Beyonce and Jay-Z surprised royal watchers and the BeyHive today when they honored Meghan Markle while accepting a BRIT Award. The duo shared a video of their brief acceptance speech featuring a stunning framed portrait of the Duchess of Sussex in the background, mirroring their pose in front of the Mona Lisa in the Louvre from their “Apesh**t” video. Bey later shared footage on her Instagram, celebrating the duchess in honor of Black History Month and congratulating her on her pregnancy.
The tributes might not have been the same, however, without illustrator Tim O’Brien, who created the hyperrealistic portrait of the duchess that appears in the Carters’ video. The Brooklyn-based artist “did not know” that the Carters were going to use his masterpiece, “but if they can now put my piece in the Louvre, I’ll call it even,” he tells BAZAAR.com via email.
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Thank you to the Brits for the award for Best International Group. I won this award back in 2002 with my besties, Kelly and Michelle. How lucky am I to have been in a group with my other best friend, the GOAT Hova. 🙌🏾 In honor of Black History Month, we bow down to one of our Melanated Monas. Congrats on your pregnancy! We wish you so much joy.
O’Brien, 54, originally created the oil painting of Meghan last year for the Summer 2018 cover of her sorority’s magazine. “I was hired by two great creative directors, Erin Mayes and Kate Collins out of Austin, to paint the cover of The Key, the magazine for the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority,” he tells BAZAAR. “This was a collaboration and we worked together closely on the image and all the tiny details specific to the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority.”
The painting is a stunning juxtaposition of a modern royal—in every sense of the word—alongside traditional symbols of royalty. This Meghan appears in a Victorian-like portrait wearing a towering tiara, several layered pearl necklaces, and a rich and frilly gown wrapped in a fur shawl.
“I think she’s lovely and I wanted her to look regal, like a classic portrait, even trying to achieve an aged feel to the color of the piece,” O’Brien explains. The Duchess of Sussex doesn’t have an official royal portrait yet (although Prince Harry does), so perhaps the future artist can take some notes from this one.
But has Meghan seen the portrait herself? “I would imagine she’s seen it and I do not know how she felt about it,” the artist says. “Would love to know, but I’m sure she’s a busy person these days.”
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O’Brien has been illustrating for 30 years and studied in New Haven, Connecticut. He has a penchant for subjects in pop culture—he’s even made a royal portrait of Beyoncé, too. “I’ve painted queens, presidents, rock stars, and dreadful people,” he says. The artist has also illustrated multiple TIME magazine covers, covers for Rolling Stone and Sports Illustrated, and several U.S. postage stamps.