The best looks in Black is King

The Beyhive stayed up all night to be the first to watch Beyoncé's latest visual album, Black is King, on Disney+ on July 31, 2020. Her 85-minute creation is a companion piece to the 2019 album The Lion King: The Gift, made for the reboot of the Disney classic starring Donald Glover, James Earl Jones, and Beyoncé as the voice of Nala. 

The visual album includes sound clips from the blockbuster film, but the project is also a celebration of the past, present, and future of the global Black experience. Beyoncé sat in the director's chair for the film, taking command of the visuals featuring husband Jay Z, their children, and their famous friends. As the icon told Good Morning America, "'Black Is King' means Black is regal and rich in history in purpose and in lineage."

The fashion within Black is King reflects Beyoncé's core message, and you don't have to be a member of the Beyhive to appreciate what Beyoncé accomplished with her stylistic choices in the film. Zerina Akers, Beyoncé's longtime stylist (who also worked on 2016's Lemonade), is behind the multiple pairings that are wowing viewers. Here are all the best looks in Black Is King.

Animal prints reign supreme in Beyoncé's visual album

Animal prints are present throughout Black is King, reflecting one of Africa's greatest assets (and the major theme of The Lion King): its wildlife. The easiest way to depict this may have been to show clips of nature in the wild, but instead, Beyoncé incorporated fashion and decor into the mix. There's a collage of leopard, cheetah and jaguar prints that seamlessly flow through the visual album.

This is best demonstrated in the segment for "Mood 4 Eva." Throughout the visual, Beyoncé and the children around her share a moment for family and gathering, much like a leap of leopards or a pride of lions. Beyoncé mixes a cheetah-print gown and hat with bold, geometric sunglasses and black gloves, combining traditional and modern looks. The segment may be most memorable for the sleep masks sporting "MOOD" in bold typeface.

Animal print not only illustrates family — it's also a sign of fierceness. Sporting a leopard print bodysuit on top of a matching Rolls Royce, Beyoncé announces, "I know my enemies prey on me, so pray for me" in another verse for "Mood 4 Eva." The singer turns on boss mode, sporting a matching cape and pumps and dazzling gold jewelry.

Beyoncé' gives body(suits) a chance to shine

In addition to Beyoncé bringing out the animal kingdom for Black is King, she also revives the bodysuit. In the segment for "Already," which was released a day ahead of the visual album, Beyoncé and her dancers move in neutral-hued bodysuits by French fashion label Marine Serre, according to CNN. The company posted screenshots from "Already" on its Instagram page, featuring the bodysuit decorated in its signature design. The segment also features another floral bodysuit, two cow print outfits, as well as black and white stripes for a different look. There are at least two other bodysuits in the film, maybe signaling a new trend to watch.

The singer also makes a bold statement in "Already" with body paint. Many of the men featured in the visual album are covered in teal paint, and at some points, Beyoncé is covered with blue stripes while wearing a bikini. While body paint can convey sensuality and exoticism under the male gaze, Beyoncé presents it as a connection to the earth and her roots, taking ownership over the technique.

Crowns of all kinds in Black is King

One link between Africa's past and its global future is shown in the crowns Beyoncé and her dancers wear in Black is King. In "Mood 4 Eva," queens on a human-size chessboard wear elaborate crowns reflecting past African queens. This theme is repeated on varying scales throughout the visual album, from boldly colored hats echoing Queen Nefertiti to dazzling jeweled crowns that capture the natural light.

But crowns are not limited to what sits on top of the head; they are also what frames the face. Beyoncé's hairstyles know no limit throughout the visual album, thanks to hairstylists Neal Farinah and Nakia Rachon Collins. Bey mixes Bantu knots and long braids in one part of "Already," while elsewhere, her braids are sculpted into the shape of horns or even a literal crown. She wears long braided ponytails, braid bangs, elaborate curly updos, and waist-length waves. 

Farinah and Collins' hairdos echo African braiding traditions, in which each style is associated with a specific community and meaning on the continent. Yet the styles also illustrate some of the Afrofuturistic looks made popular by Lupita Nyong'o, Beyoncé's proteges Chloe x Halle, and the blockbuster film Black Panther. That thoughtful mix of past, present, and future is what makes Beyoncé's Black is King so special.