In a section of Beyoncé’s “Lemonade” titled “Hope,” a woman stands in a dark room looking towards the light. That woman is Paulette Leaphart, and she never imagined meeting Beyoncé, let alone appearing in a video with her.
“It was kind of strange the way things happened,” Leaphart told INSIDER.
She had taken her 8-year-old daughter to audition for a secret video, when she was approached about a part in it. She wasn’t prepared to do an interview on camera, so she asked them to watch a trailer she was in instead.
That trailer was for a documentary called “Scar Story,” which follows Leaphart, who has had a double mastectomy, on a 1,000 mile topless walk from Biloxi, Mississippi, to Washington, D.C., in order to raise breast cancer awareness.
“[The casting director] saw it and she started crying and hugged me, and asked if she could pass it along to the directors,” Leaphart said. “I knew [the video] was for a superstar, but she couldn’t tell me who.”
The casting director called Leaphart that same night asking to book her.
Leaphart was initially sceptical. “I told her, ‘I don’t know if I can agree to something that I don’t know what it is.’ She told me, ‘Trust me. You want to be a part of it.'”
She still didn’t know what she was getting into when she arrived at the New Orleans set and started filming. That is until she was approached by a figure disguised in a black hoodie.
It was Beyoncé herself.
“She came in, took her hoodie off, and I was like ‘Oh my God, it’s Beyoncé.’ I was shocked because I wasn’t expecting to meet her. She wasn’t shooting, but she came in to meet me, and she embraced me and held my hand.”
They talked about the video and Leaphart’s topless walk, and Leaphart suggested that Beyoncé could join her for a block. The singer proposed a mile instead.
Leaphart dismisses rumours about Beyoncé being cold and conceited, calling her “normal and sweet.”
“The thing that really touched me about Beyoncé was that she treated me humbly,” she explained. “We were on set sitting around the table and she thanked God for everybody that was a part of it, because she said everybody was supposed to be there.”
Leaphart calls Beyoncé an artist, and said she connected with her “as a human being and a female who has flaws.”
She spent three days on set, and also appeared in scenes for “Freedom.” She met numerous people during that time, including Jay Z and Blue Ivy, Serena Williams, Treyvon Martin’s mum, Michael Brown’s mum, Quvenzhané Wallis, and Zendaya.
When Leaphart watched the final product on HBO she cried.
“I knew it was going to be powerful, but I had no idea,” she said. “I had chills the size of grapes. I didn’t know it was going to come out like that. It’s a masterpiece.”
She said “Freedom” is her favourite song on the album because she understands what it means to be free.
“I don’t have to worry about people talking about me because I lost my hair and breasts, and because I’m not what society deems sexy or beautiful,” she said. “I’m free to express myself. I love me, so say what you gotta say. I’m not ashamed of my scars. I still think I’m beautiful and sexy. Breasts don’t define me; I define me.”