Beyoncé: The life story you may not know

Published 4:45 pm Monday, February 13, 2023

Larry Busacca/PW // Getty Images

Beyoncé: The life story you may not know

There may never be another artist like Beyoncé. She’s sold more than 200 million records worldwide and is the most-awarded female artist in Grammy history with 28 trophies. Her distinction as one of the greatest performers of all time remains uncontested, which the hype surrounding her 2023 Renaissance World Tour has proven.

The life story of Beyoncé’s rise to fame—from her humble beginnings in her native Houston to the iconic figure we regard her as today—offers a wealth of inspiration for the next generation of musicians following in her footsteps. For that reason, Vivid Seats compiled a list of 24 of Beyoncé’s accolades and milestones, citing interviews, news reports, and her own written words.

Few recall Beyoncé’s origins as the pint-sized, bright-eyed teenager who nearly made it big on “Star Search” in the ’90s. Some know her best as the vocal powerhouse behind Destiny’s Child’s most empowering anthems. Many may have only recently familiarized themselves with Beyoncé’s contemporary achievements as a solo performer, humanitarian, mother of three, and businesswoman with a reported net worth of $500 million.

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Continue reading for a deeper look at Beyoncé’s remarkable life story.

Beyonce and Solange Knowles during American Music Awards

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1981: Born in Houston

Beyoncé Giselle Knowles was born Sept. 4, 1981, in Houston to a hairstylist named Tina Lawson and a sales manager for Xerox named Matthew Knowles. Beyoncé is the oldest of two daughters; she shares a close relationship with her younger sister, Solange (born 1986).

Aerial view of Houston's Third ward

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1980s: Humble beginnings and inspiration

Beyoncé was 5 when she attended her first concert and saw Michael Jackson perform on stage. The experience inspired her to pursue a career in music and marked her journey as a singer, songwriter, and performance artist.

Beyoncé honed her craft early in her childhood, enrolling in dance and jazz classes and discovering her singing ability when, at age 7, she performed—and won—a talent competition.

Beyoncé attended St. James Elementary, a private school in Houston’s Third Ward neighborhood. At St. James, Beyoncé sparked a friendship with classmate and future group member LeToya Luckett, whose assigned seat Beyoncé mistook for her own. They bonded over music and Beyoncé eventually invited Luckett to audition for her girl group.

Beyonce and Kelly Rowland in the 1990s

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Late 1980s to early 1990s: Girls Tyme

By the end of the 1980s, Beyoncé’s father, Mathew Knowles, had put together a group of six girls called Girls Tyme. The group consisted of Beyoncé, Támar Davis, LaTavia Roberson, Kelly Rowland, and sisters Nikki and Nina Taylor. When the group formed, Rowland moved in with the Knowles family in Houston, leaving her native Atlanta due to family problems.

Beyonce Knowles and her father Mathew Knowles

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1992: ‘Star Search’ and career shifts

Girls Tyme soon garnered national attention and earned a spot on “Star Search” in 1992. Despite losing the competition, Mathew Knowles quit his job in favor of managing the girls full-time. He started his own music company, Music World Entertainment, which caused financial strain on the Knowles family and led him to separate from his wife, Tina, temporarily.

Destiny's Child attend the 1998 Soul Train Music Awards

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Early and mid-1990s: Restructuring and rigorous training

Girl’s Tyme performed locally around Houston, including Headliners Hair Salon—owned by Beyoncé’s mother, Tina. Mathew also created an intense boot camp where the girls practiced their performance skills in the summer.

The group eventually scaled down to four members, bringing on LeToya Luckett, and rebranded with a new name: Somethin’ Fresh. Tina designed and sewed the group’s performance costumes.

Destinys Child performs onstage at the KMEL Jam at Shoreline Amphitheater

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1993: Introducing Destiny’s Child

The group underwent several other name changes over time, but one stood above the rest: Destiny, which Tina Knowles supposedly pulled from the Book of Isaiah. The group initially signed to Elektra Records under their new name. However, the label dropped the group before a single was ever released. The group ultimately went with Destiny’s Child because Destiny was unavailable for trademark.

Destiny's Child arriving at The Royal Albert Hall for the MOBO Awards

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Late 1990s: Breaking through

Destiny’s Child, now signed to Columbia Records, in 1997 scored a spot on the “Men In Black” soundtrack with the song “Killing Time.” The group released its eponymous debut album in 1998, producing the hit single “No, No, No.” It was the remix version of “No, No, No,” featuring Wyclef Jean, that took the girls to stardom. The record reached #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, marking the beginning of the group’s mainstream success.

Farrah Frnklin, Kelly Rowland, Beyonce Knowles, and Michelle Williams performing

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1999-2000: New album, superstardom, and lineup controversies

Despite the group’s budding fame, conflicts within the group began to spill out into the press following the release of a second album, “The Writing’s on the Wall.” In December 1999, the parents of LeToya Luckett and LaTavia Roberson sought new management for their children due to claims of nepotism and monetary disputes.

It wasn’t until January 2000 that Luckett and Roberson learned Mathew Knowles had replaced them with two new members, Farrah Franklin and Michelle Williams. Luckett and Roberson responded to this action with a lawsuit against Mathew, Beyoncé, and Rowland, citing mismanaged finances, but eventually settled out of court with the former members.

Drama aside, “The Writing’s on the Wall” still proved to be a massive success for Destiny’s Child, with the lead single “Bills, Bills, Bills” catapulting Destiny’s Child into mainstream success amid the new millennium. The single “Say My Name” also earned the group its first Grammy Awards for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song.

Despite continued conflicts with the lineup (Farrah Franklin quit the group just months after joining), Destiny’s Child found its foothold in music history; seated alongside fellow popular girl groups of the era such as Spice Girls and TLC.

Destiny's Child during Opening of MTV's "TRL" Tour at Pepsi Arena

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2001: Destiny’s Child becomes a trio

After Farrah Franklin’s departure, Destiny’s Child officially became a three-person group. The move coincided in 2001 with the arrival of the group’s third studio album, “Survivor.” The album’s self-titled single reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, establishing the group’s status as the new vanguard of pop.

Destiny’s Child followed this success with the smash single “Independent Women Part I,” which appeared on the soundtrack for the 2000 film “Charlie’s Angels.” The worldwide smash hit “Bootylicious” earned the group another #1 single—and the phrase earned a spot in Webster’s Dictionary the following year.

Soon after, Beyoncé began lending her talents in other creative ways, performing the theme song for Disney’s “The Proud Family” alongside sister Solange and Destiny’s Child members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams. The trio also worked on the holiday album, “8 Days of Christmas,” which saw the girls singing classic holiday jingles with a 21st-century twist.

Mike Myers and Beyonce Knowles promote "Austin Powers in Goldmember" on MTV's TRL

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2002: Acting career and solo stardom

Now an established triple threat in her own right, Beyoncé soon began acting roles. She landed a part alongside Mike Myers in 2002’s “Austin Powers in Goldmember” and Cuba Gooding Jr. in the 2003 musical comedy “The Fighting Temptations.”

Beyoncé was also originally in mind for the leading lady role in the 2003 dance flick “Honey;” however, the star was unable to join the project due to conflicting schedules with recording her first solo studio album. The part ultimately went to actress Jessica Alba.

Jay-Z and Beyonce Knowles on MTV's "TRL"

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2003: Marks solo career with “Dangerously in Love”

Beyoncé first signaled a career shift into solo work with her standalone effort as a guest vocalist on “’03 Bonnie & Clyde” alongside Jay-Z, with whom she was rumored to have kindled a romance.

By the summer of 2003, Beyoncé formally announced herself as a solo artist with the release of her debut studio album, “Dangerously in Love.” Columbia Records execs at the time didn’t believe the album had a single hit. They were right: It had five, including the #1 singles “Baby Boy” and “Crazy in Love,” featuring Jay-Z.

Destiny's Child "Destiny Fulfilled . . . and Lovin It" Tour In Oslo

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2005: Destiny’s Child releases final album, announces breakup

After selling tens of millions of records and producing hit after hit over the years, Destiny’s Child had, by this time, established itself as a pop culture mainstay. To the fans’ surprise, though, the group’s fifth studio album, “Destiny Fulfilled,” was its last. Kelly Rowland made the farewell announcement on stage in June 2005 in Barcelona, where the group performed its final stop in Europe during the Destiny Fulfilled…and Lovin’ It tour.

Rapper Jay-Z and singer Beyonce Knowles perform onstage at the 2006 BET Awards

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2006: ‘B’Day’ and ‘Dreamgirls’ role

Beyoncé blazed into the summer of 2006 with the track “Dèjá Vu,” featuring then-boyfriend Jay-Z, from her sophomore studio album, “B-Day.” She followed the track with the top-20 smash “Ring the Alarm,” but ” Irreplaceable ” became one of the singer-songwriter’s most memorable tracks. The breakup pop ballad reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100, where it remained for 10 consecutive weeks, and would earn double-platinum recognition as one of the most popular songs of the decade.

Music accomplishments aside, Beyoncé continued her acting career, landing parts in “The Pink Panther” and a groundbreaking role as Deena Jones in the 2006 film adaptation of “Dreamgirls,” based on the original Broadway musical of the same name.

Beyonce Knowles performs at the 2008 MTV Europe Music Awards

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2008: Marries Jay-Z, enters ‘Sasha Fierce’ era

Four months after celebrating their December 2007 engagement in Paris, Beyoncé tied the knot with Jay-Z on April 4, 2008, in a private ceremony in Brooklyn, New York.

Later that year, Beyoncé unveiled her third studio album, “I Am… Sasha Fierce,” which spawned singles like “If I Were a Boy” and “Single Ladies”; the latter bop remains the musician’s most famous song of her entire catalog to date. Although the musician said she created the alter-ego Sasha Fierce as a child, Beyoncé heavily embodied the persona during this era of her career whenever she took the stage. She explained that doing so allowed her to separate her larger-than-life stage persona from her shy personality.

Beyonce performs onstage at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards

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2010-2011: ‘4’ and pregnancy announcement

When Beyoncé reemerged from a yearlong break with her fourth studio album, “4,” the superstar reintroduced herself with the LP’s lead single “Run the World (Girls),” followed by tracks like “Best Thing I Never Had” and “Love On Top.”

Months after releasing “4,” Beyoncé took the stage at the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards to perform “Love On Top,” ending her performance with a literal mic-drop moment by rubbing her budding baby bump to announce her pregnancy with Jay-Z.

Jay Z and Blue Ivy Carter arrive at the 'MEURICE' hotel

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2012: Birth of Blue Ivy

On Jan. 7, 2012, the Carters welcomed their first child, daughter Blue Ivy, at New York City’s Lenox Hill Hospital. Less than 24 hours after her birth, Jay-Z recorded the song “Glory,” crediting their newborn daughter on the song as “B.I.C.” The song features Blue Ivy crying just before the track ends, earning the newborn the Guinness World Record for the youngest person to be featured and receive songwriting credits.

Beyonce performs during the Pepsi Super Bowl XLVII Halftime Show

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2013: Super Bowl XLVII halftime show, ‘Beyoncé’ release shifts music industry

Beyoncé took the stage in February 2013 to perform the Superbowl XLVII halftime show in New Orleans. She celebrated the event by reuniting with former Destiny’s Child members Michelle Williams and Kelly Rowland for their first on-stage performance in nearly a decade.

Later that year, Beyoncé surprised the world with the unexpected release of her self-titled fifth studio album in December 2013. “Beyoncé,” announced for release on a Friday, also shifted the industry-wide standard for album release days (previously Tuesday), prompting the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry to recognize Friday as the new international record release day.

Beyonce performs onstage during the 2015 Budweiser Made in America Festival

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2016: Turning lemons into ‘Lemonade’

After becoming a partner on the major streaming app Tidal, Beyoncé dropped her sixth album, “Lemonade,” on the platform exclusively. Additionally, the project received a visual album rollout on HBO in April 2016 that she distributed via her Parkwood Entertainment record label.

“Lemonade” encompassed a variety of themes of grief, forgiveness, and Black pride and touched on her marital issues with Jay-Z, who allegedly had an extramarital affair during their marriage. The project marked a historic achievement for the musician, having debuted at #1 on the Billboard 200, making her the first artist to have their first six albums debut at the #1 spot in Billboard history.

Beyonce performs pregnant with her twins during the 59th Annual Grammy music Awards

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2017: Pregnant with twins

In February 2017, Beyoncé announced she was pregnant with twins. The Carter family adding two new members meant significant changes for the musician and new obstacles. During a 2018 Vogue interview, Beyoncé revealed her pregnancy journey was made difficult due to her experience with toxemia, which forced her to be bedridden before giving birth.

On June 13, 2017, roughly one month before her due date, Beyoncé gave birth in Los Angeles via emergency C-section to fraternal twins, welcoming daughter Rumi and son Sir.

Beyonce Knowles performs onstage during 2018 Coachella Valley Music And Arts Festival

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2018: Headlining Coachella

After pulling out of Coachella the previous year due to her pregnancy, Beyoncé headlined the festival in 2018, making her the first Black woman headliner in the music festival’s history.

For the event, often called “Beychella,” Beyoncé drew inspiration from historically Black colleges and universities and recruited a live band and 100 dancers to join her on stage. She surprised Destiny’s Child fans again by reuniting with her former group members Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams for a special performance.

Beyonce Knowles-Carter attends the European Premiere of Disney's "The Lion King"

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2019: ‘Lion King’ live-action film, ‘The Gift’ album

Beyoncé further showcased her versatility as an actress when she lent her voice to the role of Nala in Disney’s 2019 live-action adaptation of “The Lion King.” She accompanied the film with her companion album “The Lion King: The Gift,” which produced such singles as “Spirit,” “Brown Skin Girl,” and “Black Parade.”

For the project, Beyoncé collaborated with artists across the African diaspora like Burna Boy, Tiwa Savage, Wizkid, and Shatta Wale, among others. The project also featured hip-hop acts including Kendrick Lamar, Tierra Whack, Jay-Z, and Childish Gambino.

Screengrab of Beyoncé during the virtual 2020 BET Awards

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2020: Returns with #1 feature, ‘Black Parade,’ and ‘Black Is King’

Following the initial success of fellow Houstonian Megan Thee Stallion’s track “Savage,” Beyoncé joined forces with the rapper for a remix. The cosign helped push the record to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 chart and earn both artists Grammy Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap Performance the following year.

In June 2020, Beyoncé released “Black Parade,” an anthem of Black pride in the wake of the murder of George Floyd and the ensuing protests his death sparked worldwide. The following month, Beyoncé teamed with Disney+ to deliver her visual album “Black Is King,” a project inspired by the music of “The Lion King: The Gift” that touched on the Black experience.

Beyonce accepts an award at the 2021 Grammys

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2021: Grammys’ leading lady

Beyoncé’s run at the 2021 Grammys became one for the record books. She was the most-nominated artist that year (with nine nominations), and walked away with four trophies by the ceremony’s conclusion. This made her the most-awarded singer (shared with Quincy Jones) and most-awarded female artist in the history of the Grammys, with 28 wins.

Beyonce performs at the 2022 Academy Awards

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2022-2023: Returns with ‘Break My Soul,’ ‘Renaissance’ era

Six years after releasing her last studio album, Beyoncé signaled her new era with the release of her #1 single “Break My Soul.” The song is the lead track from her seventh album, “Renaissance,” which shows the superstar experimenting with disco and house sounds and exploring ballroom culture themes. The album is one of three “acts” released by the musician, who curated the project as a tribute to her gay cousin, whom she lovingly refers to as “Uncle Jonny.”

On Feb. 1, 2023, the first day of Black History Month and on the heels of a much-discussed performance in Dubai, Beyoncé announced the 2023 Renaissance World Tour, her first in seven years. The 41-show tour kicks off in May in Stockholm and ends in September in New Orleans—after a stop in her hometown of Houston, of course.

This story originally appeared on Vivid Seats and was produced and
distributed in partnership with Stacker Studio.