It's Her World, Girl: 27 Secrets 4 You About Beyoncé

Homecoming queen Beyoncé is celebrating her 40th birthday, and we realized that you needed to know more about her immediately.

By Natalie Finn Sep 04, 2021 11:00 AMTags
Beyonce KnowlesPictureGroup/Shutterstock

Beyoncé was born Sept. 4, 1981, in Houston to Mathew and Tina Knowles. She has a younger sister, Solange. She got her start as one-third of one of the most successful girl groups of all time, Destiny's Child. She's married to Jay-Z and they're parents to Blue Ivy, Rumi and Sir Carter. There was a thing with an elevator.

All that, you know. And at this point, with the pop superstar having spent three-quarters of her life in the spotlight, there are many facts on hand about her family and her career. Yet she has also spent most of that time maintaining a chic, subtle wall around her, meticulously filling in certain gaps on a need-to-know basis, first with photo albums on her website that always qualified as capital-E Events when they appeared, and then through social media. She was always out there, and yet not, even commanding a Vogue September issue cover in 2015 without sitting down for a new interview, a headline-making move in itself.

"Throughout my career, I've been intentional about setting boundaries between my stage persona and my personal life," she acknowledged to Harper's Bazaar in a lengthy sit-down for the publication's latest September issue.

Beyoncé Through the Years

The ever-in-demand cover girl explained, "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!"

But Beyoncé is celebrating her 40th birthday Saturday, and we refused to let her milestone go by without making sure you were as fully up to speed as possible on everything that has gone into making her the icon that she has become, making her mark in music, yes, but also fashion, business, activism and the art of being one of those girls who run the world.

So, hold up and dig into these 27 secrets about Beyoncé:

1. The naming of Tina and Mathew Knowles' first child was left up to mom, and she picked Beyoncé—a restyling of her maiden name, Beyincé. (Dad picked her middle name, Giselle.) "I said, 'Oh God, we'll run out of Beyincés,'" Tina later told Rolling Stone, admitting that she'd been worried that the family name might peter out, though her brother did have a son. "My family was not happy," Tina said. "My dad said, 'She's gonna be really mad at you, because that's a last name. And I'm like, 'It's not a last name to anybody but you guys!'"

2. Truth be told, Beyoncé did not care for her name when she was a kid, because she was already being bullied by other girls at school and "it was just something else for them to use against me," she has said. "I couldn't win. I was bashful because the kids picked on me. And then I was picked on because I was so bashful." They also made fun of her ears, triggering her life-long love affair with big earrings. She started doing homeschool in ninth grade.

3. If it has ever seemed that Beyoncé took some time finding her voice, as far as what she wanted to use her considerable platform to say, that is—that's because she did, giving interviews quite sparingly and, even then, not revealing much.

"Because I was an introvert, I didn't speak very much as a child," she told Harper's Bazaar for the magazine's September 2021 issue. "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."

4. She even had to create an alter ego to buoy her confidence, remember?! I Am...Sasha Fierce celebrated that goddess to the tune of five Grammy wins and diamond-level sales, but Beyoncé retired her after the album came out.

"I don't need Sasha Fierce anymore, because I've grown and now I'm able to merge the two," she told Allure in 2010.

5. She may have felt awkward as a child, but try telling that to the audiences who caught the 7-year-old phenom belting out "Home" from The Wiz, which became her signature number, on the local singing circuit.

6. Some of Tina's fellow stage moms had an idea for an all-girl singing revue, and at 8 years old Beyoncé became a member of Girls Tyme, which shared a bill with the quartet Destiny, featuring a 9-year-old LaTavia Roberson. Eventually the groups merged, with Bey, LaTavia, sisters Nicki and Nina Taylor of Destiny and newcomers Ashley Davis and Kelly Rowland all performing as Girls Tyme. "Singing with your best friends, there's nothing better when you're a little kid," Beyoncé later said. "Every day felt like summer vacation."

7. "Beyoncé was just so shy," LaTavia said in J. Randy Taraborrelli's 2015 biography Becoming Beyoncé. "She had to really know you before she left you in. But once you were friends with her, you knew you could trust her...She was very family-oriented and wanted us to always be together. She didn't have any other friends, actually. It was just us girls."

8. When Mathew came aboard as co-manager, with obvious designs on his daughter being the breakout star, it was the beginning of the end for Girls Tyme as anything less than a business enterprise, multiple people involved with the group remembered to Taraborrelli. But it was the beginning of Bey and Kelly's enduring sisterly bond: When the group started rehearsing at Mathew and Tina's house, Kelly—whose own home life was unstable and even getting a ride to rehearsal wasn't guaranteed—eventually just moved in with the Knowles family.

9. Beyoncé was 11 when Girls Tyme appeared on Star Search and did not win, only getting three stars to the other group's four. She considered it a formative experience, recalling in a behind-the-scenes video about the making of her "Flawless" video, "At that time you don't realize that you could work actually super hard and give everything you have...and lose."

10. Not long after the episode aired in February 1993, Ashley left the group. "We never even saw Ashley again," Nina Taylor told Taraborrelli. "She was just gone, as if she'd fallen off the face of the earth." (As Támar Davis, she pursued a solo career in music and acting and toured with Prince.) Bey's classmate LeToya Luckett came in to replace Ashley, and pretty soon Girls Tyme changed its name to Somethin' Fresh.

11. Somethin' Fresh then became The Dolls—and the group was negotiating a record deal in 1994 when word supposedly came down that the label wanted a four-girl singing group, not an act that combined singing, rap and dance, as The Dolls did. And so emerged a quartet consisting of Beyoncé, Kelly, LaTavia and LeToya, all 14 years old. Because other groups called The Dolls already existed, they reverted to Destiny, the name of LaTavia's first group. 

But when Destiny got closer to signing a deal, there was an issue with that name as well, and finally Destiny's Child was born.

12. "We got the word destiny out of the Bible, but we couldn't trademark the name, so we added 'child,' which is like a rebirth of destiny," Beyoncé explained in 2002's Soul Survivors, the group's official autobiography.

13. Of course, by 2002 Destiny's Child had long since ceased being a foursome. But the original incarnation of Beyoncé, Kelly, LeToya and LaTavia signed with Columbia Records and achieved lift-off with their 1997 single "No, No, No," which anchored their self-titled 1998 debut album. Their freshman effort peaked at No. 67 on the Billboard 200 sales chart, but their 1999 follow-up, The Writing's on the Wall, hit No. 5 and was nominated for six Grammys, including Record of the Year and Song of the Year for "Say My Name."

But while the 1999 track "Bills, Bills, Bills" was released in time to be nominated for the Grammys held in 2000, the "Say My Name" nominations didn't come until the 2001 ceremony—more than a year after LeToya and LaTavia had been replaced by Michelle Williams and Farrah Franklin, and then still months after Farrah exited, rendering Destiny's Child a trio forevermore.

Nevertheless, LeToya and LaTavia shared in "Say My Name's" Grammy wins for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals. Michelle's Grammy didn't come until Destiny's Child won Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocals for "Survivor" in 2002.

14. Though Beyoncé, Kelly and Michelle were all working on independent side projects as early as 2000 and spent a couple of years on hiatus, they officially stayed together until 2006. They announced their planned amicable split in 2005, turning their Destiny Fulfilled...and Lovin' It Tour into a farewell run, capping it all off with a 2006 BET Award win for Best Group. 


15. Every Destiny's Child reunion since, from the 2013 Super Bowl Halftime Show to Beyoncé's HBCU-honoring Coachella performance in 2018 have been breathlessly anticipated events.

"My closest friends are brilliant women who run companies, are entrepreneurs, mothers, wives, and close family. Kelly and Michelle are still my best friends," Bey told Harper's Bazaar. "I gravitate toward strong, grounded women like my incredible sister, Solange. She is full of wisdom, and she is the dopest person I know."

16. Over the past 20 years, Beyoncé has won 28 Grammys, the four she took home in 2021 making her the most winning singer in Grammys history. But because the Recording Academy gets it very wrong sometimes, despite all the original music she's brought into the world, solo or otherwise, whether it's pushing boundaries or just catchy as hell (and oftentimes both), she still has no Record or Album of the Year wins to her name.

"Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)" won Song of the Year in 2010, one of her four nominations in that category. She's 0-for-6 with Record of the Year and 0-for-4 with Album of the Year, making Adele very unhappy in the process.

17. Talking to Harper's Bazaar, Beyoncé explained why she has chosen to pour herself into her art, full stop, using her music, visual projects, philanthropy and fashion endeavors to tell her story. So if you don't get the message that way...

"One day I decided I wanted to be like Sade and Prince, she said. "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."

Certainly it's enough! But we will also take a lot more of it, thank you.

18. Already a veteran performer at 13, that's when Beyonce had her first vocal injury, she shared with Harper's Bazaar. "We had just gotten our first record deal, and I was afraid I had developed nodules and destroyed my voice and that my career could be over," she sad. "The doctors put me on vocal rest all summer and I was silent once again."

19. She also suffered from chronic sinus issues early on, though they didn't stop her then any more than they did when she got older, recording "XO" in 2013 with a bad sinus infection. ("I really loved the imperfection," she told Out magazine.)

"What I found intriguing right away was that even though she had a cold or an allergy that day, somehow she rose about it," songwriter Tony Mo. told Taraborrelli. "Most kids are whiny when they're sick. Not her—she forced herself to sing even when she could barely talk."

And the show always went on. In 2011, Bey told ITV, "My nose runs a lot and when I'm singing I can't blow it, so there have been occasions when I've ended up with a bubble coming out my nose." 

20. When she was little her family lived on Parkwood Drive in Houston, inspiring the name of her production company-turned-multi-tiered empire Parkwood Entertainment that she started when she was 27. "At the time, there wasn't a company that did what I needed it to do or ran the way I wanted it run," she told Harper's Bazaar. "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."

21. Beyoncé's first relationship was with childhood sweetheart Lyndall Locke, whom she met when she was 12 and his family started going to the same church. And that was about it until she met the future Mr. Beyoncé, Shawn Carter.

"People would be surprised as to the lack of experiences I've had," the singer told The Telegraph in 2008. "When I was 12, 13, I had my first boyfriend, and he was my boyfriend till I was 17. At that age, that was a long time. I've always been very loyal and a little more mature. Though I was too young for it to really be a boyfriend—we didn't live together, we didn't, you know… That was my only experience with a guy, and since then I've only had one other boyfriend in my life—Jay."

22. For real, though. She was 18 when she met Jay-Z, who's 11 years her senior, in March 2000 when they were both in Cancún for MTV's Spring Break bash. Jay first recounted the story in 2018's "713," rapping, "Fate had me sittin' next to you on the plane / And I knew straight away...The next time we would speak was like two years away / You had a man, you shut it down until you two had a break / I bet that dude rued the day."

The rap mogul recalled to Vanity Fair in 2013 that when he and Bey both made the cover of VF's November 2001 music issue (along with a bunch of other artists), "we were just beginning to try to date each other." Asked what that meant, he explained, "Well, you know, you've got to try first. You got to and dine."

23. And that dude did rue the day. Lyndall recalled to The Sun in 2013 how Bey "looked like an angel, the most beautiful girl I'd ever seen. We'd hang out after school and almost every night we'd fall asleep talking to each other on the phone." Their first kiss, according to him, was at a Brian McKnight concert they went to for her 15th birthday. But he admittedly didn't handle his girlfriend's growing fame well, saying, "The bigger star she became, the more I didn't think I was good enough. One night, when she was out of town, I went to a bar with friends and ended up sleeping with another woman. Over the course of a few years I cheated on her about five times, but I never told her until after we broke up."

24. Bey and Jay took their time getting to know each other, not tying the knot until April 4, 2008, in a closely guarded ceremony at the groom's Tribeca penthouse. They also waited on sharing photos and video from their big day for years, the absence of images from their nuptials only making our heart grows fonder of the private pair.

"There was no rush—no one expected me to run off and get married," Bey recalled to Seventeen later that year. "I really don't believe that you will love the same thing when you're 20 as you do at 30. So that was my rule: Before the age of 25, I would never get married. I feel like you have to get to know yourself, know what you want, spend some time by yourself, and be proud of who you are before you can share that with someone else." 

Reflecting to Harper's Bazaar in 2021, she said, "My 20s were about building a strong foundation for my career and establishing my legacy...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."

And moving forward, "My wish is for my 40s to be fun and full of freedom. I want to feel the same freedom I feel on stage every day of my life. I want to explore aspects of myself I haven't had time to discover and to enjoy my husband and my children. I want to travel without working. I want this next decade to be about celebration, joy, and giving and receiving love. I want to give all the love I have to the people who love me back."

25. Jay-Z credits his wife for being the glue that has held their empire together when his infidelity—brought to light on Lemonade and acknowledged in his 4:44threatened to send it crashing down.

"I have a beautiful wife who's understanding and knew that I'm not the worst of what I've done," the mogul told David Letterman in 2018 on My Next Guest Needs No Introduction. "And we did the hard work of going to therapy. We love each other. We put in the work. This music that I'm making now is a result of things that have happened earlier. Like you, I like to believe that we're in a better place today, but still working, still communicating and growing. I'm proud of the father and the husband I am today because of all of the work that I've done."

26. At 9 years old, Blue Ivy Carter has more credits—and awards—to her name than many far more seasoned entertainers. She and Mom won Best Music Video Grammys in 2021 for "Brown Skin Girl," coming on the heels of their BET Her Award, the Ashford & Simpson Songwriter's Award at the 2019 BET Soul Train Awards and the 2020 NAACP Image Award wins for Outstanding Duo, Group or Collaboration for the song off The Lion King: The Gift soundtrack.

The child also narrated the audiobook for Hair Love by Matthew A. Cherry, director of the Oscar-winning animated short of the same name, appeared in Bey's "Spirit" video and scored her own version of "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing," off of Homecoming, also co-starring in the concert film.

27. The number 4 holds significant meaning Beyoncé's life, her birthday falling on Sept. 4, her mom's on Jan. 4, Jay's on Dec. 4 and their wedding anniversary on April 4—the fourth day of the fourth month of the year. The Roman numeral "IV" is tattooed on both of their ring fingers. And you'd think they could only do so much when it came to their children's births, but Blue Ivy was born on Jan. 7, 2012. And 1+7+2+0+1+2=13, and 1+3=4. Five years later, Bey announced that she was pregnant with twins on Feb. 1, 2017. As in, 2+1+2+0+1+7=13. And 1+3=4.

And forgive us as we descend into madness, but twins Rumi and Sir Carter were born June 13, 2017. So, 6+1+3+2+0+1+7=20. Then 2+0=2. But there are two of them, and 2x2=4. Thank you and good night.

And what does this information add up to?

Summing up her run on this planet so far, Beyoncé told Harper's Bazaar, "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--k with the woman I am today. Haaa!"