Beyonce: A Woman Possessed

Beyonce KNOWLES performs in the UK on February 17th, 2004. Credit: JMEnternational/Redferns/Getty

Below is an excerpt of an article that originally appeared in RS 943 from March 4, 2004. This issue and the rest of the Rolling Stone archives are available via Rolling Stone Plus, Rolling Stone's premium subscription plan. If you are already a subscriber, you can click here to see the full story. Not a member? Click here to learn more about Rolling Stone Plus.

From the moment Beyoncé lands in London, she's treated like a princess. A British Airways agent meets her at the door of the plane and whisks her and her four-person crew down an almost hidden set of stairs and into a waiting British Airways car. Other passengers making connections at Heathrow Airport have to slog between terminals on a bus, but the twenty-two-year-old Houston native, who says she's really a New Yorker now, zips through the airport's back roads, trying to figure out whether her final destination — Cannes — is pronounced can or con. She wears no necklace and no rings, but she's still dressed very girly, in big, chunky earrings, a pink off-the-shoulder cashmere sweater with a sort of bow in the front, a brown furlined wrap, fuzzy pink boots, jeans and a hot-pink baseball hat with embroidered sparkles on the front forming a cat and more sparkles on the back spelling out Beyoncé. Her shoulders and neck flow gracefully out from under her sweater, recalling old French sculptures that romanticized the curves of the female form. She has golden skin, three small birthmarks on her face, perfect teeth and a dancer's posture that makes her seem much taller than five feet seven. And her tight jeans reveal her to be a healthy girl, someone the brothers would call thick, with a booming system in the back.

The last six months have seen a sort of Beyoncéexplosion, where she went from the most popular singer in a hot group, Destiny's Child, to a ubiquitous solo megastar whose Dangerously in Love has been bought by more than 2 million people, earned her six Grammy nominations and spawned two of the hottest songs of last year, "Crazy in Love" and "Baby Boy." Beyoncéhas become a crossover sex symbol a la Halle Berry, a black girl who's not so overwhelmingly Nubian that white people don't appreciate her beauty. She's what Janet Jackson used to be: the tasteful sex symbol who's giving you R&B-flavored pop hits and state-of-the-art videos, tours and movies, too. This year will see still more Beyoncé: In March, she starts a five-week tour with Alicia Keys and Missy Elliott, then she plans to record a new Destiny's Child album and finish the year with a Destiny's Child tour. But offstage, the girl is careful to maintain a distance between the person who's famous and the person shaped long before fame. "I don't want to get addicted to fame," she says. "Then when I'm no longer famous I won't know what to do, and I'll just seem desperate and lose my mind." She has been training to be famous since age ten, when her father would make her run one mile in the morning while singing, to build up the ability to sing and dance at the same time. The first Destiny's Child album came out when she was sixteen, in 1998, a year before Britney Spears and the teen-pop supernova (she and Spears are the same age); Beyoncéhas worked relentlessly since. "You lose touch with who you are," she says. "When you work so much like we did, it's just too much."

When she lands in Nice, France, she's met by an agent who takes her to a special, empty line at passport control. But nowadays even princesses sometimes hit potholes. While she's at the baggage carousel, tired, hungry and running on empty after a long trip from Newark, New Jersey, to the south of France, someone from British Airways runs up and says two bags are missing. Beyoncémumbles that the missing bags are surely hers. She's annoyed. Anyone would be. But she says not one more word. "You wanna think she's a bitch because she's so fine," says her choreographer, Frank Gatson Jr. "But I've never seen someone so sweet. It trips me out. Knowing she wants to go off on somebody because somebody's pissed her off, she catches herself. She knows that humility is important. I think it's her upbringing in church." At the airport, she just rolls her eyes and grins. It's a fake smile, but it's polite, professional. She lives like a princess but doesn't have airs.

Every princess must have a prince, and Beyoncé's is the recently retired MC Jay-Z, who's more than a decade older. "I know the dude a long time," an insider says of Jay-Z. "I've never seen him sprung like this. He cares about her, gives her great advice, he wants his woman to look right. They adore each other." Jay and Beyoncéboth refuse to discuss the relationship. "I don't say I'm single," she responds. "People are like, 'Why does she say that they're just friends?' I don't say that. I just don't talk about it. I just wanna protect my private life."

She does, though, talk about what sort of girlfriend she is. "In relationships, I think a lot like a guy," she says. "If I do something wrong, I don't get emotional. I think about it, and I change it and fix it. I've always been very logical." Still, she can find herself overcome by emotion sometimes: "When I do anything, I do it. If I fall in love, I'm there." She says she'd like to have children one day. "If it was a perfect world, I would have two boys and a girl," she says. "I love little boys, and girls are so much drama."

And she does talk about Jay, though not by name. She's very free with "we." Asked where she was during the blackout of 2003, she replies, "We were at the 40/40 Club," the Manhattan sports bar Jay-Z opened last year. There was a generator at the club, so the party never stopped. "At 4 a.m. we took a plane to Italy," she says. "We got to Rome, and they had a blackout there."

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