Beyoncé statue at Madame Tussauds is 'adjusted' after 'light-skinned' criticism

The wax figure of Beyoncé at Madame Tussauds before (left) and after the adjustments.
The wax figure of Beyoncé at Madame Tussauds before (left) and after the adjustments.PHOTO: MADAME TUSSAUDS/NYTIMES

NEW YORK (NYTIMES) - Beyoncé took a quick break from the public eye - but now, she's back.

Not the real Beyoncé, who seems to be lying low since the birth of her twins, Sir Carter and Rumi, who appeared in a photo on her Instagram page last week.

This is about a Beyoncé made of wax that is on display at the Midtown Manhattan location of Madame Tussauds, the wax statue museum known for its celebrity likenesses, with locations around the world.

On Thursday afternoon, the statue was absent from the display floor. But it lived on on social media, where a photograph of the figure drew criticism from far and wide this week.

The problem? Not only did the figure not resemble the chart-topping pop star, critics said, but it also appeared to be too light-skinned. A chorus of comments on social media compared the statue with celebrities like Taylor Swift, Lindsay Lohan and Julia Stiles.

But by Friday afternoon, the Beyoncé statue was in its place on the museum's top floor. Some visitors recognised the famous singer's likeness from across the room and walked over to take selfies. One of them, Amani Wingfield, 34, said she had heard about the Beyoncé controversy on social media.

It appeared to Ms Wingfield that the updated version was more accurate than the photographs she had seen online. "I think it's closer than the other one," she said. "Most definitely. We walked in and we were like, 'Hey, it's Beyoncé!'"

In an emailed statement on Thursday, Madame Tussauds New York said, regarding the Beyoncé figure: "Our talented team of sculptors take every effort to ensure we accurately colour match all of our wax figures to the celebrity being depicted."

"Lighting within the attraction combined with flash photography may distort and misrepresent the colour of our wax figures, which is something our sculptors are unable to account for at the production stage," the statement said.

It was unclear whether the criticism online led to the statue's brief removal from the display floor. On Thursday, a staff member at the building did not offer a reason for its absence, saying only that the statue was "off the floor until further notice."

A museum representative declined to answer questions about why the figure was no longer displayed.

In an emailed statement on Friday, Madame Tussauds New York said: "We love, respect and enjoy a working relationship with Beyoncé. We have adjusted the styling and lighting of her figure and she is on display" at the New York location. The museum did not provide further details.

A spokeswoman for Beyoncé could not be reached for comment.

The figures at Madame Tussauds are typically created by a team of studio artists and usually take three or four months to finish. Statues sometimes go "on tour" to different locations, and at least one other Beyoncé figure has been created for the museum.

Sculpting celebrity likenesses - and meeting the expectations of their fans - is tough work, especially in the age of social media.

A statue of Lucille Ball, for example, in her hometown, Celoron, N.Y., that was unveiled in 2009 was dubbed "Scary Lucy" after criticism of the work erupted on social media in 2015. A year after that, it was replaced with a more lifelike version.

Over the years, other wax debuts at Madame Tussauds have been subjected to the scorn of devotees, including likenesses of Justin Bieber, Ryan Gosling and Taylor Swift.

The Beyoncé wax-statue kerfuffle is far from the first time that representations or images of Beyoncé have come under fire for apparent whitewashing.

Fans of the singer have called out organisations including L'Oreal, the French cosmetics company, and WikiHow, the how-to website, for using images in which Beyoncé appears more light-skinned.