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Beyonce

Biography

Beyonce
Peter Lindbergh

In the 2000s, no pop star was as poised, as polished, or as generally fierce as Beyoncé Giselle Knowles. She scored early success with Destiny's Child, who started out as a sexier and sassier (if less adult) version of TLC, then steadily became more and more of a vehicle for Beyoncé's operatic vocals and general diva-tude — which may have been the plan all along. Whether appearing in TV spots (for L'Oreal and other products), co-starring in films like Dream Girls, or marrying Jay-Z, Beyoncé was omnipresent in the 2000s. And though her female-empowerment anthems didn't seem to offer much for women who lacked her superpowers to relate to, almost everybody loved shiny, hip-hop-fueled hits like "Crazy in Love, " and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)" anyway.

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was groomed for stardom from an early age. Born on September 4th, 1981, she began singing, dancing and performing in talent shows in her native Houston at seven, and by high school she and cousin Kelly Rowland and school chums LaTavia Roberson and LeToya Luckett were singing together, in a group that was later managed by Beyoncé's father and Rowland's guardian, Matthew Knowles. The act was first called Girl's Tyme (the name under which the group performed on Star Search in 1992), but by the time they signed to Columbia in 1997, they were Destiny's Child.

In 1998, the group issued its debut, Destiny's Child, which featured the hit "No, No, No" (Number Three, 1998). But it was 1999's The Writing's on the Wall that broke the bank, with "Bug a Boo" (Number 33, 1999), "Jumpin' Jumpin'" (Number Three, 1999), "Bills, Bills, Bills" (Number One, 1999), and perhaps most definitively with "Say My Name" (Number One, 2000). The definitive kiss-off song won two Grammys and featured a standout performance by Beyoncé, whose skittering, rhythmic, and hip-hop-derived approach to melody would help shift the entire landscape of R&B singing.

With the membership of the group rapidly shifting around her — Luckett and Roberson sued after being replaced by Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin, and Franklin left within a year—it became increasingly clear that Destiny's Child was intended as Beyoncé's showcase. Late in 2000 came "Independent Women Pt. 1" (Number One), from the Charlie's Angels soundtrack, a song that set the tone for 2001's Survivor (Number One), on which Beyoncé fully took center stage, most notably on the Grammy-winning title hit and "Bootylicious" (Number One). In 2001, Beyoncé starred in the MTV "hip-hopera" Carmen in the title role.

After appearing in Austin Powers in Goldmember, Knowles released her solo debut on its soundtrack, titled "Work It Out." She also worked with her new beau Jay-Z on his "'03 Bonnie & Clyde" (Number Four). Beyoncé's own Dangerously in Love was released in June 2003 and entered the charts at Number One, buoyed by its incredibly infectious lead single, "Crazy in Love," which stayed at Number One for two months. "Baby Boy," featuring Sean Paul, which also hit the top of the charts; "Me, Myself and I" and "Naughty Girl" helped the album move more than 4 million copies. In November 2004, Destiny Fulfilled (Number Two) sounded a valedictory note for Beyoncé's group with "Lose My Breath" and "Soldier"; the next Destiny's Child CD was a best-of titled #1s.

In 2006, Beyoncé starred alongside Steve Martin in The Pink Panther, but it was her role in the film adaptation of the Broadway smash Dreamgirls that defined her on-screen career (Beyoncé received two Golden Globe nominations, and the film won two Oscars). Inspired by her Dreamgirls character (the Diana Ross-esque Deena Jones), she followed the film's completion by writing and, in a compressed three-week burst, recording B'Day, a deeper and often more inspired follow-up to Dangerously in Love. Among its hits were "Deja Vu" (Number Four), "Ring the Alarm" (Number 11), and "Irreplaceable," which perched at Number One for 10 straight weeks. A "deluxe" version of B'Day came out in April 2007 with included a duet with Shakira called "Beautiful Liar." Beyoncé spent much of 2007 on the road supporting the album on the Beyoncé Experience tour.

Offstage, Beyoncé has also spent time promoting her fashion line House of Dereon (its moniker is taken from her grandmother's surname). On April 4th, 2008, Jay-Z and Beyoncé were married in Manhattan.

Beyoncé released her third solo studio album, I Am… Sasha Fierce in November, 2008. It debuted at Number One, selling 482,000 copies in its first week, and, on the strength of four Top Ten singles, continued to sell big for over a year, reaching sales of 6 million worldwide in late 2009. The first single, "If I Were a Boy," made little impact in the U.S., but the second, "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" went to Number One. Soon after the release of Sasha Fierce, Beyoncé played Etta James in Cadillac Records, opposite Adrian Brody, Mos Def, and Jeffrey Wright. Beyoncé stuck with the role in real life, performing James' "At Last" at Barack Obama's Inaugural Ball.

Throughout 2009, Beyoncé toured the world on the I Am... tour, grossing over $36 million. The exquisitely choreographed video for "Single Ladies" went on to win 2009 Video of the Year at the BET Awards and the MTV Video Music Awards (although Kanye West notoriously interrupted Taylor Swift's speech in protest when Beyoncé lost in the Best Female Video category).

Portions of this biography appeared in The Rolling Stone Encyclopedia of Rock & Roll (Simon & Schuster, 2001). Evan Serpick contributed to this article.

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