Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Let's Move Version 2.0: How Beyoncé Reboot(ied) The First Lady's Childhood Obesity Campaign

Behind the scenes with "Move Your Body": The White House let the superstar have free reign with the biggest Let's Move! project to date...and it's taken Middle Schools and the internet by storm...
More than 600 Middle Schools representing every state in the union participated in today's Let's Move! Flash Workout, a national dance event built around "Move Your Body," a song that Grammy-award winning singer Beyoncé re-wrote and re-recorded to support First Lady Michelle Obama's childhood obesity campaign. The video was released less than a week ago on YouTube, and has gone viral, with more than 3 million views. (Above: Beyoncé in the video)

Mrs. Obama today made
a surprise visit to DC's Alice Deal Middle School to join more than 400 students for the workout event, while Beyoncé made her own surprise visit to Harlem's P.S. 161. The First Lady and the popstar led the kids in doing the Dougie, the Running Man, in a salsa interlude, all included in the workout. Let's Move! has had some big events, but this is the biggest single event to date. (Above: Mrs. Obama dancing today)

Mrs. Obama has garnered plenty of high-profile support for her national initiative--perhaps most notably from famous chefs and famous professional and Olympic sports heroes--but Beyoncé's partnership includes some big firsts for the campaign. She's the first pop icon to lend her starpower to Let's Move! with a project, and the first to create an entire national event around that project. At 1:42 PM EDT today and across all time zones, thousands of kids simultaneously watched Beyoncé sing and dance onscreen, as they danced up a storm in their schools.

Beyoncé put her own stamp on the campaign: Call it Let's Move! version 2.0, Beyoncé Reboot(ied). As an entertainer, the 29-year-old is devoted to high-glamor, and has a "post-modern siren" stage persona, equal parts flaunting and taunting, all in the name of "girl power." In the "Move Your Body" video, Beyoncé is about as toned down as she could be--and still be, well, Beyoncé. Her hair is curly and she's ditched her signature dramatic make up. She wears denim hotpants, a sweatshirt that is an homage to Flashdance with one shoulder sliding down, lime-green knee socks, and multi-colored Christian Louboutin stiletto heels. Yes, stilettos: Beyoncé proves that nothing can get in the way of a good workout, even dangerous footwear.

In her video, Beyoncé sings and dances through a school cafeteria with a pack of cute kids, à la that iconic scene from the '80s film Flashdance, which many of today's parents may recall from their own school days. The words "let's move" are repeated over and over in the song, as Beyoncé encourages kids to raise their heart rates. "A little sweat ain't never hurt nobody," Beyoncé points out.

"Let me see you run/put your knees up to the sky!" Beyoncé sings. "Time to move your little hips/Vamonos, Vamonos!" The video ends with a dance line of kids and Beyoncé waving American flags, which is now peculiarly timely, given America's recent unprecedented national security triumph--the death of Osama bin Laden--courtesy of President Obama. Flag waving is back in style in a big way.

"It is so good because Beyoncé is showing kids and parents that you don't have to have a lot of money; that you can turn on your favorite song and dance to it," Mrs. Obama told a group of children visiting the White House last week, as she encouraged them to go online and check out the video.

Mrs. Obama today danced with kids on the outdoor athletic field at Alice Deal school, while Beyoncé danced in the school gym in Harlem. The First Lady was clad in a bright silk shirt, blue slacks, and low-heeled shoes. For her appearance at P.S. 161, Beyoncé wore attire that was more appropriate for an actual school, rather than a video rendition of a school: She was clad in a white tank top with a special Let's Move! logo, and white jeans. The high heels--a different pair--were in place. Beyoncé and her mother, Tina Knowles, created the t-shirt design, and produced the t-shirts through her House of Deréon clothing label. (Above: Beyoncé and kids in action at P.S. 161)

How did the Beyoncé/White House partnership work?
The First Lady has frequently suggested "budget" options for working out--take a walk, skip the elevator, something Mrs. Obama herself does in the White House--and she has also shown up in schools to dance with kids. The East Wing is thrilled with the project, though did not participate in the actual creation of the video, the First Lady's Director of Communications, Kristina Schake, told Obama Foodorama.

That was taken care of by Beyoncé and the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB), which co-produced the project. Marcellus Alexander, President of NAB's Education Foundation, was the point man, and after the foundation decided to support Let's Move!, Beyoncé was wooed into joining. Educational partners for the event include the American Association of School Administrators, the National Middle School Association and the National School Boards Association.

"I'm very honored to be a part of NAB and our First Lady Michelle Obama's Let's Move! initiative," Beyoncé said when announcing her project.

Beyoncé's creative team included video director Melina Matsoukas, who has directed other videos for the star, as well as for many stratospheric recording artists, such as Lady Gaga, Rihanna, and Katy Perry. A separate video with kids demonstrating the dance steps for "Move Your Body" was released in early April, with instructions available in both English and Spanish. (Above: Beyoncé models her t-shirt creation)

Beyoncé's team kept the East Wing "updated all of the time on their activities and progress," Schake said. The First Lady's aides saw a draft of the final video before it was released. But other than that, it was largely a hands-off approach from the White House, according to Schake.

"We are very supportive of people and organizations taking on Let’s Move! projects on their own and are pleased they did it," Schake said.

"Lots of supporters do things around Let’s Move! that we are not directly involved with," Schake added.

White House hasn't promoted the video...but that hasn't stopped it...
The White House has not been actively promoting the video to boost it to those multi-million numbers on YouTube, either. "Move Your Body" is not on the official Let's Move! website, nor among the videos on the Let's Move! YouTube channel. But the video is featured front and center on Beyoncé's own website, and the National Association of Broadcasters has a page on its website devoted to it, with a toolkit for parents and schools. The educational partners have been promoting it, too.

"They didn’t need our help getting the word out," Schake said. "They obviously received a significant amount of news coverage over the last few weeks and have done a lot of outreach."

During today's school workout event, there was even a US Department of Defense school in Japan participating, and as well as some Middle Schools in Canada, according to NAB.

"We’re excited to have so many schools involved in this important event to combat childhood obesity," NAB's Alexander told Obama Fooodrama. "With the talent and star power of Beyoncé and the combined efforts of the organizations involved, it’s sure to be a success.”

The NAB will release a second video in the coming weeks that's a compilation of clips from schools participating in today's national dance event, and that's likely to go viral on the internet, too. Local news stations have been alerted to go film at their area schools, and the clips will be taken from that footage, and usable stuff that's produced by citizen videographers. "Move Your Body" is a re-do of "Get Me Bodied," a track from Beyoncé's triple-platinum-selling second solo album B'Day, released in 2006. The "Move Your Body" video was filmed in a real Middle School cafeteria--not on a set, according to NAB. For "security reasons," the organization declined to disclose the name or location of the school.

Mrs. Obama in action at Alice Deal Middle School:

Beyoncé in action at P.S. 161:

Some parent response...
As for how parents feel about the idea of Beyoncé dancing in their kids' classrooms during the school day? Reactions spanned the spectrum.

"I'm worried that it's a little too much sexiness for a school environment," said Shana Hellings, a Northern Virginia mother of two Middle Schoolers. "I like the idea of a workout, but Beyoncé has all the gender stereotypes I've tried to convince my kids are garbage. There's a lot of jiggle wiggle in that video."

Laurie Rosenbaum, a mother of three from Los Angeles with one Middle Schooler, says she has followed the First Lady's campaign "since she invented it," and was all praise.

"Anything that gets kids going gets stars in my book," Rosenbaum said. "If Beyoncé can get my kids to exercise, she's my hero."

Rosenbaum laughed when asked if she was worried that Beyoncé is bringing too much heat into schools. Stilettos and hotpants, she pointed out, are "daywear" in her neck of the woods.

"We have moms driving carpool who dress like they're clubbing," Rosenbaum said.

The "Move Your Body" video:

Beyoncé has been in the Obama orbit quite literally since Day One. The President and First Lady had their first dance as First Couple when Beyoncé sang "At Last" for them at the Neighborhood Ball on Inauguration Night in 2009. She also performed at the White House in May of 2010, during the second State Dinner of the Administration, in honor of President Felipe Calderon of Mexico. Mrs. Obama brought her own daughters, Malia and Sasha, to see Beyoncé perform at the Verizon Center in Washington, in the summer of 2009. Beyoncé included clips of the girls dancing to "Single Ladies" in one of her later tour dates.

*Screen grabs from video; photos from Beyonce on line. Photos of First Lady by Eddie Gehman Kohan/Obama Foodorama.