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She is...Beyoncé Knowles
She had her first major hit in 2000, as part of Destiny’s Child. Since then, her career has gone into overdrive, as she mastered the art of live performance, clocked up the solo hits, made a successful transition to the big screen and, just by the way, married one of black music’s most successful dynamos, Jay-Z. It’s been a hell of a decade for the girl from Houston, Texas.
Patricia Danaher, 04 Mar 2010
Beyoncé Knowles is a modern day pop phenomenon. A mere 18 at the turn of the millennium, over the past ten years she has established herself as the most successful female pop artist on Planet Earth. In doing so she has eclipsed Madonna, left Britney Spears trailing and seen off every other potential pretender to the throne. And she has done it on the basis of an extraordinary level of talent, as a singer, songwriter, musician and performer.
Beyoncé is very well aware that she’s carrying the mantle of some of the great black female singers on her 28-year-old shoulders. Yet the artist she most aspires to emulate in her career is not Nina Simone or Ella Fitzgerald, but Barbra Streisand.
It might seem surprising at first glance but of course it’s not. Streisand is the biggest selling female artist of all time. She has sustained a career over almost 50 years, stayed at the top and sold 150 million records in the process. Who wouldn’t want to emualte that sort of longevity?
But more on that later…
I caught up with Beyoncé in the middle of her marathon I Am...Sasha Fierce tour. A large, armed security guard hovered in the background, but she seemed relaxed and focused nonetheless. Like a Tae Kwando master, she is calm and very present, but you sense also, trained to the gills and ready for anything.
In spite of all her extraordinary success, the multiple Grammies and accolades, and her marriage to the simliarly successful rapper, musician, producer and record label boss Jay-Z, there is still an earnestness about her, an impression that inside there is still a careful Methodist girl who is intent on taking as few risks as possible.
“Honestly, I am very frugal,” she says soberly. “Very. I haven’t bought a car since I was 16. I haven’t bought any diamonds since I was 17. I have a lot of property and that’s what I spend my money on.
“I mean, I like fashion,” she adds, as if not to acknowledge it might be sinful. “I have lots of shoes but I don’t really think about it. My money is in the bank – I’ve invested it. I have my conversations with my business manager when I need to, but I worked hard as a teenager, really, really hard and I sacrificed a lot, so I can now do things because they interest me and because they’re going to make me grow and because it’s exciting.”