Last week Beyoncé’s March 2013 cover of Vogue surfaced online. Now we have the official HQ full spread and interview from the fashion bible’s annual “Power” issue inside.
Beyoncé will kick off “The Mrs. Carter Show World Tour” on April 15 in Belgrade, Serbia, with the U.S. leg launching on June 28 in L.A.
Excerpts from Vogue:
It’s a rainy winter evening in New York City, and inside a sprawling film studio across the river from midtown, Beyoncé Knowles is standing before a camera, cooling in her black Giuseppe Zanotti boots, awaiting a close-up. This is a commercial shoot for L’Oréal, and the business of hair is being attended to with the seriousness of a Congressional hearing. Beyoncé’s hair is shimmering in the dreamy and flawless way that hair in hair commercials is supposed to shimmer. The director forecasting hair anarchy is Jake Nava, Beyoncé’s partner for music videos like “Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It)”—which infamously drove Kanye West to crash Taylor Swift’s MTV Video Music Awards speech so he could declare it “one of the best videos of all time.” Nava oversees this shoot with the calm of a man with an ace tucked in his pocket. Despite the competing demands of the evening—the product; the client; a fantastic, pulsing video screen that spills onto the floor and looks like Liberace’s fish tank—Nava keeps the focus on Beyoncé. Come on. This is about Beyoncé. Let Beyoncé be Beyoncé.
The camera rolls. A wind machine blasts. Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ’Til You Get Enough” booms over a sound system. Then Prince’s “Lovesexy.” Beyoncé begins to do hip turns and shoulder swivels and unleashes a sultry pout with just the right level of safe-for-parents suggestiveness. From behind a monitor, Nava’s London accent offers cheeky, Austin Powers–y encouragements:
“Wow, great, Beyoncé—that’s really good, man.”
Nava doesn’t offer specifics; Beyoncé knows what he wants. That preternatural sense is how you sell tens of millions of rec*ords and get mega–endorsement deals and become one of the most iconic entertainers of your generation. Beyoncé long ago achieved mononym status, but along the way she did something bigger: She accelerated beyond simply making music and an occasional movie and became less of a pop comet than a carefully curated brand. As her competition was spilling out of limousines, Beyoncé remained the knockout in six-inch heels who still gets home by 11:00 p.m. Responsibility over recklessness. President Obama said not long ago that the superstar “could not be a better role model for my girls.”
Beyoncé confesses that pregnancy scared her. She was accustomed to a finely tuned level of control—Kelly Rowland, her longtime friend and Destiny’s Child collaborator, describes her as a perfectionist who will stay up until 4:00 a.m. the night before a concert, attending to issues as minor as a costume button. (“Her hand’s in everything,” Rowland says.) Now Beyoncé was about to embark on life’s most unpredictable journey. Babies do not care that Mom is playing the Super Bowl. Babies do not ask to go to the Grammys after-party.
At the hospital her fears vanished. “My family and my closest people were there when I gave birth,” she says. “Everything that scared me just was not present in that room. So for me to really let go and really appreciate every contraction . . . it was the best day of my life.”
Rowland says that Beyoncé has “always had that motherly instinct . . . ever since we were kids.” And there is a sense that with Blue, Beyoncé is slipping into a natural, comfortable role. Days are now oriented around her new family, and though it’s hard to imagine the Beyoncé/Jay-Z household resembling the frantic home of exhausted first-time parents—the crib-side renditions of “Itsy Bitsy Spider” must be amazing, however—she says there’s a clear focus. “I feel like I have something that has grounded me so much more,” she says. “Family has always been important. I’ve always had my mother and my father and my husband. But it’s just. . . .” She pauses. “Life is so much more than. . . It’s not defined by any of this.”
This, of course, means the attention, the money, the fame, this spectacular backstage fruit at our fingertips. It’s worth remembering that she is entering the fourth decade of life, most of it spent in show business, and she’s never had a wild period or self-destructive lapse—that obligatory run of embarrassing headlines that seems like a pop star’s due. “She’s wise beyond her years sometimes,” Rowland says. “I think that comes with her growing up in [her mother’s] hair salon. I also grew up in the salon. . . . We’d listen to other people’s conversations and learn a lot.”
Now there is balance, a blending of work and home life. Beyoncé recorded much of her upcoming album (which she compares to a blend of her last album, 4, and 2008’s I Am . . . Sasha Fierce) this past summer in New York’s Hamptons, where collaborators included Timbaland, Justin Timberlake, and The-Dream, and the vibe was beachy and relaxed. “We had dinners with the producers every day, like a family,” she says. “It was like a camp. Weekends off. You could go and jump in the pool and ride bikes . . . the ocean and grass and sunshine. . . . It was really a safe place.”
She has found an equilibrium. Beyoncé’s close friend Gwyneth Paltrow relates a story of going to visit her in the recording studio and encountering mother with daughter.
“Blue was sleeping in her arms, across her body, and B was listening back to what she had been working on,” Paltrow says. “I thought, This is how you do it. You do what you love with who you love included.”
There’s one change in the musical life of Beyoncé, Paltrow notes. When Blue’s in the studio, they turn down the volume.
A couple of weeks after the Super Bowl madness, Beyoncé will admit the public—or at least the HBO-buying members of the public—into her world in a manner she’s never done before, through Life Is But a Dream. “My story has never been told—no one really knows who I am,” she says, a comment that may distress the authors of the nine unauthorized Beyoncé biographies I found for sale on Amazon.
Beyoncé, of course, lives her life before cameras—not just the unsolicited paparazzi ones, but her own videographers, who chronicle everything from mundane meetings with producers to family birthday parties. And so Life Is But a Dream unfurls less like a traditional documentary and more like a tastefully appointed home movie. There are monologues featuring Beyoncé in her bed, without makeup, talking into her laptop. There are glimpses of private helicopters, jets, a balcony suite at the Ritz Paris. There’s cute footage of a bathing-suit-clad Beyoncé frolicking with her husband aboard a yacht and at a dinner in Croatia, where the pair perform a duet of Coldplay’s “Yellow.” While there is plenty of singing and dancing, Life Is But a Dream also visits moments of heartbreak. One story line that shapes the film is Beyoncé’s difficult 2011 decision to split with her father, Mathew Knowles, as her business manager. At first she is desolate—“My soul has been tarnished,” she declares—but later, as she asserts her independence and confronts the petty squabbles of the business, she comes around to appreciating her father’s hand. “My father taught me so much about being a businesswoman,” she says. “And I’m understanding him a lot now. . . . A lot of the crazy things he did were necessary.”
Beyoncé says she found the filmmaking process therapeutic. “This movie has healed me in so many ways,” she says. “It makes me want to cry.
“I’m sorry,” she says, her eyes welling. “I’m very passionate about it, and it just feels good.”
Life Is But a Dream also doubles as Beyoncé’s mission statement—a document of self-discovery that announces a superstar’s worldview. Beyoncé speaks out about gender equity and unfairness—“Equality is a myth, and for some reason everyone accepts the fact that women don’t make as much money as men do”—and offers assertive advice on the acquisition of power. (“Power’s not given to you. You have to take it.”) And while there’s unprecedented access that her fans will go cuckoo for (Blue’s sonogram!), it’s Beyoncé who is managing the access. Everything that’s in there has her personal stamp of approval.
Michael Lombardo, HBO’s president of programming, believes there’s a real benefit to this approach. “I think there’s a decision by artists to have an honest conversation with their fans and not wait for paparazzi or weekly periodicals to define who they are,” Lombardo says. “There’s such a voracious appetite to deconstruct certain personalities. And I think it’s terrifying to an artist.”