A vocalist, songwriter, fashion designer, model, actress and a tabloid icon, Beyonce is one of the busiest and most financially successful artists in the world, found near the top of every list accounting for power and influence among celebrities and artists, hence having an audience with her is a challenging endeavour, so I was delighted to have a 20 minute interview.
The rendezvous was set for 4.30pm at the Corinthia Hotel, in London, one of Beyonce’s stops on her Mrs. Carter show world tour. On my way to the conference room from the hotel’s lobby, I encounter security guards at every door. At one room, I see a crew busily unpacking photography equipment from a mountain of boxes and hauling it into the conference room, where they have literally built a photo studio, as if we were going to do a fashion shoot. You see, Beyonce doesn’t allow anyone to take her photo other than her own photographers.
Entering the room, I am greeted by her representatives with a ticket for her concert tonight, an elegant handbag that contained Beyonce’s brand perfume and served a Pepsi drink -Beyonce has $50 million dollar promotion deal with Pepsi. I am also reminded that once I entered the room, I woudn’t be able to leave it. I acquiesce contently- a decision that I soon regret.
I endure waiting over 90 frustrating minutes for Beyonce. The chilled Pepsi fails to quench my discomfiture, so her people, who keep promising that she is on her way, try vainly to numb my displeasure with more potent drinks, including high quality wine. Finally, someone says that she has just got out of her chair, and is heading to the lift, which sound promising.
Moments later, I hear a rumbling noise approaching the room, followed by the opening of the door, which, like a dam releasing its water, unleashes a stream of humanity into the room. Wearing a green top, blue Jeans and curly blondish hair, Beyonce emerges from the protective army of make-up artists, assistants and security guards and heads to the studio lights, followed by three cameras, still and video, who shoot every move.
Unlike the tough image that she projects on stage or music videos, the Texas-born singer looks and sounds like a sweet girl, with a perpetual smile on her face, that instantly heals the anguish of the earlier waiting. After she greets me warmly, she concurs that she is just a girl. “This life, when I’m performing on stage is a few hours of my day,” she says. “The rest of the day I’m changing diapers; I’m with my family and I’m treated the same way. I’m with my mother she’s like, ‘Girl, you are not a Queen.’ So it’s good to have the balance,” she laughs.
The 31-year-old star changes diapers of her 18-month-old daughter, Blue Ivy Carter, whom she had with husband of five years, records mogul, Jay-Z. Motherhood, she says, has changed everything for her. “I feel like I’m a lot more brave and more secure with my purpose,” she enthuses. ”After giving birth, there’s a moment of rediscovering who you are and making sure you still have your goals, and you still take care of yourself as a woman. That was something that I struggled with: Making sure that I still was this strong woman and having my business and also make time for my child and balancing the two.” But she has no doubts about her new top priority in life. “To protect my child,” she stresses, landing her hand on the table.
Indeed, the superstar takes protection seriously, confining herself in a secure bubble. While here in London, she avoided the bustling city and
stayed at a countryside hotel with her husband and daughter, commuting in her private helicopter. She says, however, that she misses what we take for granted. “The little things like being able to go shopping for diapers.” But her fear of a security camera snapping a picture of her that she doesn’t approve of inhibits her from doing so.
But that doesn’t stop her from connecting with people spiritually. “Sometimes we are so busy in our lives that we don’t pay attention to the connections, but they are there all the time and I feel a lot more connected to that after understanding how powerful we all are ,specially as a woman after giving birth.”
Beyonce felt these connections deeply while working on the new animated movie, Epic, in which she voices the forest queen Tara, who leads her subjects, the leafmen, in their struggle against the Boggans, who are bent on destroying their forest. “I always wanted to be the voice of a queen,” smiles Beyonce, who could relate to how queen Tara dealt with people. “I feel like sometimes when you are a celebrity, people expect you to not use supermarket eye drops or they think everything is different, but at the end of the day I am a human being.”
Voicing Queen Tara was the first job Beyonce did after giving birth. “I felt so much emotion and hormones that I literally cried tears when I did the scene where the young girl that admires Queen Tara told her mum that she wanted to be a queen like her, and her mum said: I don’t know if you’ll ever be a queen.”
The scene took Beyonce’s memories back to when she was 10 years old. Seeing Whitney Houston performing the National Anthem 22 years ago at the 1991 Super Bowl, she told her mother “One day I’m gonna do that.” and her mother said, “Yeah, baby, OK whatever.” Earlier this year, not only did Beyonce render the National Anthem at the Super Bowl, but also at the inauguration of the President of the United States, Barack Obama. “You just never know what’s gonna happen in your life, and everything in life is connected. I see you and me and kinda of passing the torch,” she emotes.
But Beyonce is not ready to pass the torch yet. The 18-time Grammy award winner, who has sold 75 million albums, starred in movies such as Dreamgirls (2006) and Cadillac Records (2008), and won more awards for fashion design, still has dreams to live and goals to achieve.
“I want to make more movies,” she enthuses. “I want to continue to challenge myself. I think I can take bigger artistic risks because I feel like commercial success is something I’ve been very fortunate with. So now I have the freedom to do things that are darker, things that are not as commercially successful but something that’s going to feed my soul as an artist – the hero in me.”
In less than 3 hours, Beyonce will be performing at the O2 arena, in front of thousands of fans, yet she looks relaxed without a hint of nervousness. But apparently, the superstar has developed a 3-hour routine of preparing.
“I say a prayer and do a stretch with all of my band mates,” she smiles. “I actually just got a chair that gives a really great massage for one hour while they do my hair and make-up. And I have a playlist that I listen to everyday.”
Right on time, Beyonce rises from her seat and playfully waves goodbye. “See you at the concert tonight,” she chimes, as she is escorted by her entourage out of the room.
Some have already called Beyonce the Queen of Pop, but many say that she has yet to dethrone Madonna in order to claim this title. With the pace she is rising and her relentless determination to conquer whatever she touches, she will properly attain whatever title she desires.