Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter ( born September 4, 1981), is an American singer, songwriter, record producer, dancer, and actress. Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Beyoncé performed in various singing and dancing competitions as a child. She rose to fame in the late 1990s as the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, one of the best-selling girl groups of all time.
During Destiny’s Child’s hiatus, Beyoncé made her theatrical film debut with a role in the US box-office number-one Austin Powers in Goldmember (2002) and recorded her first solo album, Dangerously in Love (2003), which debuted at the top of the US Billboard 200 chart. It also featured the Billboard Hot 100 number-one singles “Crazy in Love” and “Baby Boy”. Following the disbandment of Destiny’s Child in 2006, she released her second solo album, B’Day, which contained the US number-one single “Irreplaceable”, as well as the UK number-one singles “Déjà Vu” and “Beautiful Liar”. Beyoncé continued her acting career with starring roles in The Pink Panther (2006), Dreamgirls (2006), and Obsessed (2009). Her marriage to rapper Jay-Z and her portrayal of Etta James in Cadillac Records (2008) influenced her third album, I Am… Sasha Fierce (2008), which earned a record-setting six Grammy Awards in 2010. It spawned the UK number-one single “If I Were a Boy” and the US number-one single “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”.
After splitting from her manager and father Mathew Knowles in 2010, Beyoncé released the album 4 (2011), which was influenced by 1970s funk, 1980s pop, and 1990s soul. She achieved back-to-back widespread critical acclaim for her albums, Beyoncé (2013) and Lemonade (2016); the latter was the world’s best-selling album of 2016 and the most acclaimed album of her career. She became the first music act in Billboard 200 chart history to debut at number one with their first six solo studio albums. In 2018, she released Everything Is Love, a collaborative album with her husband, Jay-Z, as the Carters. As a featured artist, Beyoncé topped the Billboard Hot 100 with the remixes of “Perfect” by Ed Sheeran in 2017 and “Savage” by Megan Thee Stallion in 2020.
Beyoncé is one of the world’s best-selling music artists, having sold over 100 million records worldwide. Her success during the 2000s was recognized with the Recording Industry Association of America’s Top Certified Artist of the Decade, as well as Billboard magazine’s Top Radio Songs Artist and the Top Female Artist of the Decade. Beyoncé is the most nominated woman in the Grammy Award’s history, with a total of 24 wins. She is also the most awarded artist at the MTV Video Music Awards, with 24 wins, including the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. In 2014, she became the highest-earning black musician in history and was listed among Time’s 100 most influential people in the world for a second year in a row. Forbes ranked her as the most powerful female in entertainment on their 2015 and 2017 lists. She occupied the sixth place for Time’s Person of the Year in 2016, and in 2020, was named one of the 100 women who defined the last century by the same publication. Beyoncé was also included on Encyclopædia Britannica’s 100 Women list in 2019, for her contributions to the entertainment industry.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born in Houston, Texas, to Tina Knowles (née Beyoncé), a hairdresser and salon owner, and Mathew Knowles, a Xerox sales manager. Beyoncé’s name is a tribute to her mother’s maiden name. Beyoncé’s younger sister Solange Knowles is also a singer and a former backup dancer for Destiny’s Child. Solange and Beyoncé are the first sisters to have both had No. 1 albums. Mathew is African American, and Tina is of Louisiana Creole descent (French, Native American, and African), Jewish, Spanish, Chinese and Indonesian ancestry. Through her mother, Beyoncé is a descendant of Acadian leader Joseph Broussard, as well as a distant relative of Jean-Vincent d’Abbadie de Saint-Castin. In 2018, Beyoncé researched her ancestry and found out that she is descended from a slaveowner.
Beyoncé attended St. Mary’s Montessori School in Houston, where she enrolled in dance classes. Her singing talent was discovered when dance instructor Darlette Johnson began humming a song and she finished it, able to hit the high-pitched notes. Beyoncé’s interest in music and performing continued after winning a school talent show at age seven, singing John Lennon’s “Imagine” to beat 15/16-year-olds. In the fall of 1990, Beyoncé enrolled in Parker Elementary School, a music magnet school in Houston, where she would perform with the school’s choir. She also attended the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and later Alief Elsik High School. Beyoncé was also a member of the choir at St. John’s United Methodist Church as a soloist for two years.
When Beyoncé was eight, she and childhood friend Kelly Rowland met LaTavia Roberson while at an audition for an all-girl entertainment group. They were placed into a group called Girl’s Tyme with three other girls, and rapped and danced on the talent show circuit in Houston. After seeing the group, R&B producer Arne Frager brought them to his Northern California studio and placed them in Star Search, the largest talent show on national TV at the time. Girl’s Tyme failed to win, and Beyoncé later said the song they performed was not good. In 1995 Beyoncé’s father resigned from his job to manage the group. The move reduced Beyoncé’s family’s income by half, and her parents were forced to move into separated apartments. Mathew cut the original line-up to four and the group continued performing as an opening act for other established R&B girl groups. The girls auditioned before record labels and were finally signed to Elektra Records, moving to Atlanta Records briefly to work on their first recording, only to be cut by the company. This put further strain on the family, and Beyoncé’s parents separated. On October 5, 1995, Dwayne Wiggins’s Grass Roots Entertainment signed the group. In 1996, the girls began recording their debut album under an agreement with Sony Music, the Knowles family reunited, and shortly after, the group got a contract with Columbia Records.
Marriage and Children
Beyoncé started a relationship with Jay-Z after their collaboration on “’03 Bonnie & Clyde”, which appeared on his seventh album The Blueprint 2: The Gift & The Curse (2002). Beyoncé appeared as Jay-Z’s girlfriend in the music video for the song, fuelling speculation about their relationship. On April 4, 2008, Beyoncé and Jay-Z married without publicity. As of April 2014, the couple had sold a combined 300 million records together. They are known for their private relationship, although they have appeared to become more relaxed in recent years. Both have acknowledged difficulty that arose in their marriage after Jay-Z had an affair.
Beyoncé suffered a miscarriage around 2010 or 2011, describing it as “the saddest thing” she had ever endured. She returned to the studio and wrote music to cope with the loss. In April 2011, Beyoncé and Jay-Z traveled to Paris to shoot the album cover for 4, and she unexpectedly became pregnant in Paris. In August, the couple attended the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards, at which Beyoncé performed “Love on Top” and ended the performance by revealing she was pregnant. Her appearance helped that year’s MTV Video Music Awards become the most-watched broadcast in MTV history, pulling in 12.4 million viewers; the announcement was listed in Guinness World Records for “most tweets per second recorded for a single event” on Twitter, receiving 8,868 tweets per second and “Beyonce pregnant” was the most Googled phrase the week of August 29, 2011. On January 7, 2012, Beyoncé gave birth to a daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Following the release of Lemonade, which included the single “Sorry”, in 2016, speculations arose about Jay-Z’s alleged infidelity with a mistress referred to as “Becky.” Jon Pareles in The New York Times pointed out that many of the accusations were “aimed specifically and recognizably” at him. Similarly, Rob Sheffield of Rolling Stone magazine noted the lines “Suck on my balls, I’ve had enough” were an “unmistakable hint” that the lyrics revolve around Jay-Z.”
On February 1, 2017, she revealed on her Instagram account that she was expecting twins. Her announcement gained over 6.3 million “likes” within eight hours, breaking the world record for the most liked image on the website at the time. On July 13, 2017, Beyoncé uploaded the first image of herself and the twins onto her Instagram account, confirming their birth date as a month prior, on June 13, 2017 and the names Rumi and Sir Carter, with the post becoming the second most liked on Instagram, behind her own pregnancy announcement. The twins were born at Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in California. She wrote of her pregnancy and its aftermath in the September 2018 issue of Vogue, in which she had full control of the cover, shot at Hammerwood Park by photographer Tyler Mitchell.
Beyoncé performed “America the Beautiful” at President Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration, as well as “At Last” during the first inaugural dance at the Neighborhood Ball two days later. The couple held a fundraiser at Jay-Z’s 40/40 Club in Manhattan for President Obama’s 2012 presidential campaign which raised $4 million. In the 2012 presidential election, the singer voted for President Obama. She performed the American national anthem at his second inauguration in January 2013.
The Washington Post reported in May 2015, that Beyoncé attended a major celebrity fundraiser for 2016 presidential nominee Hillary Clinton. She also headlined for Clinton in a concert held the weekend before Election Day the next year. In this performance, Beyoncé and her entourage of backup dancers wore pantsuits; a clear allusion to Clinton’s frequent dress-of-choice. The backup dancers also wore “I’m with her” tee shirts, the campaign slogan for Clinton. In a brief speech at this performance Beyoncé said, “I want my daughter to grow up seeing a woman lead our country and knowing that her possibilities are limitless.”
Beyoncé has conducted several fundraising and donation campaigns during her tours
In 2013, Beyoncé stated in an interview in Vogue that she considered herself to be “a modern-day feminist”. She would later align herself more publicly with the movement, sampling “We should all be feminists”, a speech delivered by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie at a TEDx talk in April 2013, in her song “Flawless”, released later that year. The next year she performed live at the MTV Video Awards in front a giant backdrop reading “Feminist.” Her self-identification incited a circulation of opinions and debate about whether her feminism is aligned with older, more established feminist ideals. Annie Lennox, celebrated artist and feminist advocate, referred to Beyoncé’s use of her word feminist as ‘feminist lite’. Dr. bell hooks critiqued Beyoncé, referring to her as a “terrorist” towards feminism, harmfully impacting her audience of young girls. Adichie responded with “…her type of feminism is not mine, as it is the kind that, at the same time, gives quite a lot of space to the necessity of men. Adichie expands upon what ‘feminist lite’ means to her, referring that “more troubling is the idea, in Feminism Lite, that men are naturally superior but should be expected to “treat women well” and “we judge powerful women more harshly than we judge powerful men. And Feminism Lite enables this.” Beyoncé responded about her intent by utilizing the definition of feminist with her platform was to “give clarity to the true meaning” behind it. She says to understand what being a feminist is, “…it’s very simple. It’s someone who believes in equal rights for men and women.” She advocated to provide equal opportunities for young boys and girls, men and women must begin to understand the double standards that remain persistent in our societies and the issue must be illuminated in effort to start making changes.
She has also contributed to the Ban Bossy campaign, which uses TV and social media to encourage leadership in girls. Following Beyoncé’s public identification as a feminist, the sexualized nature of her performances and the fact that she championed her marriage was questioned.
Beyoncé publicly endorsed same-sex marriage on March 26, 2013, after the Supreme Court debate on California’s Proposition 8. She spoke against North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy & Security Act, a bill passed (and later repealed) that discriminated against the LGBT community in public places in a statement during her concert in Raleigh as part of the Formation World Tour in 2016. She has also condemned police brutality against black Americans. She and Jay-Z attended a rally in 2013 in response to the acquittal of George Zimmerman for the shooting of Trayvon Martin. The film for her sixth album Lemonade included the mothers of Trayvon Martin, Michael Brown and Eric Garner, holding pictures of their sons in the video for “Freedom”. In a 2016 interview with Elle, Beyoncé responded to the controversy surrounding her song “Formation” which was perceived to be critical of the police. She clarified, “I am against police brutality and injustice. Those are two separate things. If celebrating my roots and culture during Black History Month made anyone uncomfortable, those feelings were there long before a video and long before me”.
In February 2017, Beyoncé spoke out against the withdrawal of protections for transgender students in public schools by Donald Trump’s presidential administration. Posting a link to the 100 Days of Kindness campaign on her Facebook page, Beyoncé voiced her support for transgender youth and joined a roster of celebrities who spoke out against Trump’s decision.
In November 2017, Beyoncé presented Colin Kaepernick with the 2017 Sports Illustrated Muhammad Ali Legacy Award, stating, “Thank you for your selfless heart and your conviction, thank you for your personal sacrifice,” and that “Colin took action with no fear of consequence … To change perception, to change the way we treat each other, especially people of color. We’re still waiting for the world to catch up.” Muhammad Ali was heavily penalized in his career for protesting the status quo of US civil rights through opposition to the Vietnam War, by refusing to serve in the military. 40 years later, Kaepernick had already lost one professional year due to taking a much quieter and legal stand “for people that are oppressed.”
Forbes magazine began reporting on Beyoncé’s earnings in 2008, calculating that the $80 million earned between June 2007 to June 2008, for her music, tour, films and clothing line made her the world’s best-paid music personality at the time, above Madonna and Celine Dion. It placed her fourth on the Celebrity 100 list in 2009 and ninth on the “Most Powerful Women in the World” list in 2010. The following year, the magazine placed her eighth on the “Best-Paid Celebrities Under 30” list, having earned $35 million in the past year for her clothing line and endorsement deals. In 2012, Forbes placed Beyoncé at number 16 on the Celebrity 100 list, twelve places lower than three years ago yet still having earned $40 million in the past year for her album 4, clothing line and endorsement deals. In the same year, Beyoncé and Jay-Z placed at number one on the “World’s Highest-Paid Celebrity Couples”, for collectively earning $78 million. The couple made it into the previous year’s Guinness World Records as the “highest-earning power couple” for collectively earning $122 million in 2009. For the years 2009 to 2011, Beyoncé earned an average of $70 million per year, and earned $40 million in 2012. In 2013, Beyoncé’s endorsements of Pepsi and H&M made her and Jay-Z the world’s first billion dollar couple in the music industry. That year, Beyoncé was published as the fourth most-powerful celebrity in the Forbes rankings.
MTV estimated that by the end of 2014, Beyoncé would become the highest-paid black musician in history; this became the case in April 2014. In June 2014, Beyoncé ranked at number one on the Forbes Celebrity 100 list, earning an estimated $115 million throughout June 2013 – June 2014. This in turn was the first time she had topped the Celebrity 100 list as well as being her highest yearly earnings to date. In 2016, Beyoncé ranked at number 34 on the Celebrity 100 list with earnings of $54 million. Herself and Jay-Z also topped the highest paid celebrity couple list, with combined earnings of $107.5 million. As of 2018, Forbes calculated her net worth to be $355 million, and in June of the same year, ranked her as the 35th highest earning celebrity with annual earnings of $60 million. This tied Beyoncé with Madonna as the only two female artists to earn more than $100 million within a single year twice. As a couple with Jay-Z, they have a combined net worth of $1.16 billion. In July 2017, Billboard announced that Beyoncé was the highest paid musician of 2016, with an estimated total of $62.1 million.