Senior editor Michael Hall talks about Beyoncé and this month's cover story, "It's a Family Affair."
texasmonthly.com: Putting Beyoncé on the cover of the music issue seems like a no-brainer. How did that come about?
Michael Hall: We had been talking about a story on Beyoncé and her father, Mathew, for a long time. Then we started talking about doing another music issue, and she was a natural for the cover. We’d done Willie and Lyle way too many times. In fact, Beyoncé was originally going to be on the cover with Willie, but he bailed. Hence the braids and Willie T-shirt.
texasmonthly.com: Was it ever discussed not to put Beyoncé on the cover once you found out that you wouldn’t be able to interview her for the story?
MH: No. The story was more about her family, and I had good interviews with all of them. Besides, she’s one of the biggest stars in the world—we’d be nuts not to put her on the cover.
texasmonthly.com: Was it difficult to write about a subject that you couldn’t talk to firsthand?
MH: Actually, it wasn’t so hard. I’ve never read so many previously published articles for a story. Beyoncé has been interviewed and quoted ad infinitum, so I had a pretty good understanding of her by the time I sat down to write the story. And I had plenty of stuff from her dad, mom, and sister.
texasmonthly.com: Beyoncé’s family seems pretty tight. Did you ever get the feeling that her parents were pushing her in a direction she didn’t want to go?
MH: No, it was pretty clear to me that being a singer and entertainer was something that Beyoncé had wanted to do since she was a little girl. In some ways, she was living the dream they had had as kids—especially Tina, her mom, who sang in a Supremes-like group in the seventies. Her parents just helped her stay focused on her goals. There are thousands of young, beautiful, talented unknowns out there; without the guidance of her parents, Beyoncé would be just another one.
texasmonthly.com: Mathew Knowles has received a lot of press coverage in the past few years. Was he what you were expecting? Why or why not?
MH: He was mostly all-business—I could tell he would rather be making business calls or talking to marketing people—though, when I finally got to talk to him, he was very friendly. He does have a habit of repeating things he has said in other interviews. I often found myself nodding through the same anecdotes.
texasmonthly.com: Can you talk a little about interviewing Beyoncé’s sister, Solange? How does she compare with her big sister?
MH: Solange was very forthright, looking me straight in the eye. She’s a lot less shy than Beyoncé is—she even let me follow her into the studio to watch her sing and work on the lyrics to a song. I can’t imagine Beyoncé—or most other recording artists—letting a reporter do that.
texasmonthly.com: What was the most interesting thing you learned while working on this story?
MH: That beyond all the bootylicious hype and image casting, Beyoncé is just like any other 22 year old. In fact, she has some of the same mannerisms as my 22-year-old stepdaughter.
texasmonthly.com: You classify Beyoncé as a superstar in your story, and after this year’s Grammys, few people would dispute that point. Do you think she’ll be around for a while?
MH: Yeah, I think she’s going to be like Barbra Streisand or Madonna—movie star, singer, celebrity. Beyoncé is a natural in the movies; she was the only good thing about Austin Powers in Goldmember. Musically, I think she’s got a strong fan base, and she and her father have figured out how to make hits, plus they’ve established this amazing business foundation. I think she’ll be around for a long time. I’m not so sure about Destiny’s Child.
texasmonthly.com: What is the one question you wish you could have asked Beyoncé?
MH: I’d like to ask her what really happened with LaTavia and LeToya. The two women, who had been friends with Beyoncé since they were little girls, were fired by her father in 2000. It seems to me like they got screwed, and I’d like to try and get behind the Destiny’s Child party line and find out what Beyoncé really thinks about it all.
texasmonthly.com: Is there anything you would like to add?
MH: Now that the story is done, “Bootylicious” is finally out of my head.