Biography of Beyonce, Queen of 21st Century R&B

From Destiny's Child to Solo Superstar

Photo by Kevin Winter / Getty Images

Beyonce Giselle Knowles (born on September 4, 1981) first gained pop success as a member of the girl group Destiny's Child. As the group fell apart, Beyonce embarked on a solo career that led her to the pinnacle of popular music in the U.S. She won 22 Grammy Awards and sold more than 100 million recordings. She is one of the most important female pop music artists of all time.

Fast Facts: Beyonce

  • Full Name: Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter
  • Given Name: Beyonce Giselle Knowles
  • Occupation: Singer, Actress
  • Born: September 4, 1981, in Houston, TX
  • Education: Alief Elsik High School, Houston, TX
  • Memorable Songs: "Crazy In Love," "Irreplaceable," "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)," "Drunk In Love," "Formation"
  • Key Accomplishment: Winner of 22 Grammy Awards
  • Spouse Name: Jay-Z (Shawn Carter)
  • Children's Names: Blue Ivy, Rumi, and Sir Carter
  • Famous Quote: "When you love and accept yourself, when you know who really cares about you, and when you learn from your mistakes, then you stop caring about what people who don't know you think."

Early Life

Born and raised in Houston, Texas, Beyonce Knowles' father is Matthew Knowles who worked as a Xerox sales manager when she was born. Her mother is Tina Knowles, a hairdresser and salon owner. With encouragement from her parents, Beyonce began performing by the age of seven and was soon winning local dancing and singing competitions. With her childhood friend Kelly Rowland, she met LaTavia Roberson when auditioning for an all-girl entertainment group. They were placed into a group called Girl's Tyme with three other girls in 1990.

Girl's Tyme landed a spot on the Star Search TV talent show, but they failed to win. In 1995, Matthew Knowles resigned his position with Xerox to manage Girl's Tyme. He cut the group down to four members. In 1996 they began recording their debut album for Columbia Records and changed their name to Destiny's Child, based on a passage from the Bible's "Book of Isaiah. "

Destiny's Child

In 1997, the song "Killing Time," the first major label recording by Destiny's Child, appeared on the soundtrack for Men In Black. By the end of 1998 the group had reached the top of the R&B chart and #3 on the pop chart with the single "No, No, No, Pt. 2." Destiny's Child became one of the top-selling recording acts of the late 1990s and early 2000s with over ten top 10 pop hit singles. The group officially announced their breakup in 2005.

Solo Success

In 2002, Beyonce was the featured vocalist on the single "'03 Bonnie and Clyde" by Jay-Z. Then, with Destiny's Child officially on hiatus, she released a solo album Dangerously in Love. Propelled by its first single, the #1 smash "Crazy in Love," the album hit #1 in the U.S. and U.K. eventually selling over four million copies in the U.S. and eight million worldwide. Three more top 10 pop singles from the album followed in quick succession.

Beyonce released her second studio album B'Day on her 25th birthday on September 4, 2006. She recorded the entire album in just two weeks. It sold over 500,000 copies in its first week of release and debuted at #1 on the album chart. The lead single "Deja Vu," a collaboration with Jay-Z in the manner of "Crazy In Love" from her first album, was a top 5 pop smash. The third single "Irreplaceable" hit #1 and earned a Grammy Award nomination for Record of the Year. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Contemporary R&B Album.

Beyonce's third studio album, 2008's I Am...Sasha Fierce encompassed two discs of music. Each was designed to show a different facet of Beyonce's work. The first disc I Am is mostly slow and midtempo ballads while the second Sasha Fierce, named after an in-concert alter ego, includes more uptempo tracks and influences from electronic pop music. The album debuted at #1 on the album chart selling nearly 500,000 copies in its first week making it Beyonce's third consecutive #1. I Am...Sasha Fierce earned seven Grammy Award nominations and won six of them. 

Two of the standout tracks on the album are "If I Were a Boy," a gender reversal song that spells out the inequality of male-female relationships, and "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)." The latter is accompanied by a music video that became an instant classic. Beyonce's performance with her dancers has been repeated and parodied by admirers around the world. 

Mature Artist

Beyonce's highly anticipated fourth studio album was titled simply 4. She steered away from mainstream commercial concerns and recorded music heavily influenced by traditional R&B. Part of her inspiration in recording the album was disappointment with contemporary radio. Critics praised her commitment to the traditional style of music. The song "Love On Top" earned a Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance. 

Despite the critical acclaim, 4 lagged commercially compared with Beyonce's first three albums. Released in 2011, it sold just over 300,000 copies in its first week and debuted at #1, making Beyonce only the second woman, after Britney Spears, to have her first four albums debut at the top, but it lacked significant hit singles to keep the sales up. "Best Thing I Never Had" was the most successful single peaking at #16.

Beyonce shocked the music world on December 13, 2013, by releasing her self-titled fifth studio album without out advance notice or promotion. It debuted at #1 on the album chart selling over 600,000 copies in its first week, the best first-week sales of Beyonce's career. She earned praise for her expression of full artistic freedom on the album and taking a deeper dive into her concerns about female empowerment.

With 17 short films created to illustrate the 14 audio tracks, Beyonce became a visual as well as audio album breaking new ground for pop artists. Two singles received promotion along with the initial release of the album. "XO" was promoted primarily to pop audiences while "Drunk In Love" was aimed at R&B audiences. The latter became the hit fast eclipsing the former and peaked at #2. It was Beyonce's highest charting single in five years. The album earned five Grammy Award nominations including for Album of the Year.

Beyonce's sixth studio album Lemonade was released as a second visual album in April 2016 and is also considered a concept album. It was promoted with a one hour film on HBO. The album is influenced by a wide range of musical styles and includes guest vocals from James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, and Jack White. Lemonade became Beyonce's sixth consecutive album to debut at #1 selling 485,000 copies in its first week. 

The song "Formation" was released as the lead single from the Lemonade project two months before the album. The next day Beyonce performed it live at the Super Bowl Halftime Show. She received some criticism for what was considered a militant statement about the treatment of Black people. "Formation" reached the top 10 on the pop singles chart. When Adele won the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, she said that Lemonade was monumental and more deserving of the award.

Acting Career

Beyonce's first major acting appearance was in a starring role in the 2001 TV movie Carmen: A Hip Hopera, an update of the opera Carmen. In 2002 she appeared with Mike Myers as Foxxy Cleopatra in Austin Powers in Goldmember. A third film appearance was released in 2003. Beyonce starred opposite Cuba Gooding, Jr. in The Fighting Temptations.

Beyonce's most significant acting success came in the 2006 film Dreamgirls which earned multiple Academy Awards. She also starred as Etta James in Cadillac Records in 2008. Critics highly praised her performance. In 2010, she added her vocal and acting talents to Lady Gaga's "Telephone" and the accompanying epic music video.

Personal Life

Beyonce and rapper Jay-Z began a romantic relationship following their collaboration on "'03 Bonnie and Clyde" in 2002. She appeared as his girlfriend in the music video. They married on April 4, 2008. They revealed details on the event at the October 2008 listening party for Beyonce's album I Am...Sasha Fierce.

Beyonce suffered a miscarriage in either 2010 or 2011. She described it as, "the saddest thing." She became pregnant again in April 2011 while in Paris, France shooting the cover for the album 4. She revealed her pregnancy to the public in August 2011 t the MTV Video Music Awards. Beyonce gave birth to Blue Ivy Carter, a daughter, on January 7, 2012.

In February 2017, Beyonce announced that she was pregnant with twins. Rumi Carter, a second daughter, and Sir Carter, a son, were born on June 13, 2017.


Beyonce Knowles is recognized widely as an essential 21st-century pop music performer. Her music is consistently challenging and pushing boundaries. She has incorporated influences from blues through new wave and electropop. She consistently supports female empowerment. Her use of an all-female band while touring broke crucial ground for women in music.

Beyonce embraces her African-American heritage and presents herself as a positive role model for her community. Despite criticisms from the conservative end of the political spectrum, she directly addressed issues of violence against members of the Black community and adopted imagery from militant activists of the 1960s.

Widely recognized for her talent by her peers, Beyonce has won 22 Grammy Awards placing her second among women behind only country-bluegrass legend Alison Krauss. Beyonce's 62 nominations are the most ever received by a woman. Her 24 MTV Video Music Awards makes her the most awarded artist in the event's history.


  • MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video (2003): "Crazy In Love"
  • Grammy Award for Best R&B Song (2004): "Crazy In Love"
  • MTV Video Music Award for Best Female Video (2004): "Naughty Girl"
  • MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year (2009): "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"
  • Grammy Award for Song of the Year (2010): "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"
  • Grammy Award for Best R&B Song (2010): "Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It)"
  • Billboard Millenium Award (2011)
  • MTV Video Music Awards Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award (2014)
  • Grammy Award for Best R&B Song (2015): "Drunk In Love"
  • MTV Video Music Award for Video of the Year (2016): "Formation"