There are the Beyoncé fans who sing along to the pop star’s every song and snap up tickets to her shows. And then there’s Yani Macute, a program co-ordinator at U of T’s Centre for Aerial Robotics Research and Education, who, earlier this year, may have redefined the meaning of Beyoncé fandom.
In February, mere minutes after “Queen Bey” released her video Formation, Macute, 24, had uploaded his own split-screen version to Facebook – on one side Beyoncé, in a southern plantation house, singing, “My daddy Alabama, Momma Louisiana,” and, on the other, Macute, in his Toronto apartment, matching her choreography exactly, down to every last booty pop and hair flip.
His video went viral and now boasts more than 1.2 million views. “I was at a house party the day I released it and everyone thought I was a loner, because I spent the whole time in the corner refreshing my phone,” says Macute. “It was crazy. It went from 500 views to 15,000 in about an hour.”
Macute, who has been dancing since he was a child in the Philippines, says he learned the Formation choreography in half an hour. He never took dance classes, but says it was common for the kids in his community to perform at social gatherings, such as birthday parties. It also helped that this wasn’t the first time he’d mimicked Beyoncé’s steps. “My mind processes her moves really quickly.”
Why Beyoncé? Macute attributes his obsession to her music and lyrics – and what she represents as a powerful woman in the music business. “She gives me confidence,” he says. “She empowers not just women, but everyone.” He’s received a flood of comments about the video – mostly positive, but some homophobic and racist, too. Although Macute, who is gay, chooses not to respond to “the haters” with his own comments, he’s grateful that many of his fans have fought back on his behalf.
Macute suffered mild disappointment when Beyoncé’s new HBO film, Lemonade, didn’t feature any dancing he could imitate, but he and his iPhone camera will be ready when the next video drops. “I’m not trying to prove anything to the world. I just love doing it,” he says. “But getting on Ellen would be nice.”