shop that sells original Picassos, a 21-foot high aquarium filled with 4,000 moon jellyfish, and 360-degree views of the Arabian Gulf and Dubai skyline.
So, of course, no expense was spared to launch the self-described “most ultra-luxury experiential resort in the world”.
Beyoncé’s appearance didn’t come without controversy. Dubai has strict laws about same-sex relationships and, as her new album Renaissance is seen as a celebration of Black and queer dance culture, many were upset at her appearance in the country.
As the star-studded crowd glugged 4,000 bottles of Moët & Chandon champagne by the 90 metre-long Skypool connecting the six towers that form the 795-room Tetris-like resort, the bay was lit up with fireworks that crescendoed at the central stage.
Here, the 79-time Grammy Award-nominated singer emerged wearing a yellow gown encrusted with glimmering acrylic shards from the waist down. The striking dress was the work of Atelier Zuhra, a Dubai-based label owned by Omani designer Mousa Al Awfi, and was finished with an otherworldly marabou feather-studded train that burst out around the superstar’s shoulders like wings. Styled by KJ Moody, Al Awfi told Vogue that she “started on that dress back in November” and that, “it took almost a month-and-a-half to finish”.
After opening with a stunning rendition of Etta James’s At Last, Beyoncé then went on to perform seven songs, including Halo, XO, and Brown Skin Girl, before changing into a corseted red and gold bodysuit complete with a billowing train, glamorous opera gloves, and ethereal crown by Nicolas Jebran — further showcasing her respect to the region’s creatives. The Lebanese designer, who has also dressed Gigi Hadid, Jennifer Lopez, and Cindy Crawford, told Vogue that the bell-shaped skirt silhouette was inspired by “royal attire” with a homage to “Emirati women” and their love of “gold accessories and monochromatic colour”.
Not one to shy away from making sartorial political statements, for her final outfit change, Beyoncé platformed Ukrainian designer Ivan Frolov by wearing a slinky pink minidress, thigh-high socks, and gloves that were gilded with galvanic fine gold from his eponymous brand. Created in Frolov’s workshop in Kyiv during the war and city-wide blackouts, the gown proved that, “no matter what, Ukrainian brands continue to showcase their resistance and culture to the world,” as per a Frolov press release.
Post-performance, Beyoncé and her family (Bue Ivy, 11, joined her on stage for Brown Skin Girl) relaxed at the hotel’s flagship Royal Mansion suite. Costing $142,500 ($117.75) a night and set over 11,000sq ft, it has four vast rooms (which can be extended to 15 for an extra $130,000 [£108,000] a night), a cinema, a safe room, and its own infinity pool. Considering the cheapest room is $1,800 (£1,490) a night, the other guests were equally spoiled, helping themselves to complimentary gold-plated toothbrushes, combs, and razors, a ‘menu’ of seven pillows, and personal butlers.
With social media awash with envy, many are eagerly awaiting the announcement of Beyoncé’s upcoming Renaissance tour and — if it’s any consolation — as the star didn’t perform any songs from her 2022 album, there’s plenty more iconic music (and fashion) moments coming up in the Beyoncé-verse.