Say her name, say her name. There is no question that Beyoncé Giselle Knowles-Carter is a living, breathing icon, one of the last this generation has been blessed with. The multi-hyphenate pours her blood, sweat, and tears into everything she touches and not surprisingly, most all of it in her decades-spanning career has turned gold. Queen Bey has cemented her legacy by being true to herself first and foremost, a theme that has taken center stage in the latter part of her career.
To be able to take full control of the creative reins of your endeavors is something many artists aspire to and Beyonce has done it. She has shaken the industry to its core by showing up as unapolgetically herself through commercially successful projects like I Am... Sasha Fierce and ground-breaking and culturally defining bodies of works like her self-titled album and accompanying visuals, Lemonade, and the most recent work, Black Is King. Throughout her career, Beyonce has made it clear, she does what moves her. And at the heels of 40, Beyonce is taking the time to acknowledge her evolution, the lessons she has learned, and her monumental moments of reinvention in her latest cover story.
The notoriously private artist recently graced Harper's Bazaar Icon Issue (while rocking the latest drip from her IVY Park x adidas collection) for what proved to be a transparent and profoundly intimate interview where Ms. Carter dropped a plethora of gems. These were our favorites.
Beyonce on how her childhood dreams were the foundation of her life's blueprint:
"The first decade of my life was dedicated to dreaming. Because I was an introvert, I didn't speak very much as a child. I spent a lot of time in my head building my imagination. I am now grateful for those shy years of silence. Being shy taught me empathy and gave me the ability to connect and relate to people. I'm no longer shy, but I'm not sure I would dream as big as I dream today if it were not for those awkward years in my head."
On growing up fast and sacrificing a lot to make her vision of success a reality:
"I grew up hearing this particular scripture from James 2:17, 'Faith without work is dead.' Vision and intention weren't enough; I had to put in the work. I committed to always being a student and always being open to growth. No one in my school knew that I could sing because I barely spoke. My energy went into Destiny's Child and the dream of us getting a record deal and becoming musicians.
"If something wasn't helping me reach my goal, I decided to invest no time in it. I didn't feel like I had time to 'kiki' or hang out. I sacrificed a lot of things and ran from any possible distraction. I felt as a young Black woman that I couldn't mess up. I felt the pressure from the outside and their eyes watching for me to trip or fail. I couldn't let my family down after all the sacrifices they made for me and the girls. That meant I was the most careful, professional teenager and I grew up fast."
"I wanted to break all of the stereotypes of the Black superstar, whether falling victim to drugs or alcohol or the absurd misconception that Black women were angry. I knew I was given this amazing opportunity and felt like I had one shot. I refused to mess it up, but I had to give up a lot."
On taking back her indepence and learning the power of saying "no":
"My 20s were about building a strong foundation for my career and establishing my legacy. I was focused on commercial success and number ones and being a visionary no matter how many barriers I had to break through. I was pushed to my limits. I learned the power of saying no. I took control of my independence at 27 and started Parkwood Entertainment. At the time, there wasn't a company that did what I needed it to do or ran the way I wanted it run. So, I created this multipurpose badass conglomerate that was a creative agency, record label, production company, and management company to produce and work on projects that meant the most to me. I wanted to manage myself and have a company that put art and creativity first."
On her 30s being about building a life:
"My 30s were about starting my family and my life becoming more than my career. I worked to heal generational trauma and turned my broken heart into art that would help move culture forward and hopefully live far beyond me. My 30s were about digging deeper...
"I've spent so many years trying to better myself and improve whatever I've done that I'm at a point where I no longer need to compete with myself. I have no interest in searching backwards. The past is the past. I feel many aspects of that younger, less evolved Beyoncé could never f*** with the woman I am today. Haaa!"
Beyonce on protecting herself in a world where people feel entitled to so much:
"We live in a world with few boundaries and a lot of access... I'm grateful I have the ability to choose what I want to share. One day I decided I wanted to be like Sade and Prince. I wanted the focus to be on my music, because if my art isn't strong enough or meaningful enough to keep people interested and inspired, then I'm in the wrong business. My music, my films, my art, my message—that should be enough."
On the intentionality of setting boundaries:
"Throughout my career, I've been intentional about setting boundaries between my stage persona and my personal life. My family and friends often forget the side of me that is the beast in stilettos until they are watching me perform. It can be easy to lose yourself very quickly in this industry. It takes your spirit and light, then spits you out. I've seen it countless times, not only with celebrities but also producers, directors, executives, etc. It's not for everyone. Before I started, I decided that I'd only pursue this career if my self-worth was dependent on more than celebrity success.
"I've surrounded myself with honest people who I admire, who have their own lives and dreams and are not dependent on me. People I can grow and learn from and vice versa. In this business, so much of your life does not belong to you unless you fight for it. I've fought to protect my sanity and my privacy because the quality of my life depended on it. A lot of who I am is reserved for the people I love and trust. Those who don't know me and have never met me might interpret that as being closed off. Trust, the reason those folks don't see certain things about me is because my Virgo ass does not want them to see it....It's not because it doesn't exist!"
On the power of her circle and the women around her:
"My mother has always been my Queen and still is. She has always been so strong and is filled with humanity. She worked 18 hours a day with calloused hands and swollen feet. No matter how tired she was, she was always professional, loving, and nurturing. I try to handle my work and run my company in the same way."
"My closest friends are brilliant women who run companies, are entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, and close family. Kelly [Rowland] and Michelle [Williams] are still my best friends. I gravitate toward strong, grounded women like my incredible sister, Solange. She is full of wisdom, and she is the dopest person I know."
Beyonce on learning to take care of self and breaking habits of neglect:
"I think like many women, I have felt the pressure of being the backbone of my family and my company and didn't realize how much that takes a toll on my mental and physical well-being. I have not always made myself a priority. I've personally struggled with insomnia from touring for more than half of my life. Years of wear and tear on my muscles from dancing in heels. The stress on my hair and skin, from sprays and dyes to the heat of a curling iron and wearing heavy makeup while sweating on stage. I've picked up many secrets and techniques over the years to look my best for every show. But I know that to give the best of me, I have to take care of myself and listen to my body.
"In the past, I spent too much time on diets, with the misconception that self-care meant exercising and being overly conscious of my body. My health, the way I feel when I wake up in the morning, my peace of mind, the number of times I smile, what I'm feeding my mind and my body—those are the things that I've been focusing on. Mental health is self-care too. I'm learning to break the cycle of poor health and neglect, focusing my energy on my body and taking note of the subtle signs that it gives me. Your body tells you everything you need to know, but I've had to learn to listen. It's a process to change habits and look past the bag of chips and the chaos everywhere!"
"During quarantine, I went from overindulgences to creating positive rituals drawing from past generations and putting my own spin on things. I discovered CBD on my last tour, and I've experienced its benefits for soreness and inflammation. It helped with my restless nights and the agitation that comes from not being able to fall asleep. I found healing properties in honey that benefit me and my children. And now I'm building a hemp and a honey farm. I've even got hives on my roof! And I'm so happy that my daughters will have the example of those rituals from me. One of my most satisfying moments as a mom is when I found Blue one day soaking in the bath with her eyes closed, using blends I created and taking time for herself to decompress and be at peace."
On her theme for her 40s being enjoying life:
"I've done so much in 40 years that I just want to enjoy my life. It's hard going against the grain, but being a small part of some of the overdue shifts happening in the world feels very rewarding. I want to continue to work to dismantle systemic imbalances. I want to continue to turn these industries upside down. I plan to create businesses outside of music. I have learned that I have to keep on dreaming. One of my favorite quotes is from the inventor Charles Kettering. It goes 'Our imagination is the only limit to what we can hope to have in the future.'
"I want to show that you can have fun and have purpose, be respectful and speak your mind. You can be both elegant and a provocateur. You can be curvy and still be a fashion icon. I wish this freedom for every person. I have paid my dues and followed every rule for decades, so now I can break the rules that need to be broken. My wish for the future is to continue to do everything everyone thinks I can't do."
To read the interview in full, click here.
Featured image by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for TIDAL