Within the confines
of a two-hour interview, even the most temperamental movie stars
can usually manage to behave like nice, normal people. Macho action
heroes will invariably come across as pussycats, and icy A-list
actresses will seem adorably down-to-earth. But music divas, thankfully,
are different: They just can't help living up to their legends.
Whenever Whitney Houston or Mariah Carey or Courtney Love agrees
to meet a reporter for lunch, she's all but guaranteed to show
up late, to scream at (or flirt with) the waiter, maybe even to
break something. So it's not surprising to arrive at a Beverly
Hills restaurant for an audience with Beyonce Knowles—glamorous
front woman of Destiny's Child and star of this summer's Austin
Powers 3—and to discover that the reservation isn't for
two people, but for three: Beyonce will not be arriving alone.
And when she does finally make her entrance, trailed by her assistant
and wearing a low-cut vintage T-shirt and a Boston Red Sox cap,
it's no great shock to learn that she didn't choose the hat because
of the baseball team.
"All I know is
that it has a 'B' on it," she says. "For Beyonce!"
But as she smiles sweetly and settles in for lunch, it becomes
clear that Beyonce won't be doing the diva routine today. Within
minutes, she's sipping a virgin strawberry daiquiri, confessing
that she really wants a boyfriend and reminiscing about a recent
trip to the mall. By the time her popcorn shrimp and pizza arrive,
it's easy to believe co-star Mike Myers and all the other people
who say that Beyonce is really a humble, good-natured 20-year-old,
one with an uncanny talent for morphing into a superstar the second
she hits the stage. And although pop-music history is littered
with sordid tales of innocence gone bad, Beyonce believes she
has weathered so much controversy lately that she might already
be out of the danger zone.
"Life tests you
sometimes," she says. "You have to go through the drama
to get the blessing. I've been through the drama, and I've learned
that. Now I'm getting the blessing."
The drama, as many
people know, began in Houston 13 years ago, when shy little Beyonce,
age 7, stepped onto the stage at a local talent show. "I
got up and sang this song, and I became a whole different person,"
she recalls. "It shocked the crap out of my mom and dad."
So much so that her father, Mathew, formed a singing group around
Beyonce and began overseeing practice sessions in the backyard.
In 1992 the group (then a sextet called Girl's Tyme) made it onto
"Star Search" but didn't win; Mathew decided to give
up his lucrative sales job to manage the girls full time, while
Beyonce's mother, Tina, designed their stage clothes and styled
their hair at her beauty salon. A few years later, the group—now
a foursome featuring Beyonce, Kelly Rowland, LeToya Luckett and
LaTavia Roberson—got signed by Elektra, then dumped, then
re-signed by Columbia. Their first single, "No, No, No,"
came out a few months after Beyonce's 16th birthday and made it
to number one.
Beyonce still remembers
the first time they heard that song on the car radio, while picking
up her little sister, Solange, from school. "She and all
her friends were walking out, and the song started playing,"
Beyonce says. "It was unbelievable—we jumped out and
started running around the car. We screamed and laughed and cried
and danced and sang and all of that. My sister was so embarrassed-—he
was like, 'What's wrong with you?' And then she heard the song,
and she's like, 'Aaaahhhh!' And she dropped her bag and started
running around the car too." A few months later, Whitney
Houston invited the girls to her birthday party in New York. "We
got some money and put our happy butts on that plane and went
straight to that party," says Beyonce. "We even dressed
alike, like we were going to perform. And Whitney came and hugged
us, and she said that she loved us. We were just in awe."
After another hit record,
Destiny's Child was on the verge of bona fide girl-group glory.
All they needed was some high-profile strife—and in late
1999 they got plenty. Roberson and Luckett split from the group,
eventually suing Mathew Knowles for financial mismanagement and
familial bias toward Beyonce (and toward Kelly, who'd long ago
moved in with the family). Beyonce went into a deep depression,
hiding in her bedroom for a month. Mathew instantly hired two
new girls, Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin, whose first
task was lip-synching to Roberson and Luckett's voices on the
group's next hit video, "Say My Name." But within a
few months Franklin, too, was gone, supposedly because she couldn't
handle Mathew's notoriously grueling work schedule.
Last year, Destiny's
Child's three remaining members released a third CD, aptly titled
Survivor, which went multi-platinum and boasted three smash singles,
including the Charlie's Angels theme song, "Independent Women
Part 1." Inevitably, some critics began to chafe at the group's
girl-power message, which seemed cynically manufactured for the
masses (the Hasbro dolls introduced last year didn't help). And
the whispers of an impending breakup grew louder: Wasn't Destiny's
Child just a souped-up star vehicle for Beyonce? Through it all,
however, the trio has maintained a defiantly upbeat, we-are-family
solidarity. In interviews and even in their song lyrics, they
insist that they're equals and best friends, together forever.
"Ain't no one
come between us three," they sing on Survivor, in perfect
harmony. But as Diana Ross will tell you, some girls were just
born to stand out in a group. And Beyonce happens to be the blondest,
the curviest and the most honey-voiced of the trio-the one who
wrote last year's hit song "Bootylicious" and is herself
the ultimate embodiment of the term. Her star power got an additional
jolt last October, when she beat out virtually every young African-American
actress in Hollywood to win the role of Austin Powers' next sidekick,
Foxxy Cleopatra. The character, a sexy detective with a gravity-defying
afro, is an ex-lover of Austin's who's still mad at him for standing
her up in 1975. In the film, Austin time-travels back to the Seventies
to meet Foxxy, then teams up with her to fight Dr. Evil (Myers)
and his new partner in crime, Goldmember (Michael Caine).
"I never thought
I'd get the part, not in a million years," says Beyonce,
who likens her first meeting with the filmmakers to a visit to
the principal's office. "I was so nervous. They asked me
if I wanted to go into comedy, and I was like, 'Well, I don't
know if I'd be good.' Afterward I'm like, 'You dummy, what did
you just say? Oh, God!' But I was just being honest, because I
didn't know." She made up for it when she returned a few
weeks later—copping some major attitude and wearing a Seventies
catsuit worthy of Pam Grier—to read a few scenes with Myers.
"She just came in and she nailed it," producer John
Lyons recalls. "It really was one of those things where she
left the room and everyone went, 'That's it.' "
The hardest part of
the shoot for Beyonce? "Trying to not laugh," she says.
"Literally. That's what I have to concentrate on, because
Mike is just so funny. And he does different things in every scene."
Acting coach Martha Gehman, hired to work with Beyonce on the
film, wasn't too concerned that the actress had only one major
credit to her name (a starring role in MTV's hip-hop remake of
Carmen). "I don't think she has one bad instinct in her body,"
says Gehman, who was also floored by Beyonce's capacity for self-transformation.
"When you look at her on the set, sometimes you'll see this
young girl, just sitting there quietly. A crew person will ask
her what she wants to eat, and she'll request some pork rinds.
Then she gets onstage, and it's just—she just lights up
the whole room, and you're like, 'Oh, my God.' " Wisely,
the filmmakers have given Foxxy a few songs to sing in the movie,
including the opening musical extravaganza, "Hey, Goldmember."
In the middle of the
shoot, however, Beyonce managed to get drawn into a couple of
more legal scuffles that threatened to ruin all the fun. Roberson
and Luckett sued Destiny's Child again, claiming that a lyric
in the song "Survivor" violates their previous out-of-court
settlement, which prohibits all parties from making disparaging
public comments about one another. (The line in question: "You
thought I wouldn't sell without you/ [But I] sold nine million.")
When she's asked about
the claim, Beyonce stops eating and looks up from her plate. Her
huge brown eyes say a lot of things—some of them nicer than
others—but she chooses her words carefully: "I can't
say anything because I'm scared I'm going to get sued [again].
All I can say is, it's really unfortunate that when you get successful,
people try to steal your happiness. But they can't. Sometimes
I still get mad about it, and sometimes it hurts, but it's now
to the point where it's ridiculous. It's like, come on!"
Roberson and Luckett have attempted to get a restraining order
that prevents Destiny's Child from performing the song, but so
far they've been unsuccessful. The next hearing in the case is
scheduled for this month.
"It's just sad,"
says Beyonce. "I don't want no drama, I don't want no enemies.
All I want to do is go into the studio, write my music, do my
movies and perform. I'm not trying to hurt nobody, offend nobody.
I'm just happy to be here, and it's just sad that all this other
stuff comes along with it." Right now, each of the three
Destiny's Child members is working on solo projects—Rowland
has appeared on UPN's "The Hughleys," and Williams is
releasing a gospel album—but they're touring in Europe together
this summer, and Beyonce insists the group is tighter than it's
ever been. Not that she expects anyone to believe her. "I
can sit here all day and say I am not a diva, but it won't matter,
because people just have to be around us and see how we support
each other," she says. "Kelly has been on the Austin
Powers set I can't tell you how many times. Michelle has been
on the set. I've been on the set of Kelly's show, and I've been
in Michelle's studio sessions. That's how a group is supposed
Beyonce's parents have
taught her that it's bad form to complain, and even her mildest
gripes are qualified with multiple declarations about how blessed
she is. (The Knowleses are a church-going clan.) But when she's
asked what she has had to sacrifice for her career, her answer
is unnervingly complete: friends, family, romance, even food.
"The more successful
I get, the more I want a boyfriend," she says. "But
it's hard. Where am I going to meet somebody? Maybe at an awards
show? Or on tour? But we don't see anybody consistently. We are
all over the world, so if we do meet somebody, we can't see him
again until six months later. So unless you have a serious connection
with somebody the first time you meet them, it doesn't happen."
On the Austin Powers set, Beyonce's single status has become a
running joke: Pity the gorgeous, lonely superstar. "Mike
Myers' wife is trying to hook me up," Beyonce says, laughing.
"She's like, 'We're going to find you a boyfriend by the
end of the movie!' Everybody is trying to hook me up-it makes
you feel real desperate. It's like, 'No, it's okay, it's okay!'
Occasionally, the three
Destiny's Child bandmates will muster the courage to go to a club
or a party where they might actually meet a man. "And what
do we do but sit there and look depressed the whole time,"
Beyonce says. "We look so unhappy and bored, no one is ever
going to come up to us. And because of security, nobody can get
to us anyway." So why doesn't Beyonce let a few people through?
"Well, I could say to the security guard, 'Okay, he can come
over,' but I don't want to have to tell somebody he can come talk
to me. It just feels forced, like I'm out there looking and I
picked the one I want. That's just whacked."
Another thing that's
whacked, in Beyonce's opinion, is dieting. Since being cast as
Foxxy, she has been on a strict low-carb regimen, trying to get
her stomach board-flat for all the skimpy halter tops. "I
hate it," she says, as if the egg rolls and pizza and popcorn
shrimp and strawberry cheesecake on the table hadn't already made
that clear. "I love eating, and I have a problem with being
skinny. But I think when you are 20 you should not have to think
about what you eat. Like, you are 20 years old! But I realize
that's a sacrifice I have to make for movies."
And while Beyonce says
she's happy to be so close to her parents and sister, she seems
to be discovering the joys of being apart from them, too: Currently
she's scouting for her own place in Miami. "When I go home,"
she says, "I can't get away from Destiny's Child—my
father's the manager, my mother's the stylist, my sister's the
dancer, my cousin's the assistant."
She gestures across
the table to young Angie, who's been reading quietly through lunch
but who looks up with a shy smile, confirming that she is indeed
Beyonce's cousin. "There are times when you don't want to
talk about work or look at anything that has to do with it, but
you can't help it because work is your life, and your family.
When the group is not doing well, or if there is a rumor or some
deal that is not going through, it affects the whole household,
and it's sad. We can't get away from that, even on a Sunday after
church." Beyonce has recently realized that everyone in show
business needs "some kind of escape," and she is eagerly
searching for her own. (Drinking and smoking won't do, she says,
at least not for now.) Shortly after arriving in Los Angeles for
the Austin Powers shoot, she bought some oil paints, set up an
easel in her apartment and began experimenting with everything
from colorful abstracts to painting-by-numbers. "It's very
relaxing, just my time with myself," she says. She's taking
tentative steps toward self-expression in other areas, too—even
in her wardrobe, which was long overseen by her mother. The Destiny's
Child girls now favor Versace and Gucci in addition to Tina Knowles'
designs; offstage, Beyonce says, "I change my style every
week." Lately that style has been veering further and further
from her teenage Houston looks: No more cluster rings and high-volume
hair. "I used to think everything had to match," she
says, laughing. "I would look in a magazine and say, 'Why
are her shoes and her dress a different color?' That's kind of
a Texas thing—everything has to be coordinated, and everything
has to be big. Right now I like things that are simple and plain."
But Beyonce's ultimate
statement of independence, the one that she'll probably craft
with the surest hand, is her first solo record, due out later
this year. The album won't have all the Top 40 gloss of a typical
Destiny's Child effort: Beyonce describes it as "personal"
and "strange" and "soulful" and heavily influenced
by Seventies icons like Donny Hathaway, Shuggy Otis and Aretha
Franklin. "I still want my songs to be commercial,"
she says, "but I want to do things that are in my head—the
crazy stuff that I really like." Today, in fact, she had
hoped to spend some time in the recording studio, but as lunch
is winding down, Angie's cell phone rings. It's a call from the
set: Beyonce is needed in makeup right away. Myers, who'd been
ill over the weekend, is feeling better, so they'll be shooting
scene number 43, a crucial reunion between Foxxy and Austin. Beyonce
hasn't rehearsed her lines.
Her reaction to the
news is unrehearsed, unstaged, unplugged. "Oh, man,"
she blurts out, "that sucks!" Then, looking at the tape
recorder, she smiles and says, "I mean, that's good!"
Then she laughs out loud.
They may be the biggest
girl group in the world but Destiny's Child insist they're just
normal girls and that they still get starstruck! In worldpop's
video exclusive, they fill us in on their new single, their Christmas
album and solo projects.
worldpop: Where did
the song Bootylicious come from?
Beyonce: It was inspired by a plane ride to London.
Michelle: The captain was Bootylicious!
Beyonce: It was a long flight, I was bored and had nothing to
do. I was listening to a CD and it had this Stevie Nicks sample.
It was so funky the word 'bootylicious' just popped into my head.
The song is basically about feeling good about yourself and having
confidence. It's just celebration of self.
worldpop: Is it a getting
Kelly: Yes definitely. If you look at the video you can totally
see why people are feeling bootylicious. They're all seeing how
they look in their dresses and it's like, 'OK, I'm feeling bootylicious
today, I'm gonna go shake my thang on the dancefloor!''
worldpop: How did you
persuade Stevie Nicks to appear in the video?
Michelle: We met her when we were taping Saturday Night Live and
she was doing Rosie O'Donnell. It was so odd because we'd just
been talking about her that day. She had things to do but she
was willing to cancel them to come to our video shoot. The video
turned out hot.
after the Carmen movie, have you got any more acting plans?
Beyonce: Yeah, all of us get a lot of scripts. I know Michelle's
gotten scripts for a gospel movie. It's something I want to do
more of but Destiny's Child is my heart.
worldpop: Have you
thought about writing and producing for other artists as well
as Destiny's Child?
Beyonce: Yes, but other artists make me scared and if I'm not
comfortable, the stuff I write is terrible. Whenever I get my
confidence up and feel more secure with my writing then I will
do that. I will be writing for my younger sister who has an album
coming out. Also, Michelle and Kelly's solo projects whenever
they do them, if they want me, I'm here to write for them.
worldpop: What can
we expect from your Christmas album?
Kelly: Traditional songs, four original songs and also Solange
is going to be on the Christmas album.
Beyonce: We're trying to get either Bono or maybe the Dixie Chicks
because we're doing a Christmas special with them so for us to
do a duet with them is cool. And we're each going to have a solo
song on the album.
is it true you're going out with Richard Blackwood?
Michelle: No, me and Richard are not dating. I haven't seen him
since we were here I believe in April, May for our album release
party so sorry guys, I didn't give you what you wanted to hear!
worldpop: Is there
much pressure on you to go out with other famous people?
Beyonce: Not really. When you're dating a normal person they want
to know about that normal person. People are more fascinated when
it's another celebrity but regardless people are just all in your
worldpop: Despite being
the biggest girl group in the world, you're quite unstarry.
Beyonce: We're people. We come in, 'Hey girl, what's up? Ooh,
your shoes are cute. Where you going? Let's go to shopping, alright.'
You know what I mean, we're normal people.
Michelle: I'm sure there are some really Hollywood males that
probably would be turned off by us.
Beyonce: Yeah, a lot of people would not like us because we're
too real for them.
Michelle: We don't care what you do, it does not mean anything,
as long as you're a genuine, real person.
Beyonce: That's what impresses us.
worldpop: How does
it feel when people like Janet Jackson say they admire you?
Kelly: You see that big grin on all of our faces! We love Janet,
she is truly an incredible artist. That's a compliment.
Beyonce: It's very strange. It makes you feel weird. You do get
starstruck when you see people like Janet. Sometimes you meet
people you like and it's disappointing but you meet people like
Janet and they make you feel really excited. Actually we met Michael
Jackson doing a show. I looked to my right, he was standing right
there on the side of the stage. I had to put the mic down and
start screaming and the audience was totally confused! We got
so starstruck, we hugged him on stage.
Kelly: And we didn't want to let go!
Destiny's Child: Reunited, and It Feels So Good
three people who weren't surprised when Destiny's Child announced
their reformation last year were the three singers themselves.
Turns out Beyonce and Kelly's solo careers and Michelle's Broadway
bow in Aida were all just part of the game plan. Now they're comfortably
back where they used to be, with the chart-topping Destiny Fulfilled
delivering on its promise of stuttering floor-fillers and backseat
ballads. So what's next? As DC explained to VH1 during a whirlwind
visit, sharing the ups and downs of fame, packing up the stools
for a world tour, and telling a secret or two.
VH1: Did you ever think
that maybe Destiny's Child wouldn't get back together?
There was never a doubt. When we decided to do solo projects in
2001, this is what we said we would be doing - coming back in
about three years. So we are very much on schedule.
VH1: Now that you've
done the solo thing, what do you think are the pluses of being
Beyonce Knowles: The
best thing about being in a group is the friendship. When you're
out on the road, you're doing all these interviews, you're touring,
you're far away. [But] you have your friends with you to share
those hard times and the best times. I know I really missed the
ladies and they really missed me. Without the time apart, we didn't
know how lucky we are and were to have each other. It's so wonderful
to collaborate with other talented people that you respect. [Watch
VH1: They're really
the only people who knew you before you were a star.
Beyonce: We've grown
up in a group since we were nine years old. We've shared a lot
of things. Y'know, it's hard sometimes having all the responsibilities
and having to make every decision, even though that's something
you have to do. It was necessary for all of us to get into the
studio [alone] and write about ourselves, and decide what we were
going to do or not going to do. That's why we've grown so much.
VH1: Where did the
concept of the "Lose My Breath" video come from?
Kelly Rowland: The
director Marc Klasfeld, who we've actually never worked with before.
It was a video that we were like, "That would be interesting
-- us battling ourselves," especially three different versions
of ourselves! Everything was just so interesting about that video
-- the whole wardrobe, the hair, the makeup, the style of dance.
Everything was just really well thought-out.
VH1: The "Soldier"
video, though, is just you, an SUV and some dudes.
Beyonce: We actually
decided to do the complete opposite of "Lose My Breath."
That was such a big production and very technical. We stripped
it completely down -- black and white. There was no treatment.
It was just us having a good time, basically, with a bunch of
nice guys. [Laughs]
Kelly: Soldiers! What
was cool, we also featured the different regions [we sing about,
like East Coast and Down South]. We showed how artistically it
could be done from the cars to the guys, to the style of our clothes
and everything. That video is our favorite.
Beyonce: It actually
is! And we didn't expect it to be, but it is our favorite. [Watch
VH1: You have a very
physical live show. What do you do to stay in shape?
Beyonce: Dancing to
those songs in the heels -- that keeps us in shape! When we go
on tour, we get a lot more disciplined, because we have a little
stability in our lives. We get to the next city and we have gyms
in the hotel. But it's hard when we're doing promotional things
because we're up at four in the morning -- we don't go to bed
until whatever time.
VH1: What's the tour
Beyonce: The tour doesn't
start until April. We start in Australia, Japan, all over Europe,
Spain, and then we come over to America in June? July? July --
I think until September. We haven't done a tour together in years,
so we've all been watching Broadway plays and musicals. Whenever
we see three women [together], we're thinking ...
Michelle: ... That's
Beyonce: ... that's
our new style. We have so many ideas bottled up inside. The great
thing about our show: we can give you a big production and a very
entertaining show, but we also can give you three stools, a spotlight
and some mikes and sing a cappella. So it's from one extreme to
the next. [Watch Clip]
VH1: One of the best
things you ever did was at the Concert for New York City where
it was just three stools and a guitarist.
Beyonce: Thank you!
That's our favorite thing to do, actually. The dancing and all
of that is great, but it's nothing like three-part harmony. This
is something that connects us together and it's still so wonderful
VH1: Michelle, what
did you learn from performing on Broadway?
is excellent. I wish the girls could do some Broadway. It's life-changing.
Beyonce: She got some
Michelle: Oh, I got
some tips! There are some secrets that Broadway has, y'know, so
I think I'm gonna tell them. We're gonna share all of our secrets
that we've learned throughout the years!