Beyoncé Inc. by Nana Blankson
A singer with immense control over her image just as her vocal skills
By 2009 Beyoncé had solidified her status as an iconic pop star. She had founded Parkwood Entertainment, her management company which serves as the paramount umbrella to her projects from music to film to television specials. Forbes Magazine named her the highest earning woman in entertainment above Madonna and Celine Dion with an estimated earing of $80 million between June 2008 and June 2009. It was shortly after her third studio album, “I am Sasha Fierce”, which spanned hits like ‘Halo’ ‘If I Were a Boy,’ ‘Diva,’ and her signature anthem ‘Single Ladies’. She had earned every award, accolade and certification there was and performed everywhere, from the Oprah Show to talk shows in Germany and Australia. The then twenty-nine year old had already received four lifetime achievement awards including a Legend Award as a member of Destiny’s Child for Best-Selling Female Group of all time, the first female artist ever to be awarded the International Artist of Excellence from the American Music Awards, and a Legend Award form the World Music Awards. Her acting career seemed pretty impressive having earned two Golden Globes nominations and grossed a total of $ 505,608,259 from starring in six movies. That same year, she embarked on a blockbuster world tour playing a staggering 109 shows. The visual extravaganza received rave reviews from critics and became one of the highest grossing tours of the decade raking in $119.5million.
It was undeniably evident that Beyoncé had reached her peak of stardom. The public started to speculate what’s next for an artist who has sold over a 100milllion records off only 3 studio albums.
The following year, Beyoncé took a year hiatus from the music business to focus on her personal life. It was a time where Lady Gaga, Katy Perry were battling it out for the “It pop star” status. The hit maker’s career took a dip after she returned to the spotlight. Her fourth album sold 3.2 million copies worldwide, which was her lowest to date. While the numbers seemed impressive, it was very low for a pop icon of her status. The highly critically acclaimed album remains her best vocal work, reaching a range of 4 octaves. It was her Daydream (Mariah’s album) album with powerful vocals and heart wrenching ballads like “Love on Top,” “I Care,” “1+1,” “Rather Die Young,” and her most underrated song yet “Start Over.” Her prior album had sold over 50 million records and reinvention was needed for a woman who had built a consistent soaring career off a rigorous work ethic. The public and several critics concluded that the mega diva’s reign in music had come to an end. Her contemporaries; Usher, R Kelly, Toni Braxton, Shakira, Ne-Yo, Britney Spears had all burned out and it was only a matter of time for Beyoncé’s glory to end.
Turned out that her so-called career dip was a triumphant reinvention and birth of a legend. In June 2011, Knowles made history by becoming the first female artist ever to headline the pyramid stage at Glastonbury Festival in its forty-five year history. She described her performance a career highlight shutting down rumors of being too mainstream to headline an event known for booking the grittiest of rock stars. Channeling the showmanship of Tina Turner, Beyoncé tore through all of her biggest hits and did covers from some of the most reverend names in music history. She covered songs from Alanis Morrissette, Prince, Kings of Leon and Etta James in front of a crowd of over 175,000. The following year, she carried and birthed her first child with a regal comeback in May of 2012 playing a four-night residency show at Revel resort in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
2013 became the singer’s lucrative year yet. She sang the national anthem at President Obama’s Inauguration and gave a gob smacking showstopper at the XLVII Super Bowl halftime show. It was evident Queen Bey had reclaimed her throne as the ultimate diva. The Emmy award-winning performance became the most tweeted moment in history with 5.5 million tweets for her 12 minutes razzle dazzle production which was also watched live by 108.4million viewers. Next, she embarked on a 132-show world tour off her least successful “4.” The tour is now the fourth highest grossing tour of all time by a female artist only behind Madonna and Celine Dion and also the highest grossing tour by a black female artist. She wrapped up the year by dropping a game changing album on Friday, December 13th without prior notice. The album debuted #1 in 108 countries and influenced a change in global record release day from Tuesdays to Fridays.
It was clear that Beyoncé was now fully aware of her status as the most powerful woman in entertainment and started to take her image control to the next level.
Earlier that year (2013), she banned photographers from her concerts after unflattering photos of her had been released on the Internet from her halftime performance.
In an age where pop stars connect with their fans directly via social media, the legendary singer was a mission to control her image more than ever. She released a well-edited documentary of herself in February of 2013, which showcased things we either already knew, or speculated. Her Tumblr page became one of the most visited websites n 2013. Content on beyonce.com includes glossy aspirational images of the singer, links to purchase her music, tickets to concerts and humanitarian work. She still limits her accessibility and the only time fans got a peak into her personal life was through lavish family vacation photos.
The 20 time Grammy Award winner seems to master the theory of, “you only get to know what Beyoncé wants you to know” and the public continues to be fascinated by her mystery. For a person who rarely posts on social media, she is the most followed person on Instagram with 44 million followers and averages a million likes per photo. She sent her first tweet in 2012 and since then has only tweeted nine times, yet 14.2 million people follow Beyoncé on twitter. Her Facebook page is often used to promote her philanthropic ventures to her 63.6million followers. When interviewed by Oprah in 2013, she said she preferred using photography to tell her story and connect with her fans. It will be one of her last interviews alongside an appearance on GQ magazine and US Vogue all in 2013.
And maybe she may have taken some lessons from the pages of Tina Turner’s book of mega stardom. Tina’s career spanned five decades until retiring in 2009. During her fierce reign as the godmother of showmanship, nobody knew what was going on in Tina’s personal life until her biopic (What’s Love Got to Do with It) was released. You only knew about her music, her raspy voice, and scantily clad raw stage shows. For Beyoncé, the public’s obsession over her poised image makes privacy almost impossible. Baz Luhrmann of Time Magazine called her “the heir-apparent diva of the USA” and explained that “when Beyoncé does an album, sings a song, or Beyoncé does anything, it’s an event, and it’s broadly influential as the reigning national voice.
By 2014, she had built a reputation on being inaccessible yet the most talked about celebrity in popular culture . It seemed she was to big to promote anything she did and barely spoke. She made zero television appearances, gave zero interviews, and did not respond to any rumors or reporter. The only red carpets you saw her was The Grammys and the Met Ball where she made late dramatic entrances without being interviewed. At this point, everthing she did made global headines from simple facebook posts to visits to her Manhattan Office. She stole the show at the 2014 Grammys with a crotch writhing performance of her hit, ‘Drunk In Love’ which angered parents and television censor boards throughout the country. Her coheadling On The Run Tour proved a legend on top of her game with jawdropping visuals , bootypopping anthems, scantitly clad dancers, and of course powerful vocals. That same year, she earned herself an MTV Video Vanguard Award for her impact on MTV culture. Previous honorees include music greats like Madonna, The Beatles, U2, George Michael, and The Rolling Stones. At only 33 years old, the award became her 6th lifetime achievement award and a string of awards throughout that year from the Grammys to BET eventually made her the most awarded artist alive as well as the most awarded female artist of all time surpassing Whitney. She beat out cultural icons like Oprah and Michael Jordan toping the Forbes Celebrity 100 list with an estimated earning of $115million. This made her the highest paid black artist of all time. As a tradition for celebrities who top the list, Beyonce refused to appear on the cover of the magazine and the media speculated that it was probably because Beyonce wasn’t giving interviews anymore. She would instead appear on Time Magazine’s anticipted 100 Most Influential People Issue’s cover as the most influenctial person in the world. It was an accolade well deserved having appeared on every news site from CNN to TMZ. The cover drew cntrovery as Beyonce was seen in her Beyonciness scantily clad in a twopiece underwear and a mini sheer overall.
It’s 2015 and Beyoncé hasn’t done anything publicly professionally yet still made it on Forbes Celebrity 100 with estimated earnings of $54.4 million. Her estimated net worth is around $550million and has out earned husband Jay Z since the couple married in 2008.
It wasn’t until August 13th of this year when one of the singer’s major fan sites, “Beyoncé Legion” leaked a magazine cover of the powerhouse entertainer. Behold, the Queen Bey wearing a form-fitting embodied pink lace dress by Marc Jacobs on the iconic September Issue of American Vogue magazine. It will be the singer’s third appearance on the magazine having appeared on several international editions including British, Italian, Indian and Japanese editions. This particular one make her the first and only black artist to front the September Issue which is the biggest of the year weighing ten pounds.
The American edition of Vogue is the premiere fashion magazine and has been around for one hundred and twenty-three years. The glossy pages feature the best of the best couture designs with images that evoke female glamour, aspiration, sensuality and perfection. It is the arbitrary of femininity and past cover girls include legendary supermodels Naomi Campbell, Claudia Schiffer, Kate Moss, Linda Evangelista, and Cindy Crawford who have all solidified their places in fashion history as the greatest fashion models of all time. A-list stars from Madonna, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Taylor and Marylyn Monroe have all graced the cover. Recent cover girls include Kalie Kloss, Kate Upton, Cara Delevingne, Katy Perry, Adele, Kate Winslet and Lena Dunham. The tradition for cover models is to give an exclusive interview to the publication to move copies off newsstands. Beyoncé’s appearance gave fans and the media hope that she will hopefully reveal a project she is working on or talk about plans on have another baby. The dazzling cover captions, “Just B; Beyoncé and the Art of Global Domination” and Beyoncé did not utter a single word in the issue. Instead, quotes were gathered from the who is who of the fashion world like designers Riccardo Tisci, Marc Jacobs, and Stella McCartney in addition to an essay penned by Margo Jefferson hailing Beyoncé’s greatness. The behind the scenes video where subscribers and the general public get exclusive access to the shoot and a quick word from the cover model was also a disappointment. The pop goddess is seen sashaying her way up a staircase along with seductive camera glances. The only sound heard is the music in the background, reminding you that “Beyoncé Runs Her World”- Beyoncé.
In June of 2014, Jody Rosen of the New York Times magazine wrote an article about the music mogul titled Beyoncé: The Woman on Top of the World. Rosen praised her cultural dominance as one of the most respected women of the 21st century. A quote from his piece states, “Historically speaking, …Black women have always been dominant figures in American popular music, but no one, not even Aretha Franklin, has reached the plateau that Beyoncé occupies: pop star colossus, adored bombshell, “America’s sweetheart.” In fact the only name that comes close to Beyoncé’s media and public monopolization is Whitney whose glory days dwindled quickly due to alleged drug use. Janet Jackson was undoubtedly talented but not in the lane of Beyoncé’s ability to capture global attention.
It is safe to say that Beyoncé’s career has been peaking since she started and her quest to have total control over her image has made her a force of nature. Talent, fans, brains and beauty she has it all. At only age 33, her numbers rival names like Michael Jackson, Mariah Carey, and The Beatles. Beyoncé is no doubt one of the greatest singers and performers of all time and it is obvious she is on a mission to claim the stake as the greatest entertainer that ever lived. Can she live up to the hype?