Admittedly, there are times when the female unity is not so unified, like when Beyoncé was photographed for the artwork of the “Best Thing” single. She wrote “King B” on a mirror with red lipstick, a nod to womanly control. The problem was that noted video director/tastemaker Vashtie Kola had previously appropriated the royal moniker for herself, and made a sly remark on Twitter about Bey’s use of it.
There have been other confrontational moments—or, at least, perceived conflict. A portion of the public has been convinced for a while now that there’s tension between Beyoncé and her ex-bandmate Kelly Rowland despite the two of them denying reports and appearing together in public as friends. The fact that both released singles on the same day back in ’08 was somehow interpreted to mean that Bey was trying to sabotage Kelly. (This year, the Internet went nuts when Rowland’s latest single, “Motivation,” toppled “Run the World” on iTunes, as if it was some sort of karma.) The gossip queens also insisted there would be a full-scale war between Beyoncé and Lady Gaga even though the two have collaborated twice in the past. The rumors, as it turned out, were just that—rumors.
Then, of course, there is Bey’s “rival” Rihanna. This “feud” at least makes sense to a degree, even if both women have insisted there is no rivalry. The Bajan superstar, who has had a shorter yet stellar career of her own, has repeatedly (and respectfully) stated in interviews that she has always looked up to Beyoncé, rightfully so.
Bey, who continually makes Forbes lists and racks up Grammys (her six wins in one night at the 2010 ceremony is a record for a female artist), doesn’t fret too much over the drama—even if you can tell the question irks her, simply in the asking. “There is room on this earth for many queens,” she begins diplomatically, before drawing a few not-at-all subtle lines of distinction. “I have an authentic, God-given talent, drive, and longevity that will always separate me from everyone else. I’ve been fortunate to accomplish things that the younger generation of queens dream of accomplishing. I have no desire for anyone else’s throne. I am very comfortable in the throne I’ve been building for the past 15 years.”
The funny thing is, her effortless comfort in that throne is the thing that separates her from the competition—the Queen is a commoner at heart. She’s chummy with Oprah and sang the first dance for the new generation President and his wife, but she’ll stop and boogie at a block party while visiting her mother-in-law in West Orange, New Jersey (as captured on a YouTube clip last year).
Beyoncé’s not claiming perfection; she’d just like to be afforded the freedom that goes with being what she rightfully is: one of the most accomplished recording artists of the 21st century. She’d like to explain to you what that’s like, but ultimately, she’s the only one who really knows how it feels. “It’s important to have no boundaries in my music,” she muses. “The beautiful thing about art is that you can create a fantasy in your mind about what you think a song is about. Only the writer truly knows what or whom the song is about.”
Talent and drive. Style and design. The former may come naturally, but the latter are products of work, work, and more work: “I just want my legacy to be great music. Someone who was a risk taker and someone who had songs that struck conversation and emotion.” You can be afraid of 30 if you want, but that’s not what’s keeping Beyoncé up at night.
(STYLING) Matthew Henson and Peju Fajumore. (SET DESIGN) Amir Ebrahimi. (HAIR) Neal Farinah. (MAKEUP) Francesca Tolot. (MANICURIST) Lisa Logan. OPENING SPREAD: Top by OMO Norma Kamali / Shorts by Yigal Azrouël / Necklace by Armani Privé. NEXT SPREAD: Top by Brian Lichtenberg / Bra by The Girl Can’t Help It / Shorts by Kevork Kiledjian / Bracelets and Earrings by Jessica Robinson / Rings by Delfina Delettrez / Shoes by Gianvito Rossi for Hakaan. FOLLOWING SPREAD: Jacket by Moschino / Swimsuit by Lisa Marie Fernandez / Collar by Uncommon Matters / Bracelet and Ring by Jessica Robinson / Bangle by Osanna Visconti. THIS PAGE: Vintage dress by Versace from Resurrection New York.