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Photo by Lauren L'Amie

Ellen threw a campus-wide Beyoncé costume contest—and it got weird

University of Texas students, in the hundreds, dressed the part for a shot at Grammy tickets.


Lauren L'Amie


Posted on Feb 7, 2017   Updated on May 25, 2021, 1:23 am CDT

Hundreds of Texas students in fake pregnant bellies and bedazzled leotards gathered Tuesday in an effort to accomplish two outrageous #goals: Look like Beyoncé, and impress Ellen DeGeneres.

After a single rallying tweet from DeGeneres Monday evening, University of Texas at Austin students flocked to the school’s main mall to compete in a “challenge” to win tickets to the Grammys this weekend. 

DeGeneres regularly sends in her assistant, Jeannie Klisiewicz, to make surprise appearances at colleges. The show’s appearance at Georgia Tech last week landed the show its “largest live shots,” Klisiewicz told Georgia Tech News, as students competed for tickets to the Super Bowl.

Student Colin Wang ultimately won the contest (the segment will air on Wednesday). But today’s Ellen challenge to recreate Beyoncé’s iconic Instagram pregnancy announcement sparked controversy online as UT students called out the show for asking anyone on campus to get their “Beyonce costume together.”

Photo by Lauren L’Amie

Photo by Lauren L’Amie

As students gathered at the foot of the UT tower, there were some clear winners. But it was also clear that some lines needed to be drawn. White men and women sported cornrows, afro wigs, and questionable “blue” face that resembled blackface.

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Calling for students to dress as a black woman was simply a recipe for offensive costumes. And as the issue spiked on Twitter, some feared the school’s history of blackface would rear its ugly head.

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While no blackface was present on the main mall, one photo of a woman dressed as Beyoncé’s daughter “Blue” Ivy—complete with blue body paint—went viral around campus.

Photo by Lauren L’Amie

The woman, an undeclared freshman named Sarah, told the Daily Dot that she found some blue paint and threw her costume together because “you’ve got to do what you’ve got to do.” She provided no commentary on the costume being potentially offensive.

Still for many Ellen fans, like architecture sophomore Kayla Houston, the Beyoncé theme was a chance to pay homage to a role model.    

“I just look up to Beyoncé, especially as a black woman,” Houston said. “I feel like I have a real connection to her. But I saw somebody who was painted a really dark blue and that one definitely rubbed me the wrong way.”

Photo by Lauren L’Amie

Photo by Lauren L’Amie

Kara, a UT sophomore who preferred not to provide her full name, said that calling for non-black students to dress as a black woman is disrespectful.

“I want to see a woman of color win,” she says, “It’s disrespecting Bey’s brand by saying that just anything goes. You should just be more aware and these people look a hot damn mess.”

Hot damn mess or not, it was the students who didn’t win the challenge who brought the most glory to Bey’s name.

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*First Published: Feb 7, 2017, 10:05 pm CST