Beyoncé fans celebrated the prospect of the entertainment juggernaut using her clout to uplift another Black artist last week, when anonymous sources told The Huffington Post that she tapped Tyler Mitchell to shoot her upcoming Vogue magazine cover. That cover debuted online today (August 6), complete with several sunlit photographs of Bey and her own first-person reflections. 

Both versions of the cover, tweeted by Mitchell below, mark the first time that an African-American photographer shot a Vogue cover in the magazine’s 126-year history: 


The photos from the shoot accompany Beyoncé’s own statements, as told to journalist Clover Hope, about her pregnancy, opening doors for Black artists, tackling family trauma and more. Here are five key excerpts from the story:

On giving birth and listening to her body:
“I was 218 pounds the day I gave birth to Rumi and Sir. I was swollen from toxemia and had been on bedrest for over a month. My health and my babies’ health were in danger, so I had an emergency C-section. We spent many weeks in the NICU. My husband was a soldier and such a strong support system for me. I am proud to have been a witness to his strength and evolution as a man, a best friend and a father. I was in survival mode and did not grasp it all until months later. Today I have a connection to any parent who has been through such an experience. After the C-section, my core felt different. It had been major surgery. Some of your organs are shifted temporarily, and in rare cases, removed temporarily during delivery. I am not sure everyone understands that. I needed time to heal, to recover. During my recovery, I gave myself self-love and self-care, and I embraced being curvier. I accepted what my body wanted to be. After six months, I started preparing for Coachella. I became vegan temporarily, gave up coffee, alcohol and all fruit drinks. But I was patient with myself and enjoyed my fuller curves. My kids and husband did, too.” 

On creating opportunities for up-and-coming Black artists: 
“Until there is a mosaic of perspectives coming from different ethnicities behind the lens, we will continue to have a narrow approach and view of what the world actually looks like. That is why I wanted to work with this brilliant 23-year-old photographer Tyler Mitchell.

“When I first started, 21 years ago, I was told that it was hard for me to get onto covers of magazines because Black people did not sell. Clearly that has been proven a myth. Not only is an African American on the cover of the most important month for Vogue, this is the first ever Vogue cover shot by an African-American photographer.

“It’s important to me that I help open doors for younger artists. There are so many cultural and societal barriers to entry that I like to do what I can to level the playing field, to present a different point of view for people who may feel like their voices don’t matter.”

On confronting trauma rooted in enslavement: 
“I come from a lineage of broken male-female relationships, abuse of power and mistrust. Only when I saw that clearly was I able to resolve those conflicts in my own relationship. … I researched my ancestry recently and learned that I come from a slave owner who fell in love with and married a slave. I had to process that revelation over time. I questioned what it meant and tried to put it into perspective. I now believe it’s why God blessed me with my twins. Male and female energy was able to coexist and grow in my blood for the first time.”

On her history-making Coachella performance: 
“I swear I felt pure joy shining down on us. I know that most of the young people on the stage and in the audience did not know the history of the Black national anthem before Coachella. But they understood the feeling it gave them.

“It was a celebration of all the people who sacrificed more than we could ever imagine, who moved the world forward so that it could welcome a woman of color to headline such a festival.”

On teaching her daughters what’s possible in life:
“My mother taught me the importance not just of being seen but of seeing myself. As the mother of two girls, it’s important to me that they see themselves too—in books, films and on runways. It’s important to me that they see themselves as CEOs, as bosses, and that they know they can write the script for their own lives—that they can speak their minds and they have no ceiling. They don’t have to be a certain type or fit into a specific category.”

Vogue said in an emailed press release that the magazine suggested Mitchell to Beyoncé, who then chose the young photographer. The magazine also turned a light on Mitchell, an Atlanta native who got his start shooting photos and videos of fellow skateboarders, in a separate short profile. He offers the following insight into his own creative motivation: “For so long, Black people have been considered things,” he said. “We’ve been thingified physically, sexually, emotionally. With my work, I’m looking to revitalize and elevate the Black body.”

Check out some photographs from the story below and catch the issue in print when it hits New York City and Los Angeles newsstands on August 14 ahead of the nationwide release on August 21.