How Beyoncé became the bodacious mistress of the universe

Beyoncé Knowles: one of world’s most influential people

“Bow down, y’all,” urges the celebrity website E! online. Queen Be – Beyoncé – has found her rightful place – on the cover of Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People issue.

Inside the magazine, Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg penned a tribute praising the singer for raising “her voice, both on and offstage, to urge women to be independent and lead”. Beyoncé, she writes, oozes “hard work, honesty and authenticity”, not to mention a fantastic capacity for reinvention. She “doesn’t just sit at the table… she builds a better one”.

The internet was soon alive with questions about whether a pop star, however successful, should lead a supposedly serious list, ahead of the Pope, Vladimir Putin, Edward Snowden and Janet Yellen (though the most opprobrium was reserved for the inclusion of Miley Cyrus). But Beyoncé deserves her place, says NPR.com.

Her tally of achievements over the past year is considerable enough: she has sung at the presidential inaugural and at the Super Bowl, sold out her Mrs Carter Show World Tour, produced a documentary about herself on HBO, and released an almost universally praised album.

Perhaps more to the point, as far as Time is concerned, it always pays to follow the money. “Cosmetics, soft drinks, cellphones – Bey’s been paid to promote all of them. And they all buy ads. In magazines.”

Beyoncé’s secret is that she inspires her followers to dream, says CNN.com. Raised in suburban Texas, the daughter of a hairdresser and a Xerox marketing executive, she took to the stage at the age of eight, performing with a girl band – later known as Destiny’s Child – managed by her father, Matthew Knowles. Their breakthrough came in 1997 when Columbia Records signed them, sparking two hit singles and an album.

When Beyoncé began her solo career in 2003, Matthew Knowles left his job to devote his “marketing expertise” to the cause full time. It wasn’t until 2011, three years after her marriage to rapper, impresario and brand empire-builder Jay-Z, that the pair finally parted.

“It was hard for both of us to let each other go,” her father told The Sun. “This was not a normal ending of a business agreement. This was a dad and a daughter and it was incredibly painful and it had some difficulties.”

Beyoncé’s already considerable fortune has increased significantly since her alliance with Jay-Z (see below). And the arrival of a daughter, Blue Ivy, in 2012 has boosted the family franchise still further. Perhaps only Prince George ranks higher on the global infant fame stakes – and then probably not in America.

It’s hard to believe, given what the “bodacious” Beyoncé has grown up to be, that as a child she was shy, says GQ. She conquered her shyness by inventing a lusty alter-ego, Sasha Fury, in her first solo video. The latter has now been “fully integrated” into her personality.

“Part girl next door, part mistress of the universe,” Beyoncé’s “hip-thrusting sensuality can be a little… intimidating.” The world’s favourite soulstress recognises as much. “I know that, yes, I am powerful,” she says. “I’m more powerful than my mind can even digest and understand.”

The savviest players in showbiz

When it comes to lists, Beyoncé seems to top them all at the moment. Her latest triumph follows being voted top of Billboard’s Music Power 100 list in January, alongside her husband Jay-Z, on grounds of market share, revenue and other data.

The duo also topped last year’s Forbes list of the highest-earning celebrity couples, with an estimated $95m in earnings between June 2012 and 2013. That figure looks like it will rise considerably this year, given strong sales since its December launch of Beyoncé’s eponymous fifth solo album.

Who’s surprised? asks Dorothy Pomerantz on Forbes. “Both are musicians at the top of their games with multiple hits under their belts” who think nothing of bringing in $1.5m-$2m a night when on tour. But they’re “so much more than just the first couple of hip-hop” – they’re also a “combination of two of the savviest business people in entertainment”, with multiple other interests.

Jay-Z has his own clothing line (Rocawear), record label (Roc-A-Fella) and sports agency (Roc Nation). Beyoncé has a fragrance collection and clothing line called House of Deréon. Then there are all the lucrative endorsement deals, including Beyoncé’s $50m deal with Pepsi, signed in December 2012.

Blue Ivy could soon join the family business: “her parents have petitioned to trademark her name for the right to use it on anything from baby clothes to toys”. To what extent is Jay-Z a guiding hand behind his wife’s business interests? Judging by the manifesto outlined in her HBO documentary Life Is but a Dream, she goes her own way, says Amy Wallace in GQ.

“For some reason, everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do… Why do we have to take a backseat?” she asks in the film, which begins with her decision in 2011 to sever her business relationship with her father.

What Beyoncé has come to understand, says Wallace, is that “there ain’t no use being hot as fish grease…if someone else wields the spatula and holds the keys to the cash register”.

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