After more than two decades in the spotlight, Beyoncé has become much more than a pop icon. She’s a cultural force who has routinely defied expectations and transformed the way we understand the power of art to change how we see ourselves and each other. But at 40, she feels like she’s just scratched the surface.
INTRODUCTION BY KAITLYN GREENIDGE. PHOTOGRAPHS BY CAMPBELL ADDY. STYLING BY SAMIRA NASR AND MARNI SENOFONTE.
My 20s were about building a strong foundation for my career and establishing my legacy. I was focused on commercial success and number ones and being a visionary no matter how many barriers I had to break through. I was pushed to my limits. I learned the power of saying no. I took control of my independence at 27 and started Parkwood Entertainment. At the time, there wasn’t a company that did what I needed it to do or ran the way I wanted it run. So, I created this multipurpose badass conglomerate that was a creative agency, record label, production company, and management company to produce and work on projects that meant the most to me. I wanted to manage myself and have a company that put art and creativity first.
I pulled together these young visionaries and independent thinkers to collaborate with. I wanted strong women to be in key roles throughout my company, when most of the industry was still male dominated. I wanted collaborators who had not been jaded by the corporate world and wouldn’t be afraid to rock with me when I came up with unconventional ideas, a team that would challenge me but wouldn’t be conditioned to say you’re not supposed to do something.
I remember being in a meeting discussing analytics, and I was told the research discovered that my fans did not like when my photography was black and white. They told me I wouldn’t sell if it wasn’t in colour. That was ridiculous. It pissed me off that an agency could dictate what my fans wanted based on a survey. Who did they ask? How is it possible to generalise people this much? Are these studies accurate? Are they fair? Are all the people I’m trying to uplift and shine a light on included? They’re not. It triggered me when I was told, “These studies show…”
I was so exhausted and annoyed with these formulaic corporate companies that I based my whole next project off of black and white photography, including the videos for “Single Ladies” and “If I Were a Boy” and all of the artwork by Peter Lindbergh for I Am…Sasha Fierce, which ended up being my biggest commercial success to date. I try to keep the human feeling and spirit and emotion in my decision-making.
I was very interested in filmmaking, and my first project was directing my concert film I Am…World Tour. I learned how to edit the cut myself in Final Cut Pro, and it was the beginning of a newfound love and creative expression, which led to creating the visual album with my self-titled album, Beyoncé, then Lemonade, Homecoming, and Black Is King.
I’ve fought to protect my sanity and my privacy because the quality of my life depended on it.
My 30s were about starting my family and my life becoming more than my career. I worked to heal generational trauma and turned my broken heart into art that would help move culture forward and hopefully live far beyond me. My 30s were about digging deeper. In 2013, I started BeyGOOD to share the mentality that we could all do something to help others, something my parents instilled in me from a young age—to inspire others to be kind, to be charitable, and to be good. We focused on many areas of need, including hurricane relief, education with scholarships to colleges and universities in the U.S., a fellowship program in South Africa, women’s rights, support of minority businesses, assisting families with housing needs, water crises, paediatric health care, and pandemic relief. BeyGOOD has become a worldwide initiative for providing support domestically and internationally. It has always been important to me to help others and to make a positive impact on the world. I have worked to lift my people up, to change perceptions so my kids could live in a world where they are seen, celebrated, and valued.
I’ve spent so many years trying to better myself and improve whatever I’ve done that I’m at a point where I no longer need to compete with myself. I have no interest in searching backwards. The past is the past. I feel many aspects of that younger, less evolved Beyoncé could never f*** with the woman I am today. Haaa!