There seems little at which Queen B, aka Beyoncé, can’t be regarded as a living icon. She’s by turns a singer, performer, writer, producer, fashion designer, actor and loving mom, to name a few of the megastar’s accomplishments. But a question in a recent interview about her awards disappointments elicited a surprisingly deep and moving response.
Because, despite her superstar status, Beyoncé has famously missed out on awards that have seemed to be in the bag. Sometimes, the fact she hasn’t won is so incredible that her fans (even including other artists) can’t believe it themselves. Perhaps the most talked-about of these moments was at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards.
The singer had seemed a dead cert to scoop Best Female Music Video for her iconic hit, “Single Ladies.” But when the award instead went to Taylor Swift, fellow artist Kanye West stormed the stage and cut short Swift’s acceptance speech in protest. He declared that Beyoncé, the wife of his friend Jay Z, had “one of the best videos of all time.”
Then, at the 59th Annual Grammy Awards in 2017, Adele won the Album of the Year award. In her acceptance speech, she honoured Beyoncé, whose ground-breaking album Lemonade had seemed likely to win the prize. Humble Adele said, “The artist of my life is Beyoncé… the Lemonade album is just so monumental.”
Most recently, the star’s 2019 Netflix documentary Homecoming was nominated for six Emmys, yet ultimately failed to claim any. Many fans hailed it as a travesty. But proving her magnanimity in defeat, Beyoncé has since talked about the lessons losses like these have taught her. In fact, she’s been learning them since she was little.
Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born on September 4, 1981 in Houston, Texas. From an early age, young Beyoncé showed a talent for singing and dancing. At just eight years old, she auditioned for an all-girl group alongside friend Kelly Rowland. The girls were successful, and rapping and performing outfit Girl’s Tyme was born.
It was as part of this set-up that the singer was to experience her first painful knockback. The group – comprising Beyoncé, Kelly and four other girls – were entered into TV talent show Star Search. The star admits that at the time, she envisioned success on the program leading to immediate stardom.
In her documentary film Self-Titled: Part 2. Imperfection, Beyoncé said, “In my mind we would perform on Star Search. We would win, we would get a record deal and that was my dream at the time. There’s no way in the world I would imagine losing as a possibility.”
But it wasn’t to be. Girl’s Tyme lost to rock band Skeleton Crew, and young Beyoncé was devastated. “I was only nine years old, and at that time you don’t realise that you can actually work super hard, and give everything you have, and lose,” she said in her documentary. The band split to become just four members, managed by Beyoncé’s father, Matthew Knowles.
The group carried on for years without a huge deal of success. Finally, after almost a decade of supporting other all-girl R&B acts, the group got a break in the form of a hit single. On November 11, 1997, having changed their name to Destiny’s Child, they released “No, No, No.” It peaked at number three in the Billboard Hot 100 and was to at last put them on the map.
It was a top ten hit in the U.K, too. Hearing the song for the first time was later cited by British singer Adele as a seminal moment in her journey as an artist. “[My friends] played it to me, and I remember so clearly how I felt…I fell in love immediately with her [Beyoncé],” she said after the 2017 Grammys.
The self-titled album as a whole didn’t match the success of that hit song. However, it won the group three Soul Train Lady of Soul Awards, and paved the way for their triumphant second album in 1999. The Writing’s On The Wall was to go multi-platinum, selling more than eight million copies globally.
The album was the source of some of Destiny’s Child’s most explosive hits, including “Bills, Bills, Bills,” “Bug a Boo,” “Jumpin’, Jumpin” and “Say My Name.” Yet despite it earning them two Grammys, tensions were rising within the group. To widespread shock, two members of the group decided to leave.
They were said to not agree with Matthew Knowles’ management. The split hit Beyoncé hard, and she was widely accused of being the reason for the break-up. It wasn’t the only knockback she had to deal with. During this period, the star also split with a long-term boyfriend. She was so down she sometimes wouldn’t leave her room for days, and it took her a long time to recover.
However, a new band member, Michelle Williams, joined the group. The new-line up saw the girls go from strength to strength.In 2001 their third album Survivor spawned the global smash hits “Bootylicious” and “Independent Women,” as well its eponymous single. But after a fourth album, Destiny Fulfilled, the group decided to amicably split to pursue solo projects in 2006.
Meanwhile, Beyoncé was to add another string to her bow, by acting the part of Foxy Cleopatra in 2002’s Austin Powers movie Goldmember. However, it was her next collaboration that would prove to be seismic for her romantic and musical career. Her first solo album, Dangerously in Love, was released on June 20, 2003.
Its lead single “Crazy in Love” had dropped a month earlier. It featured rapper Jay-Z and a groundbreakingly sassy video which won three MTV Video Music Awards. The song itself was nothing short of a cultural phenomenon. It scored the singer her first solo number one hit in the U.S. and the U.K.. As recently as 2018 it was hailed by Rolling Stone magazine as the greatest song of the 21st century so far.
The album Dangerously in Love was a huge overall success, winning two awards at the Grammys in 2004. Behind the scenes, Beyoncé had started dating Jay Z, the couple having first met while recording the video for his 2002 single “03 Bonnie & Clyde.” The famously private couple married six years later on April 4, 2008.
Beyoncé and Jay Z have subsequently become one of the most pre-eminent power couples of our time; in June 2019 Forbes magazine put their estimated net worth at $1.4 billion. The couple welcomed a daughter, Blue Ivy, on January 7, 2012. On June 13, 2017 Beyoncé delivered twins, Rumi and Sir.
The singer has continued to set the charts alight, alongside well-received ventures into acting, producing and fashion-designing. But she has had her share of heartache, too. Shortly before becoming pregnant with Blue, Beyoncé tragically suffered a miscarriage. She has said this was the “saddest thing” she’d ever been through.
While her marriage has endured and is seen as one of the strongest in showbiz, Beyoncé has had to contend with her husband’s self-confessed infidelity. Questions were asked after mysterious CCTV footage of Beyoncé’s sister, Solange, emerged. It showed her attacking Jay Z in an elevator at the 2014 Met Gala party while Beyoncé impassively looked on.
Then, to fuel the rumors, Beyoncé uttered the immortal lines in the single “Sorry” on her 2014 album Lemonade , “You only want me when I’m not there/Better call Becky with the good hair.” After fevered speculation about who “Becky with the good hair” was, Beyoncé confirmed those rumors by saying that it was a generic term for “the other woman.”
In a 2018 interview Jay Z told David Letterman, who has admitted infidelity himself, “I have a beautiful wife who was understanding and who knew I’m not the worst of what I’ve done.” He added, “We did the hard work of going to therapy. We love each other, so we really put in the work for years.”
So while Beyoncé’s tremendous influence and accomplishments are undeniable, she has had her fair share of struggles. When asked by a fan in a recent “Ask Me Anything” feature for Elle magazine, “What’s up with the people who give out awards? Were you disappointed not winning?” Beyoncé had a philosophical reply.
“I began to search for a deeper meaning when life began to teach me lessons I didn’t know I needed,” the singer wrote in reply. The question related specifically to Lemonade and docu-film Homecoming, which the singer made about her 2018 Coachella performance. But Beyoncé went on to talk about all of life’s tribulations.
“Success looks different to me now. I learned that all pain and loss is in fact a gift. Having miscarriages taught me that I had to mother myself before I could be a mother to someone else. Then I had Blue, and the quest for my purpose became so much deeper,” she said.
Beyoncé continued, “I died and was reborn in my relationship, and the quest for self became even stronger. It’s difficult for me to go backwards. Being “number one” was no longer my priority. My true win is creating art and a legacy that will live far beyond me. That’s fulfilling.”
In fact, it isn’t the first time that Beyoncé has demonstrated this thoughtful outlook. As proof, website The Undefeated’s culture critic Soraya Nadia McDonald cites the singer’s 2013 mini art feature Self-Titled: Part 2. Imperfection. In the documentary, Beyoncé describes how her early disappointment on Star Search had shaped her.
She said of Girl Tyme’s defeat, “It was the best message for me. The reality is – sometimes you lose. And you’re never too good to lose, you’re never too big to lose, you’re never too smart to lose. It happens, and it happens when it needs to happen. And you have to embrace those things.”
Indeed, Beyoncé seems to have a natural grace. When Kanye West interrupted Taylor Swift with the infamous line “Imma let you finish” during her acceptance speech at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, Swift was then cut off by a commercial break. When Beyoncé won Video of the Year later in the evening, she invited Swift onstage to have a chance to finally finish making her speech.
Then, when Adele dedicated her gong to Beyoncé’s Lemonade at the Grammy Awards in 2017, Beyoncé mouthed “I love you” to her fellow singer onstage. Clearly there were no hard feelings on her part. Ironically, it seems one of the concepts behind Lemonade is actually making the best of whatever life throws at you.
The album features footage of Jay Z’s grandmother Hattie giving a speech at her 90th birthday. She talks about her life, and summarizes, “I was given lemons and I made lemonade.” Also on the album, Beyoncé recites lyrics thought to be based upon her own maternal grandmother, Agnez Dereon.
Dereon passed before Beyoncé had a chance to meet her, but she is said to admire her greatly. Beyoncé even named one of her fashion lines, House of Deréon, after her. She says in the spoken-word segment, “Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half lemon. Strain through a clean napkin.”
The lines continue, “Grandmother. The alchemist. You spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter, who then passed them down to her daughter.”
Beyoncé’s lyrics speak of female empowerment, and it is clear that she sees her mom as a source of her strength. In the Elle interview, she said, “My mother instilled in me the idea that creativity starts with taking a leap of faith – telling your fears that they are not allowed where you are headed.”
To another question asking when she felt confident enough to own her own narrative as an artist and creator, Beyoncé said, “The more I mature, the more I understand my value. I realized I had to take control of my work and my legacy because I wanted to be able to speak directly to my fans in an honest way.”
Beyoncé added, “I wanted my words and my art to come directly from me. There were things in my career that I did because I didn’t understand that I could say no. We all have more power than we realize.” It seems that Beyoncé has learned and matured from the lessons that life has taught her.
And after all, Beyoncé can afford to be gracious in defeat. It’s the test of time, rather than the vagaries of an awards process, that count. Lemonade went on to be the best-selling album of 2016, despite missing out on Album of the Year in 2017 (it did, however, win two other Grammys). By June 2019, it was confirmed as having gone platinum no fewer than three times.
And while Taylor Swift has undeniably also become a global megastar, it’s Beyoncé’s “Single Ladies” rather than Swift’s “You Belong With Me” that still tears up the dancefloor on a Saturday night. And as for the victors who beat nine-year-old Beyoncé in Girl Tyme? Skeleton Crew. What have they done lately?
It seems that adversity has only made Beyoncé stronger. The superstar summed up her outlook on life in the Elle interview when a fan asked her how she kept it real after 25 years in the industry. She replied, “I have the same pain that life brings to everyone else…It is how you relate to your hardships and use that to evolve.”