Beyoncé and Jay-Z pay unexpected tribute to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex

Updated 21st February 2019
Credit: Instagram/Beyonce
Beyoncé and Jay-Z pay unexpected tribute to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex
Written by Cole Higgins, CNN
Beyoncé and Jay-Z have paid tribute to Meghan, Duchess of Sussex, by swapping her with one of art history's most recognizable figures -- the Mona Lisa.
While the Carters were not in attendance at Wednesday's Brit Awards, the UK's equivalent of the Grammys, they accepted the award for best international group via video message. In a scene reminiscent of their 'Apes**t' music video, in which they famously pose in front of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" at the Louvre, the pair are seen standing either side of a portrait.
But the famous painting has been replaced with an image of Meghan styled as Queen Victoria, or as Beyoncé later put it: a "Melanated Mona."
"Thank you so much to the Brit Awards for this incredible honor," Beyoncé says in the video. "You guys have always been so supportive. Everything is love. Thank you."
"You're welcome," Jay-Z jokingly replies, before the pair turn to admire the image of the Duchess, in which she's depicted sporting a sparkling crown and dripping in pearls and jewels.
The tribute comes as the Duchess faces growing scrutiny from some parts of the UK's press and public. In recent months, she has been subjected to racist commentary and widespread tabloid speculation surrounding her relationship with Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge. The British royal family have since asked social media firms to help combat online abuse directed toward the two duchesses.
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The image of Meghan is by American artist Tim O'Brien, who originally created the work in 2018 for the alumni magazine of Meghan's sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma. An illustrator for publications like Time and Rolling Stone, O'Brien has previously produced magazine covers depicting figures including Barack Obama, Saddam Hussein and David Bowie. His portraits have also appeared on US postage stamps.
The illustrator told CNN he was surprised to see his work in the acceptance video.
"I'm all for it," he said in a phone interview. "I love Beyoncé, like most people do, and Jay-Z too.
"The world is changing. The face of beauty is changing for the better."
Shortly after the video announcement, Beyoncé posted a photo of herself posing with the portrait to Instagram. In the caption, she explained the choice to replace Mona Lisa with Meghan.
"In honor of Black History Month, we bow down to one of our Melanated Monas," she wrote. "Congrats on your pregnancy! We wish you so much joy."