April 1, 2011
Winging It: Beyonce Makes a Power Move
Beyonce, like many musical artists, has offered fans some of the most telling windows into her personal life through the lyrics of her hit songs. But few have been as candid as 2007’s “My Daddy,” in which she movingly paid tribute to her father.
“Words can’t express my boundless gratitude for you
I appreciate what you do
You’ve given me such security
No matter what mistakes I know you’re there for me.
You cure my disappointments and you heal my pain
You understood my fears and you protected me
And I thank you for loving me.â€
She went on to gush about how she wanted her unborn child to be like her daddy, she wanted her husband (hint-hint to Jay-Z, who hadn’t yet “put a ring on itâ€) to be like her daddy, and how no one else could replace her daddy. That is, until now.
Beyonce’s announcement this week that she is severing business ties with Matthew Knowles, who managed her career from pre-pubescent seedling in Destiny’s Child to grown-up global sensation as a solo artist, is being perceived as a signal that Daddy’s doting daughter is all woman now. Married, almost 30, and with her fourth album due in a few months, it makes sense that the singer has finally declared her independence. Or has she?
Beyonce’s formal statement gave no explanations for the break. While far more tempered than her lyrics, it reiterated that she loves her father and remains “grateful for everything he taught me.â€ Matthew Knowles’s statement called the decision mutual and insisted that it had nothing to do with their personal relationship, saying flatly, “Business is business and family is family.â€
Perhaps, but there is such a thing as a family business, and the making of the Beyonce brand (to the tune of $87 million, by Forbes‘ most recent account), was an extremely lucrative one. Matthew Knowles became its CEO in 1995, when he quit his sales gig to manage his daughter’s career full-time. Without a doubt, the job opening he leaves is one of the best in the business.
So now the industry is waiting with baited breath for the second shoe to drop, as in word on who will replace him. Given how meticulously choreographed Beyonce’s career is, there’s no doubt that individual is waiting in the wings.
Speculation, of course, is that hubby Jay-Z, via his Roc-Nation management company, has a lock on the position. While Jay-Z would be an obvious choice and, arguably, a great one, I can’t help but wonder if Beyonce really feels she has much choice at all, or if she’s examined all her options.
Even women with powerhouse talent and money to spare have been known to cede control of their most precious assets–material and otherwise–to the men they love. When those men are smart, successful, charismatic and trusted, it’s that much harder to see the potential downside–or imagine a better alternative. This is especially true in Beyonce’s case. The bigger the bank account, the smaller the circle of trust–at least among those with any sense. And let’s face it, Jay-Z has an impeccable track record as a star-maker. Just ask Rihanna, rapper J Cole, and Willow Smith (a “whipâ€ off the old block of parents Jada and Will). So, why wouldn’t Beyonce turn to her partner in life to run her brand? Really, what’s a girl to do?
Think carefully, that’s what. Long and hard. Seek expert outside counsel. Lots of it. Do your own research. Get honest and objective referrals. And ironclad guarantees, with safety nets and exit hatches built in. Because, as any divorced (or unhappily married) woman will tell you, you just never know. And I can’t think of any married women (happily or not) who would jump at the chance to have their husbands control their careers, at least, not without a lot of soul searching and due diligence. Something about it just smacks of an uneasy inequality, the kind that makes most brides and grooms dump the word “obeyâ€ from their vows.
The list of women whose fortunes (and names) have been depleted by their men is long and growing all the time. Two of the movies Beyonce has starred in (Dreamgirls and Cadillac Records)–three, if you count The Fighting Temptations, which ended happily–have centered on the theme of talented women manipulated and poorly managed by their men. Don’t get me wrong. I’m not calling into question Jay-Z’s integrity or his intentions. This isn’t about him–or any man–at all. I’m simply noting that if she goes that route, Beyonce runs a huge risk, as does any woman who allows her man to manage her career and her money. She has made so many right decisions until now. Great success in business continually demands that you use your head. It also requires heart. But when that heart is in love, good sense can take a holiday.
Whatever she decides, I just hope Beyonce steps into this next phase of her career and her life in full possession of her own unique gifts and talents, with her eyes wide open and her head in charge. It’s what I hope for us all.