Beyoncé talks work, weight and achieving iconic status.
Before arriving at our photo shoot and interview, Beyonce stipulatated certain catering needs, which included, ‘no chips, no candy, no desserts, no junk food, no fried food’.
Why the so-strict diet rules? Beyoncé has recently finished back-to-back filming, which involved gaining 20lb for the role of ’50s soul and blues legend Etta James in Cadillac Records, and subsequently had to shed the same amount for her next project, the psychological thriller Obsessed. Putting on the pounds ‘was so much fun’, she confesses. ‘But I had to lose it. I was so angry with myself. I was like, “Doh!” Why do you have to go through this?”’ You can’t blame a girl for wishing to avoid temptation, particularly one whose living is partly dependent on her looks.’
She’s been quoted in the past as saying there’s a time limit on being a pop star. ‘Being a pop star, yes,’ she responds. ‘Being a legend, an icon, absolutely not. And, at this point, that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m over being a pop star. I don’t wanna be a hot girl. I wanna be iconic. And I feel like I’ve accomplished a lot. I feel like I’m highly respected, which is more important than any award or any amount of records. And I feel like there comes a point when being a pop star is not enough.’
By her own admission, Beyoncé is very ‘reserved’ off-stage. ‘I’ve created an alter ego [she refers to her on-stage persona as ‘Sasha’]: things I do when performing I would never do normally. I reveal things about myself that I wouldn’t do in an interview. I have out-of-body experiences [on stage]. If I cut my leg, if I fall, I don’t even feel it. I’m so fearless, I’m not aware of my face or my body.’ So, when she sang, “I can have another you in a minute. Matter fact, he’ll be here in a minute”, in hit song Irreplaceable, was she referring to Jay-Z? ‘I’m sure people think I wrote it about [Jay-Z] or something, but… the obvious person is not the person at all.’
‘B’, as she’s called at home, will also admit to being a workaholic. There’s an as-yet untitled new album due out in November; then there’s her movie career, in particular Cadillac Records, co-starring Adrien Brody, which tells the story of Chicago label Chess Records. Her character, the Grammy-winning blues legend Etta James, battled a decade-long heroin addiction. ‘I’ve been saying for a long time that I wanted to do something dark. People are going to be very shocked. It’s the complete opposite of me. It was very emotionally draining. I was exhausted.’
She researched the role by visiting a drop-in centre in Brooklyn, New York. ‘I was really afraid. I didn’t know what I would see, because I’d never seen anything like that. I didn’t want to ask questions that were inappropriate, but [the people there] were very open and I have a new understanding. I never judge, but I just didn’t understand how, if you had children and so many things
to lose, you could be so deep into your addiction that you just let all of that go.’
Does she feel she’s paved the way for more African-American women to achieve huge success? ‘I am really proud that I am one of the artists that has the opportunity to be on magazine covers and to be in the movies. And I do think that I’m opening doors for more black women, just like Halle [Berry] and Diana Ross opened doors for me.’
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This is an edited version of the full interview, which appears in the October 2008 issue of Marie Claire