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Beyoncé’s trumpeter Crystal Torres opens up about touring while proudly pregnant: via #todayshow

Article by: Arianna Davis

"Pregnancy is not something women should be taught to hide or be ashamed of. It’s beautiful. And I’m so thankful that Beyoncé felt the same way.” 

Throughout her Renaissance World Tour, Beyoncé commanded the stage the way only Beyoncé can — for 56 nights. Now, moviegoers are enjoying the visual feast from the comfort of their theater seats thanks to “Renaissance: A Film by Beyoncé," currently the number one movie in America.

But there is someone else on that stage setting the Beyhive abuzz as they watch the film. Trumpet player Crystal Torres performed in 35 of the “Renaissance” tour’s 36 cities with a very special guest: Her baby bump.

Directed by Beyoncé herself, the Renaissance movie is part documentary, part concert film. Now, fans are reliving Beyoncé doing everything from crooning as she emerges like Aphrodite from an opulent, bedazzled clam to closing her show as she descends upon the stage draped atop a shimmering, iridescent horse. Wearing a rainbow of vibrant custom costumes, she never misses a beat of her signature choreography.

Meanwhile, Torres had a special choreography of her own. Each night until the second to last tour date — which coincided with her 36th week of pregnancy — the 41-year-old hit notes high and low while grooving alongside the rest of Beyonce’s band, her belly proudly on display.  

“At every venue, part of my own choreography was knowing: Where’s the nearest bathroom to the stage? Because no one prepares you for how much you have to pee during pregnancy!” Torres tells TODAY via Zoom in December.

Sitting in her home outside of Philadelphia, her voice is quiet, her smile wide. Even through a laptop screen, it’s clear she is emitting the soft glow of new motherhood. Her daughter, Stella Pearl — nicknamed “Baby Renny” after the tour she spent much of her time on while in the womb — was born Nov. 3, just three days after Torres turned 41.

“So that was one of the main things I told Beyoncé. I said, ‘If you even can’t find me, I’m probably in the bathroom or getting a snack. But I promise you, I’ll be right back!’ Thank God for the interludes, because those videos playing were some of my much-needed bathroom breaks.” 

Watching Torres on stage (in heels!) blowing her all into her silver instrument — particularly during horn-heavy tracks like “Plastic Off the Sofa” and “Virgo’s Groove” — it was impossible not to wonder: How the heck is this task, one that would be hard on anyone’s body, let alone someone carrying a child, even possible? 

Torres says that question was the first thing she and her husband, Michael Thomas, asked doctors when she got the call to join Beyoncé’s "Renaissance" world tour not long after learning she was pregnant. She was relieved when multiple doctors reminded her that “pregnancy is not a handicap.”

She recalls the advice from a doctor that helped her make her decision to join Beyoncé on stage: “They told me that if your pregnancy is healthy and this is something you’ve done for years, it’s your normal life. You don’t have to stop what you love. You can and should continue activities that have always been normal for you when you’re pregnant.”

Luckily for Torres, touring the world with one of music’s biggest stars just so happens to be a normal activity. The Renaissance World Tour would mark her seventh tour with Beyonce, and just the latest of the countless nights she’s spent on the road throughout her nearly 20 year career performing with artists like Karol G, Cardi B, Shawn Mendes, Alejandro Sanz, Lupe Fiasco, Jhene Aiko and many more. 

Long before she was onstage at Coachella or packing up her trumpet for a jaunt from Paris to London, Torres was a girl growing up in North Philadelphia in a Puerto Rican family. She credits much of her success to being raised by “strong women” including her grandmother, who encouraged Torres' early wanderlust.

“As a kid, I never imagined I could be a music artist. It wasn’t my dream to tour or play in stadiums …I didn’t know that was even a possibility,” she says. “I just dreamed of traveling. I would sit in my grandmother’s apartment with her globe, and we would spin it. I would say ‘Wherever my finger’s landing, that’s where I’m going. Ethiopia? I’m going to Ethiopia. Russia? I’m going to Moscow.’ I just envisioned seeing the world.”

Torres says she always gravitated toward music, thanks to singing at church and a teacher who would play the likes of Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson on the radio. But it was a small detail that led her to pick up the trumpet in the fourth grade as part of her school’s music program.

“I was painfully shy as a child, and originally I wanted to play the cello. But I just wanted to be cool like my older cousin and her girlfriends who all played trumpet! So the trumpet it was,” she says.

Torres says her talent and natural ear for music led many mentors in the public school system to help her along the way. Eventually, she earned a scholarship to William Paterson University’s jazz program, where she got to study the work of the artists who had become her idols, like Miles Davis, Roy Hargrove and Clark Terry. At 19, while still in college, she was invited to tour with Terry, and afterwards, she joined Hargrove’s “RH Factor” tour.

She calls her summer touring with Hargrove in 2006 — when neo soul music, which has roots in her hometown of Philadelphia, was having a resurgence — a “dream come true.”

That’s why, when friends started sending her information about the auditions Beyoncé was holding for an all-female band to join her world tour, “The Beyoncé Experience,” Torres didn’t pay it much attention. “I was already touring with one of my heroes,” she says. “I had my sights set on being the female Miles Davis.” 

But later that year, she remembers visiting her mom and seeing a segment on TV about Beyoncé and her all-female band, “The Suga Mamas.”

“Actually, I think it was on the TODAY show!” she remembers. “I just remember sitting with my mom, drinking tea, watching Beyoncé’s band members looking so excited about what they were doing. I kept thinking ‘Why didn’t you go to those auditions? You are supposed to be there!’ It was the strangest feeling in the pit of my stomach, like an intuition. And then I said a prayer in my mind. I said, ‘God, if this is meant to happen, please find a way and make it happen.’

Over the next several months, Torres was back to touring, this time at local festivals. Coincidentally, she kept running into Tia Fuller, Beyoncé’s saxophonist at the time. Torres recalls telling Fuller that while she knew the Suga Mamas already had a trumpeter, if the band ever ended up needing someone, she hoped they’d keep her in mind. 

Six months later, Torres received a call from Fuller that their trumpeter was no longer able to tour. Could she come to New York the next day to audition? 

She sure could. Despite a snow storm, Torres made it to New York, where she had a “very intense” initial audition that required learning choreography on the spot in addition to showing off her trumpet skills. When the band director asked if she could play the trombone, Torres volunteered to try, even though she wasn’t as familiar with the instrument.

Later, the first time Beyoncé heard her play, Torres remembers overhearing the pop star questioning Torres’ mastery of the melody to another team member. Torres says she went right up to Beyoncé to explain that the trombone was not her main instrument, but promising she was going to do everything she could to get it right.

“And she was like, ‘Wow, OK.’ She immediately trusted me. And all these years later, I’m so grateful that she still trusts that I will do whatever it takes to get things right.”

Torres became an official Suga Mama, and later went on to join Beyoncé’s tours for “I Am,” “The Mrs. Carter World Tour,” her four-night residency at Roseland Ballroom, and both “On the Run” and “On the Run II” tours with Jay-Z. She was also on stage at Beyoncé’s history-making headline performance at Coachella in 2018.

It was in 2020, however, that — like the rest of the world — Torres was forced to slow down and reconsider certain aspects of her life. "Being constantly on onstage is very glamorous, but it can also be grueling. You sacrifice a lot; you’re missing birthdays, funerals and weddings, and there’s no calling out sick," she says.

"So the pandemic finally gave me a moment to really process: What are the things I want the most? What has worked for me up until now, and where am I failing? And for me, I realized that I felt like I was failing my true desire: to be a mother."

So she and her husband Michael began their journey to become parents.

Crystal Torres with husband Michael Thomas and a sonogram of their future daughter, Stella.Courtesy Crystal Torres

During rehearsals for the singer’s latest — and perhaps most highly anticipated — world tour, Torres had to work up the nerve to deliver some big news to her boss. She was filled with the anxiety so many women know well when it comes time to tell their employer they’re pregnant. Will I be replaced? Will people look at me differently? Will everyone doubt I can do my job? 

Then Torres realized that if there was one person on the planet who might be able to understand the decision to perform nightly in front of tens of thousands of people while pregnant and traveling internationally, it would be … well, Beyoncé. A global superstar who also happens to be a mother of three. 

“While she’s my employer, Beyoncé is also someone that I have traveled the world with, from when I was basically a little girl to now a grown woman,” Torres says. “We got married in the same seasons. We started building the foundations for our families in the same seasons. And she knows from experience what it is to be pregnant, to be touring, and to be a mom on the road.”

The moment Torres shared the news with both her team and her boss is captured in the “Renaissance” film, with the singer immediately hugging and congratulating her band member. The scene and Torres’ presence on tour has won praise on social media for both the trumpeter and her boss.

In October, @sinmiaraoye tweeted: “Every time I see this trumpet player, I am more impressed with Beyonce because clearly to take a pregnant person on a world tour, there has to be a solid medical team in place. Also, her costuming will be adjusted multiple times. This is what it means to allow a woman to have it all.”

Crystal Torres on stage with Beyoncé and her band members during the “Renaissance World Tour” stop in London in May.Kevin Mazur / WireImage

Torres credits not just Beyoncé, but Yvette Noel-Schure — the singer's longtime publicist and head of publicity at Parkwood Entertainment — for teaching her countless lessons about the possibilities for working mothers, especially in the entertainment industry. Noel-Schure also appears in the film alongside her two adult daughters, who each work for Parkwood as well. 

“Yvette and Beyoncé have always been beacons for me,” Torres says. “They’ve demonstrated the fact that you can still keep your career, your goals, and your aspirations intact, while also being a fantastic mother. Just like my mother and my aunts, they’re setting the example that woman can be empathetic, fully present mothers while still being whole beings. They’ve helped give me the courage to step into this path so boldly.”

Torres saw the "Renaissance" film during its opening weekend with friends and family in Philadelphia. The group of attendees included her grandmother — the woman whose four daughters went on to have more daughters, making Torres’ new addition, Stella, the family’s 25th girl in a row to be born across four generations. 

“I had never felt more proud of being a part of a project,” she says. “I feel like as women of color, we always feel like we have to be super strong, better than everyone in the room. We have to prove ourselves. So it was a beautiful gift for me to have this season documented where I learned to refuse to let fear dictate my decisions.” 

While Torres is only one month postpartum and a few months off of a world tour, like a true artist, she’s already dreaming about what’s next. She’s eager to get into the studio to sing and record under her artist name, Crystal the Indigo. She also hopes to enter the wellness space, with some ideas in mind of how she can bring the affirmations and breathing exercises that have helped her through the years to women of color. Ultimately, she says, her greatest goal is to contribute to helping other women of color be bold, and be heard. 

But for now, she’s taking some time off to “pour as much I can into this little life … my daughter.” And for fans who are wondering if Stella Pearl is still jamming to the “Renaissance” album now that she’s out in the real world, her mom can confirm. 

“The entire Renaissance album will always be special, since baby and I performed it together joyfully — and pain free — 55 times … plus once more during the pushing of her delivery!” Torres says. 

“But so far, ‘Virgo’s Groove’ is the song we like to dance to regularly.  It calms her down and brings us back to the moments on stage where we would dance with the audience and feel all the love from the Beyhive who claimed ‘Baby Renny’ as their ‘honorary niece.’

Article by: Arianna Davis is the Editorial Director of TODAY Digital. She is also the author of "What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly."

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