Six years ago, when Beyoncé performed at the Super Bowl in New Orleans, one of her guitarists was wearing a necklace and ring made by Austin jewelry designer Nina Berenato.
"That was like, 'Oh my god, this is the closest I'll ever get to Beyoncé,' " Berenato said. "I actually already thought I had my Beyoncé moment."
That changed last week when a gold face ornament made by Berenato appeared front and center in Beyoncé's new music video for "Spirit," a song in the new live-action movie "The Lion King." Berenato was at Alley Cat, an East Austin food truck, last week when she was scrolling through Instagram and saw a photo of Beyoncé's dancers wearing one of her face pieces.
"I was just like, dying," Berenato said.
A minute and 14 seconds into the video, Beyoncé appears in royal form, wearing black and white prints as she stares into the camera with a thin, flat strip of gold wiring running down the center of her face. The gold strip is molded to her face, fitting over her nose and mouth, stretching from the back of her head to her chin. Berenato's pieces and similar jewelry created by African clothing label Tongoro were used in the video, according to Beyonce's stylist Zerina Akers.
Tongoro is tagged in Akers' Instagram photos as the artist behind the gold face ornament Beyoncé is wearing at the beginning of the music video. About 20 seconds later, one of the ornaments can be seen up close on a dancer wearing a chartreuse dress.
"I get a phone call from the showroom and she's like 'Oh, my God, Beyoncé is wearing one too,' and I was just like 'Oh, my God!' losing (it) obviously and hyperventilating," Berenato said. "Beyoncé is like definitely the ... holy grail of everything."
Just a little over two weeks before, a woman who runs Berenato's New York showroom in Brooklyn texted the designer in Austin: Beyoncé's people were calling. They requested 10 of the face pieces inspired by Swedish designer Gijs Bakker for the video, which premiered on ABC's broadcast of a "The Lion King" television special last week and has since racked up more than 19 million views on YouTube as of Monday.
Berenato needed at least 60 feet of gold-filled bezel wire, and had to ship more of the material overnight from New Mexico to get all the jewelry done. She finished the face pieces in three hours, shipped them out to Beyoncé and tried to keep calm while she waited to see if they'd end up in the video.
"You have no idea what is going to be used," Berenato explained, since sometimes the direction of a shoot can change.
But once she saw the video online, she posted screenshots featuring her work onto her Instagram page and hundreds of congratulatory comments have flooded in. Berenato said she is proud to represent the Austin jewelry community.
"That was the most cool, just being able to represent and all the messages I received back from other designers about how much it meant to watch me grow and get to this place," Berenato said.
The face pieces, dubbed the "Lioness Mask," were so popular that they sold out Friday, but are again available for $80 at Berenato's store at the Domain NORTHSIDE.
View this post on Instagram
2 weeks ago, through my showroom @theshinysquirrel I was asked to make 10 custom face masks for an upcoming Beyonce video. I had one day to make them and somehow we pulled it off. We didn’t know if they were ever used, would ever be used. Tonight I saw the design worn in @beyonce new Lion King video & her dancers OMG - they look like total warriors in them!!! - #spiritmusicvideo - WOW! Speechless, heart thumping out of my chest. A day I’d never imagined I would see! #beyonce