“Good morning,” said the receptionist, “Music World/Sanctuary.” There was a pause. “No, ma’am, I don’t.” Pause. “I don’t even know where that party is. Um-hmm. Good-bye.” She gave me an exasperated look, and the phone rang again.
It was the Thursday before the Super Bowl, and here at the Houston headquarters of pop star Beyoncé, the phones were ringing nonstop. The entire city was giddy with parties and rumors of parties, and Beyoncé, the hometown girl who was set to sing the National Anthem before the game, was rumored to be hosting the hottest party of all. Everybody in town was looking for a way in.
I was waiting to talk to Beyoncé’s father and manager, Mathew Knowles, and her mother, Tina, who is her stylist and clothing designer. Together with their daughters, Beyoncé and Solange, also a recording artist, the Knowleses have become the most successful American music family since the Jacksons. Their offices, in a three-story nineteenth-century house decorated with modern and African art, were humming; doors opening and swinging shut, employees having hurried conversations in the hallway. At one point, the receptionist got on the intercom and said firmly, “All MWEs to the conference room.” Music World employees crowded the halls, heading past the life-size cardboard cutout of Beyoncé holding a Pepsi and the dozens of framed gold and platinum albums. When all was clear, a woman walked in the front door and the receptionist said to her, “Staff meeting. Right now.” The woman hurried off. Mathew had called an emergency meeting, the receptionist explained to me.
The sense of anticipation in those charged days before the Super Bowl was palpable: Things were about to get crazy around here. Indeed, Beyoncé, who was already a multiplatinum recording artist, was about to cross the threshold to downright superstardom. It wouldn’t take much, over the next two and a half weeks, to push her. First would come her excellent rendition, in front of 89 million people, of the National Anthem, which was passionate yet respectful and also, in the wake of the halftime spectacle, the only non-idiotic performance all day. A week later she would win an astounding five Grammys. One week after that she would give a wild halftime performance of her hit “Crazy in Love” at the NBA All-Star Game. All of a sudden Beyoncé, 22, would be everywhere, in the way that Britney, Madonna, and Michael are everywhere—except that Beyoncé is talented, young, and not an accused sex criminal.
It doesn’t hurt that she is beautiful, with large eyes and a stunning smile, or that she is, as she memorably says in the words of one of her songs, “bootylicious.” Part of her wide appeal is that she is both wholesome and sexy at the same time. She’s also mysteriously pan-racial—she’s black, but with