From Lemonade to Homecoming, and now Black Is King, it’s no secret that Beyoncé knows how to create a powerful piece of visual art. Black Is King, which premiered on Disney+ in late July, is the latest creation from the entertainer. Along with extraordinary music, based on the live action Lion King in which Beyoncé starred, the film delivers incredibly detailed shots, storytelling, and perfectly crafted styling, hair and makeup. The glam seen on Beyoncé and her accompanying dancers is impressive, but a real standout in the film is the body paint.
We had the chance to speak with makeup artist Saisha Beecham, who executed the body makeup for much of the film. “I did a large chunk of the body paint for the dancers in the film: the all-white scene, the pregnant dancers, most scenes with the Blue Man and some of the main little boy character,” she shares exclusively with The Tease. “I also did makeup for the female dancers in several scenes, including the pool segment. We were BUSY; let’s just say that!”
The Paint Process
The process of applying the body paint was all about layering. Beecham explains that because “so many of the male dancers had really dark skin, [she and her team] applied several layers [of paint] to give the full coverage look and added more after each layer dried to prevent cracking.” The paint was “supposed to look worn and splotchy, so we made sure to remove it in areas that were needed,” she says.
The makeup artist also revealed that like the film, her work is “tremendously inspired” by African culture. And “the production team did a great job of providing amazing inspiration photos to work from.” Beecham also “had in mind to keep the appearance that [the dancers] painted each other themselves like some cultures do.”
The Deeper Meaning
The body paint added something special to each scene of the film. Beecham says the specific vision and inspiration all came from Queen Bey and her long-time makeup artist, Francesca Tolot. “Francesca did a great job breaking it down into specifics,” Beecham shares. “She was definitely open to any of my suggestions as well.”
No matter who is watching, Black Is King will make you feel something. The film’s songs, visuals and story are meaningful for everyone, but the interpretation of its narrative is left up to each viewer. The body paint furthers that narrative by either adding to monochromatic moments, standing out in dark segments or simply blending into the background.
“It felt like every paint had a different meaning behind it,” Beecham says. “There were so many different elements to the overall aesthetic, which I think left everyone to come up with their own interpretation.”
The Blue Man
Throughout the film, viewers find themselves drawn to one character and dancer who constantly reappears in different scenes. The Blue Man (Stephen Ojo) catches your eye every time he pops up on-screen, begging you to remember his presence.
The Blue Man’s dancing and recurring appearance intrigues viewers, but it also calls for practicality in his body paint. To ensure that it lasts, Beecham “always chooses a paint brand that’s durable and doesn’t crack and chip away.” And “when [the Blue Man] sweat, the touch ups were easy because it didn’t have to be a perfect paint job. Imperfection was [actually] preferred.” After the initial coverage, all Beecham and her team had to do was sponge him down with more paint when it was necessary.
A Job Well Done
Beecham’s work in the film does not go unnoticed. And for that, she is thankful: “I was honored to be a part of it. My team and I had everything we needed to execute the vision, and it turned out amazingly!”
As for her involvement with Black Is King, Beecham shares, “I love when Francesca pulls me in for Beyoncé productions. She always thinks of me, especially when body paint is involved.” She continues, “we had to stay quiet about [the film] for so long. I’m so proud to see my work everywhere all over the world.”