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7 Real-Life Events that Inspired Donald Glover’s and Janine Nabers’ Series, Swarm

by Emily Lauletta

As stated at the beginning of each episode, Swarm “is not a work of fiction. Any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events, is intentional.” 

Show creators Donald Glover and Janine Nabers weren’t playing around about this. According to Nabers, “This story is 100 percent taken from real events and real internet rumors and real other things, true crimes that have happened between the years of 2016 and 2018.”

Here are 7 real-life events that inspired some of the darkest (and most thrilling) moments in Swarm, starring Dominique Fishback.

Warning: this report contains spoilers, so if you haven’t watched the series yet, don’t read on!

Someone really did bite Beyoncé

Screen Shot 2023 03 20 at 11.51.18 AM b95b7Screen Shot from CNN. https://www.cnn.com/2018/03/27/entertainment/tiffany-haddish-beyonce-party-bite/index.html

You might remember when the internet was set ablaze with #WhoBitBeyoncé trending on Twitter in 2018. Well that was because someone really did bite Beyoncé (allegedly.) According to comedian Tiffany Haddish, the whole thing went down at a party in Los Angeles, which was attended by Beyoncé and her husband Jay-Z. Haddish stated that there was an actress at this party who was “doing the mostest.” Haddish went on to say, “[Beyoncé and Jay Z] went to the back of the room. I was like, ‘What just happened? And Beyoncé’s friend walked up and was like, ‘Can you believe this b**ch just bit Beyoncé?”

Haddish never confirmed who the actress was, but she did say that Beyoncé confirmed to her that she was bitten. I say it’s time we reopen this case.

Four women actually murdered someone who tried to help them

Screen Shot 2023 03 20 at 11.52.13 AM d32eeScreen Shot from New York Daily News. https://www.nydailynews.com/news/crime/strippers-kill-man-helped-change-flat-tire-police-article-1.3386937

A real life murder case is what inspired the stripper storyline in Swarm. In 2017, four strippers from Nashville and Memphis were charged with the first degree murder of Missouri resident Ralph Cross. The incident allegedly occurred after Cross invited the women inside his home to wait while he changed their tire. Of course, in the show, the strippers who looked guilty for murder were completely innocent, and were framed by Dre. 

A woman named Marissa Jackson really was reported to have committed suicide in 2016 after Beyoncé dropped Lemonade (although the news story turned out to be fake)

Screen Shot 2023 03 20 at 11.53.24 AM bb347Screen Shot from LEad Stories. https://leadstories.com/hoax-alert/2016/04/woman-did-not-commit-suicide-over-beyonces-lemonade.html

Chloe Bailey’s character, Marissa Jackson, was based on a real person. Sort of. After Beyoncé surprise dropped her album Lemonade, a report came out that a woman named Marissa Jackson had committed suicide. The story said that Jackson couldn’t get over the fact that Beyoncé, who, for lack of a better term, is Beyoncé, could have been cheated on by anyone. I think we were all thinking that when the news broke in 2016, but, thankfully, no one actually ended their life over it. The story, which has since been taken down, was posted on a website called empireherald.com which is known for hoaxes, has been disproven.

Nabers confirmed that Bailey’s character was based on that internet hoax. “I’m from Houston, Texas, and my very best friend’s last name is Jackson. There was a lot of texting between Houstonians being like, “Yo, who is this Marissa Jackson? Is this a true story?” …and people were tweeting really horrible things about this woman who had killed herself and making fun of her,” she said in an interview with Shondaland. 

A man really did rush the stage at a Beyoncé concert

Screen Shot 2023 03 20 at 11.53.50 AM f2ad6

In 2018, a man rushed the stage at Beyoncé and Jay Z’s Atlanta show during their On the Run II tour. Knowing this, it can be assumed that one of the reasons that the main character Dre (who by this point in the show is going by the name Tony) becomes more masculine by the end of the show is to better align with the real life story. In fact, the fan who rushed the stage was even named Anthony, which ‘Tony’ is a nickname for!

Glover and Nabers clearly know how to pay attention to detail to make a show more engaging. Luckily, the couples’ backup dancers went after the fan and between the dancers and security, he was stopped before he could actually reach the stars. Jay Z and Beyoncé also decided not to press charges, stating that the man was clearly intoxicated.

There was really a cult that branded themselves in the name of “self-improvement”

Screen Shot 2023 03 20 at 11.52.42 AM 4ee9aScreen Shot from The Sun. https://www.the-sun.com/entertainment/tv/1469044/the-vow-sex-cult-leader-brands-women/

The cult in Swarm, led by singer Billie Eilish who plays ‘Eva’ in the show, is inspired by a real cult. The cult in question is the NXIVM group, which was a sex cult and human trafficking ring disguised as a self help community. The group even branded themselves with the initials of the groups’ leader, sex offender Keith Raniere, a symbol which looks eerily similar to the one we see on Eilish and members of her cult on Swarm. Smallville actress Allison Mack was even a part of this cult, so that’s crazy. 

Solange really did fight Jay Z in an elevator

Screen Shot 2023 03 20 at 12.07.26 PM 03729Screen Shot from iHeart. https://www.iheart.com/content/2022-05-04-today-in-hip-hop-history-solange-slaps-jay-z-in-an-elevator-with-beyonce/

At the beginning of episode three, we’re introduced to the character of Alice Dudley, a right wing fanatic who verbally attacks fictional singer Ni’jah on Twitter for not defending her husband after her sister attacks him in an elevator. This actually happened. In 2014 a video was leaked of Solange, Beyoncé’s real life sister, attacking Jay Z in an elevator. Though it’s never been confirmed what the two were fighting about, the incident did happen just before the news broke about Jay Z’s cheating scandal, which is suspicious timing. No one was seriously harmed in the incident, but it was a pop culture moment that broke the internet.

The Beyhive really has threatened murder over anti-Beyoncé comments 

Screen Shot 2023 03 20 at 11.52.59 AM cffc1Screen Shot from Barstool Sports. https://www.barstoolsports.com/blog/206608/beyonce-fans-are-threatening-to-murder-chris-browns-girlfriend-for-making-a-joke-about-blue-ivy-having-bead-head-at-the-vmas

The Beyhive has proven time and time again that they will do anything for their Queen Bee, which has yielded both iconic and slightly terrifying results. For example, in 2014 the Beyhive collectively called out model Karrueche Tran for making an insensitive comment about Blue Ivy’s hair. Which makes sense, as Tran’s comment was racist. Black women have been at the butt of a joke for their natural hair for years. Threatening to murder her though (Which is something that some Bey fans did) is definitely taking things a step too far. 

The Beyhive also made headlines this year after they expressed outrage over Harry Styles’ album Harry’s House winning over Beyoncé’s Renaissance, with one fan screaming “Beyoncé should have won”, as Styles accepted his award. Mike Huckabee and Kid Rock have also been victims of verbal abuse by the Beyhive, but we’re willing to look the other way for those ones. (We do not condone bullying… most of the time).


 I guess you could say that Glover and Naber’s Swarm is just another example of art imitating life, and given the darkly funny moments, excellent performances, and Beyoncé of it all, it’s art imitating life that we hope to get a season two of!

Top photo: Quantrell D. Colbert/Prime Video. Amazon Studios.

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