Brow Beat

I Was There When Beyoncé Sneezed Onstage, and It Was a Marvel

Beyoncé, not mid-sneeze, at the Super Bowl in 2016.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

On Tuesday night, Beyoncé shone her radiant light upon Citi Field stadium in New York City. At close to 10 p.m., she commanded her eagerly awaiting fans to “get in formation,” bathed in hypnotic lights while her image was projected against a three-dimensional, humongous rotating screen. From there, she did what Beyoncé does best—powering through hit after hit alongside kick-ass female dancers and musicians, with stunning visuals, stunning vocals, and stunning choreography.

I was there; I witnessed it, firsthand. And in that two-hour tour-de-force set, some tens of thousands of other wide-eyed loyal subjects and I bore witness to something even more incredible, even more ethereal than one could imagine. Beyoncé sneezed.

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Yes, Beyoncé sneezed. While adorned in an MJ-inspired leotard and just before launching into “Love on Top.” It was an adorable sneeze—the quietest, tiniest little sneeze. (The exact opposite of that viral sneezing baby panda, but as cute.) As if on cue, the crowd cheered in near-perfect unison. In this seemingly mundane act, she reminded us of how she excels at being both totally normal and superhuman, at the same time.

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That unscripted moment is the rare peek at ’Yonce, the self-described country girl who’s just like us: Amid a performance that’s meticulously crafted and executed in every other way, her nasal passages can still get irritated. But it also emphasizes that she is not like the rest of us—truly.

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The science of sneezing suggests that doing so while performing is incredibly rare. That’s because the autonomic nervous system (meaning the nerves responsible for unintentional activity like digestion and heart rate) is divided between sympathetic and parasympathetic functions, which roughly correspond to “fight or flight” actions and “feed and breed” actions, respectively. Sneezing is one of the latter functions, which means it usually doesn’t occur if you’re even moderately nervous.

In other words, Beyoncé is such a seasoned pro, so relaxed and herself on stage, that she can sneeze while in the middle of a high-energy performance in front of tens of thousands of loyal subjects. (There are other exceptions, apparently, like Lady Gaga and this guy who sneezed into his trombone.) Beyoncé is both of this world and out of this world. Even her sneezes are divine.

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