Like the sun, Beyoncé is an incandescent star— one whose four-decades-long career has left an imprint on both the industry and culture at-large. In understanding her rightfully earned title as Queen Bey, read below for 40 great moments of her career from girlhood to 2021.
As we hear in “Flawless,” the hip-hop rappin’ Girls Tyme from Houston, Texas lost out to their competitors on talent competition show Star Search. It’s easy to wonder why they didn’t win, but ultimately the loss set the girl group on a path that would lead to their transformation into the very successful Destiny’s Child.
Before social media provided us direct access to celebrities, we had Cribs. In one episode, Destiny’s Child gives an inside look into the home of Beyoncé, her parents, Kelly Rowland, and sister Solange Knowles. The segment is full of impromptu singing, Destiny’s Child memorabilia and an ex-boyfriend box of memories.
Doing her due diligence as a young pop star, Beyoncé was tasked as a red carpet interviewer for the MTV Movie Awards where she had a chat with R&B legend Aaliyah. Bey posted the clip of the interview a few years ago on Instagram to honor the anniversary of her death, which happened about a year after the 2000 ceremony.
Continuing her duties for another year at the MTV Movie Awards, Bey posted up on the red carpet for another evening of interviews, including one with Jackass star Johnny Knoxville. She suavely steered his antics, including his complimentary admission that the person he was most looking forward to seeing that night was her… and the bartender.
It was clear Beyoncé had acting chops after holding her own comedic ground up against Mike Myers. As Detective Foxxy Cleopatra, she helped Myers’ Austin Powers save his father and stop Dr. Evil and Goldmember from unleashing mayhem.
The first collaboration between the entertainment industry’s most powerful couple. Inspired by the 1967 classic Bonnie and Clyde and sampling Tupac’s “Me and My Girlfriend,” it served as Jay-Z’s lead single for album The Blueprint2: The Gift & the Curse.
Commemorating the 20-year anniversary of Purple Rain, Beyoncé joined Prince for a legendary medley of the soundtrack, with a splash of “Crazy in Love.” Years later, she told Giant Magazine that she “was just so overwhelmed and nervous and starstruck” upon starting rehearsals.
To be certified as an aughts pop star meant starring in a Pepsi commercial. The stint brought Bey together with peers Britney Spears and Pink, who in the ad sing Queen’s “We Will Rock You” instead of partaking in gladiator battles for emperor Enrique Iglesias.
Based on groups like The Supremes, Beyoncé plays backup singer turned star Deena Jones, which drew comparisons to the trajectory of Diana Ross. The Academy Award-nominated movie stepped Bey up into a new, A-list level of the industry.
To this day, it is unlikely to not see at least one left hand wave about to Beyoncé’s “woah oh oh.” “Single Ladies” served as a lead single off I Am… Sasha Fierce, her alter ego’s counterpart to “If I Were a Boy.”
Beyoncé’s appearance on Saturday Night Live in 2008 featured performances of the aforementioned singles. During the show, she also appeared in a sketch parodying the “Single Ladies” video with Justin Timberlake and cast members Bobby Moynihan and Andy Samberg.
It’s like a dream to remember pop’s greatest heavyweights ever collaborated to begin with. Lady Gaga has gone on to say she doesn’t enjoy singing “Telephone” because it reminds her of a bad period of her life, but the 2010 single will be forever enshrined in pop music history.
From the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Beyoncé and a host of back-up dancers brought “Run the World (Girls)” to network television for the first time ever. At the time, she told AOL music that she has “never worked so hard on anything in my life as that performance.”
Off album “4,” “Love on Top” has proven to be a significant song in Beyoncé’s career (and not just because we all like to attempt to keep up with those key changes while blasting it in the car). Before ever closing out Coachella with “Love on Top,” Queen Bey graced the VMA’s with a performance that ended with a mic drop and belly rub— a confirmation that she was pregnant with her first child.
In interviews and with their year favorite lists, Barack and Michelle Obama have made it clear they are Beyoncé fans. Perhaps their most obvious act of affection was having the pop star sing “At Last” the 2009 Inaugural Ball and the National Anthem at his second inauguration.
Unofficially causing a stadium blackout, Beyoncé performed a medley of hits that spanned “Countdown” to “Baby Boy.” It notably featured a Destiny’s Child reunion and closed with “Halo.”
In hindsight, Beyoncé made moves in early 2013 that cemented her industry stature just so she could go and change everything with her self-titled drop in December. But first came an HBO documentary that archived her already multi-decade career.
On December 13, 2013, Beyoncé did it first: the surprise album drop. Reminding us she is in a very adult relationship, Beyoncé was unlike anything else in the pop music landscape at the time, not to mention her very own discography. Her tapestry of darkness, sexuality and feminism ushered Bey into a new era of creative freedom and control.
Continually giving to The Recording Academy, Beyoncé and Jay-Z opened the 2014 ceremony with perhaps the sexiest performance network television has ever seen, including some particularly impressive choreography by Bey on a chair.
Four years before the Knowles sisters came together for Beychella, Beyoncé surprised Coachella with an impromptu cameo during Solange’s set at the Gobi stage. The elder sister danced along while Solange sang 2012’s “Losing You.”
Since 1984, MTV has recognized artists who have had a profound impact on music video and pop culture with the Vanguard Award. It was no question Bey earned the honor, but reminded us all exactly why with a show-stopping fifteen minute performance that honored her career and watershed self-titled album.
The video that launched a thousand memes. With lines like “never drop that alcohol” and visuals of our greatest pop star having a hotel dance party, “7/11” was like giving candy to a child. Off of Beyoncé: Platinum Edition, the trap-infused single peaked at No.13 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100.
Taking the “Through the Looking Glass” theme to a whole other level, Beyoncé donned a sheer Givenchy gown that may have been enough to inspire the “Formation” line “I’m so reckless when I rock my Givenchy dress.” The cascading ponytail, the impeccable placed crystals: Stylin’!
When Beyoncé tells the world to stop, you listen! Even with exclusively streaming the music video on Tidal, Nicki Minaj and Bey’s Coachella adventure remains iconic. A spiritual sister to “Flawless,” “Feeling Myself” is a self-confidence anthem dripping with bravado and unencumbered sexuality.
Beyoncé technically didn’t headline the Super Bowl halftime show twice, but she generated enough buzz to have been its star. Segueing from Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk,” Beyoncé and her dancers brought Black Panther-inspired looks to television’s biggest event of the year for a performance of her then new single “Formation.”
In honor of daughter Blue Ivy Carter and the Houston park she used to exercise at, Beyoncé launched her athleisure clothing line in March 2016. To this day, it is a race of the fastest fingers on the internet to see who can grab an item from the latest drop.
Why blow up the industry once when you can do it twice? Beyoncé’s sixth album looks at infidelity through a generational and racial lens for what has been heralded as the greatest album of the decade. On Lemonade, she encompassed a number of new genres and collaborated with artists James Blake, Kendrick Lamar, the Weeknd and Jack White. What’s more, the visual album, even with so much strength, reminded us that Beyoncé is human.
Is there any greater pop culture moment than Beyoncé swinging a bat with intention while wearing a yellow Roberto Cavalli dress? Part of the one-hour Lemonade film, “Hold Up’ won a VMA for Best Female Video and was nominated for Best Art Direction.
Even with appearances from Rihanna, Britney Spears, Nicki Minaj and Ariana Grande, Beyoncé smashed the 2016 VMAs with a 16-minute Lemonade extravaganza. Beginning with an angel-like “Pray You Catch Me,” she strutted in thigh-high Louboutins to “Hold Up,” “Sorry” and “Don’t Hurt Yourself” before bringing it down with “Formation.”
Some country music fans were not so pleased with Beyoncé performing at the CMA Awards, none of which made any real sense when The Chicks supported Bey on an especially twanged-up version of Lemonade’s “Daddy Lessons.”
Inspiring a million maternity shoots (including one on Issa Rae’s “Insecure”), Beyoncé announced she and Jay-Z were expecting twins with an Instagram post that became the most-liked post of 2017.
Before being snubbed by The Recording Academy, a goddess-like Beyoncé delivered an ethereal performance of “Sandcastles” and “Love Drought” while pregnant with twins Rumi and Sir.
After postponing her Coachella due to pregnancy, Queen Bey gifted Indio dwellers with a performance that confirmed she is the greatest entertainer alive. Over the course of two hours, she presented an homage to HBCU homecomings interweaved with her endless hits, star-packed reunions and whip-sharp choreography for a history-making headlining set.
Bey and Jay’s performative reconciliation came in the form of 2018 album “Everything is Love,” which featured trap single “Apeshit.” The music video kicked the Carters’ grandeur up a notch by filming in the Louvre. Already an infamous museum, the video incicited a record-breaking increase in visits from young people.
One year after Coachella, Beyoncé presented mass audiences with a Netflix concert film that also went behind the scenes of the performance. Pulling back the curtain on one of her greatest, excessively polished projects, Homecoming spotlights Bey’s emotional journey in bringing to life a creative concept that flourished into a cultural moment.
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“Savage” was already a bonafide Gen-Z hit thanks to a TikTok challenge and an earworm chorus when Beyoncé hopped on the track. Released as a single for Megan’s debut album, the Houston queens spawned a No. 1 hit that reminded everyone that our greatest pop star is also one of our greatest rappers.
After a dismal showing for 2019’s The Lion King, Beyoncé reinvigorated the concept and reintroduced the accompanying soundtrack, The Gift, with a stunning visual storytelling experience that served as an allegory for the African diaspora’s journey of self-discovery.
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During her 2013 Mrs. Carter World Tout, Beyoncé established BeyGood, a charity that fundraises for scholarships and local causes. In particular, the foundation partnered with UCLA and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey to distribute $6 million in COVID-19 relief to various organizations.
After Megan Thee Stallion and Bey accepted the Best Rap Song Grammy for “Savage,” host Trevor Noah popped in to let the audience know Beyoncé had tied the record for most Grammy wins ever by a female artist and by any singer, male or female. The surprised look on her face insinuated even entertainment’s biggest stars are taken aback sometimes. The gravity of the historic moment hit Beyoncé even harder when she later broke the record with another Grammy win and her reflection that she had been working since she was 9 years old almost seemed to mistakenly slip her mouth.
Photography by: Virisa Yong/BFA.com