You may be shocked to hear that an extremely famous person showed up at an unlikely location and people online shared opinions about it. This time was special though, because the celebrity was Beyoncé, and the location was the beloved Havasu Falls on the Havasupai reservation, near the Grand Canyon.
Havasu is one of many falls on Havasupai land, and it’s well known for its blue waters framed by deep red rock. The waterfall appears in Beyoncé’s music video for “Spirit,” a song she wrote for the maybe-should’ve-left-it-a-cartoon remake of The Lion King, in which she voices Nala. About a minute into the video, Beyoncé appears on a rock before the falls with arms spread toward the sky, wearing a royal blue dress and an astounding number of bracelets. It’s a great visual, though it only appears in about ten seconds’ worth of footage throughout. The music video also shot at locations like Red Rock State Park in Sedona, Arizona, and Horsemen’s Center Park in Apple Valley, California, whose rock formations framed Beyoncé and several other neon-yellow-clad backup dancers.
But Havasu Falls was the filming location that attracted all the attention, because it’s well-known as an in-demand spot that demands rigorous planning to visit. The campground, located right near Havasu Falls, holds a maximum of 350 visitors per day, and in 2018 permits sold out for the entire season the day they went on sale. Everyone who buys a permit must stay for at least four days and three nights, for up to $125 a night depending what day of the week it is, and hike ten miles to get to the campsites.
Beyoncé, on the other hand, helicoptered in and had exclusive access to Havasu Falls for five hours on July 10. Commenters on Havasupai tourism Facebook groups started grumbling when TMZ first shared footage obtained the day of the filming, and even more so a week later when the video premiered. “It’s not fair to the people who worked so hard to get reservations, travel from all over the world to not be able to enjoy Havasu Falls for five hours,” wrote one Facebook commenter. Still others took to Twitter with heartfelt (and clearly made-up) stories of Beyoncé and Blue Ivy personally asking hikers for permission to film. Most of these commenters had Beyoncé-themed names and profile pictures. This is how the Internet works!
It is true that neither hikers nor area officials were given much notice of this inconvenience, so it can be assumed that many people already had permits for the area on July 10 and some of them had to wait to see Havasu Falls. According to the Arizona Republic, a location manager first got in touch with Arizona Film and Digital Media about the shoot on July 8. Still, when they were directed to the Havasupai Tribal Council for permission, the tribe responded positively. "Knowing that Beyoncé advocates for the preservation of water rights around the world, we were particularly pleased to be able to accommodate her request,” Muriel Uqualla, chairwoman of the council, said in a statement. She added that it’s a testament to the beauty of their homeland.
It’s true that some hikers were surely inconvenienced by the shoot and it certainly won’t make it easier to get a permit to see Havasu Falls in coming years. But we’ll take the Havasupai tribe at their word that it’s a net positive, and as at least one commenter pointed out, Beyoncé’s team probably paid “LOTS AND LOTS of money” in order to shoot on their land. As with many heated pop culture discussions on the Internet, this one will soon go by the wayside.