In 1999, I interviewed Destiny’s Child, (there were still four of them back then). It was an outdoor concert and they were about to take the stage and perform their new song, “Bills Bills Bills.”
During my interview, Beyoncé stood in the middle, her back straight and her smile wide. The other members smiled and nodded. She answered all my questions with no hesitation, making direct eye contact and ending with a firm but friendly handshake.
She was only seventeen years old. But she handled herself…perfectly.
It’s a term that’s been thrown around in the nearly two decades since we met her. The music, the love life, the career, the fashion—from the outside looking in, it all seemed perfect.
Criticisms have always poured in: She doesn’t write her own songs! She doesn’t support Kelly! She rips off other artists! She lip-syncs!
But the one thing that managed to escape excessive scrutiny was her family. For a long time, the narrative of the Knowles family was mostly squeaky-clean.
Papa Knowles gave up his career to manage hers. Mamma Knowles designed their outfits. Little sister Solange, talented in her own right, was fiercely loyal and close to her big sister.
One big happy family.
We knew better of course. But with no proof of trouble in paradise it was hard to imagine Beyoncé—always so regal and rigid—in an elevator trying to keep her sister from dropkicking her husband.
Finally, we got it. We got a real piece of Bey.
Even though she shook her body for us, gave us good music, entertained us endlessly, Beyoncé never gave us what you really wanted—her. The real her; the one behind the lacefronts and the wind machines and the bootylicious bodysuits.
All we got was perfection. Her personal life has always been as tightly produced and distributed for the masses as her music—if not more so.
Well, what do you know? The Knowles family is a hot mess. Just like yours.
—Aliya S. King
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